Walking in God's way

Be strong and courageous and keep the charge of the Lord your God – I Kings 2:2

Since the revolution in the 1950s, the churches have had to find their way in Cuba. More recently, national policies have become a little less restrictive and the Cuba Council of Churches now includes about 50 member churches.

Council president and Presbyterian pastor Joel Ortega Dopico says the Council’s purpose is to help the Cuban churches be more effective in their mission. He says the church can never lose sight of their two fundamental responsibilities – developing church leaders and serving the community.

Pastor Luis Hernanez has been the national president of the more than 150 Brethren in Christ (BIC) churches for less than a year. While the BICs are not a member of the Council of Churches, Pastor Luis demonstrates his commitment to these responsibilities as well.

Pastor Louis earns about 300 Cubanas each month (about $12 USD). For his salary, Louis is the director of the national church, the administrator of a teaching center and the pastor of a local congregation in Palmira.

Sunday morning, Pastor Luis welcomes the congregation and many of the 17 BIC pastors of the Cienfuegos region who have assembled here for our conversation later. He shares from John 17 about Jesus’ desire for his followers to be one. He tells the congregation that they should be prepared because God is calling them, too.

After the service, we talk to the pastors. Many walked for hours, bicycled or shared a ride to get here. One pastor says he’s supported by the community, even though they don’t have the resources to do so. Another couple says their primary ministry is to help the poor, be involved in the community and win them for Christ.

The pastors meet together each month to support each other and to be accountable to each other. One pastor tells us that our visit is a real joy for the churches and that the churches have been praying that we would be able to visit them. “Through MCC,” he says, “the churches here can touch people in need all over the world.”

Another pastor tells us that the BIC churches are poor and they may not be able to share food with people in other parts of the word, but they can offer words of encouragement and share what they have.

One pastor says they need to struggle for their land, but they are thankful to God that they live in Cuba. We prayed for these pastors and asked God to give them strength for their leadership of the churches and for their work in these communities.

The next day, we visit one of the BIC house churches in La Havana. A family has contributed part of their house for worship for this church community. As we stand in the front area of the small worship space and talk to the pastor, we can look through the entrance into the rest of the living space and see family members going about their daily routines.

Despite all the challenges, Pastor Luis says, the churches here share what they can with each other and with their communities and they will continue to share. 

He says that, as a leader, God simply asks him to walk in God’s way, and to be strong and courageous, just as King David instructed his son Solomon. Being strong and courageous is how I would describe Pastor Luis, too.

Ron Byler is executive director of MCC U.S. 


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