Hope for Cubans Hit by Hurricane, Hunger
November 9, 2017
Hurricane winds collapsing already crumbling homes compounded the crises that Cubans live with daily – hunger, poverty, and for some, suicidal thoughts. A regime allergic to outside aid did not help.
Cubans had to find help from within their own island borders. Indigenous missionaries have been in the best position to provide food, water and the message of Christ's salvation while preparing to help victims rebuild from Hurricane Irma's destruction on Sept. 8.
Unfortunately, Irma also struck the native Christian workers.
"It was devastating for most of our gospel workers and local population," the director of an indigenous ministry wrote to Christian Aid Mission, "but with your support, our ministry rushed to provide emergency aid such as water, cooking oil, rice, non-perishable food and bible pamphlets to victims."
Of 85 families that initially received aid, 13 belonged to his organization's indigenous missionaries. They follow Christ's incarnational example as they suffer alongside those they are serving.
"We were praying early in the morning because we didn't have anything to eat," one Christian worker told the ministry director. "God answered our prayer, as a few hours later your ministry arrived with cooking oil, clean water, a sack of rice and canned food."
God's response to their prayers inspired him to serve Him more, he said.
"For us it was a miracle," he said. "Then we realized that our neighbors also didn't have anything to eat, so from what you delivered to us we shared with various families from our neighborhood, and we shared with them that Jesus Christ is the bread of eternal Life."
"I was ready to commit suicide," the young man said. "Here in the congregation, I found the power and love of God – I thank those who shared about Jesus with me."
Other ministry workers' families fared worse; three lost all their possessions to the hurricane. A multi-use hall the ministry used for Bible trainings was destroyed. The ministry director seeks assistance to deliver mattresses, wood for re-constructing houses and roof tiles to workers' families and other victims.
"We ask for your prayers for our missionaries and people affected by this terrible disaster, and that God uses this event so that we can reach many with the hope of salvation in Christ Jesus," he said.
Having provided food and the transforming power of the gospel for more than two decades, the ministry has an extensive network of churches to help bring aid to those affected by the hurricane, and that network is growing: In the past six months, it has trained more than 60 leaders to oversee congregations and continue to plant others, and its evangelists saw the number of new Christians grow by more than 6,500 people.
The growing churches strengthen the fight against hunger and want, which after all are not new problems in Cuba. Among those contributing to the church growth is an evangelist who was once close to Cuban President Fidel Castro. He now leads the indigenous ministry's sports ministry.
"Before knowing Jesus, I experienced all that you can buy materially, but now with Jesus Christ I am experiencing the great love of my life," he said.
The ministry director said he now shares the light of Christ with throngs of youth on baseball and soccer fields.
"He and his wife materially had everything, but their souls and lives were shattered and empty," he said. "A native missionary shared the gospel with them, and both surrendered their lives to Jesus. Today he testifies to hundreds of young people on the ballfields, and his laughter and love are infectious."
More than 1,000 Bibles and 22,000 gospel tracts were distributed in Cuba this year through the sports ministry. In the course of 82 baseball events and other sports outreaches across the country in the past year, ministry workers shared the gospel with more than 20,000 people, with 7,500 of those making professions of faith to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
There is no telling how many of those had bid farewell to their last shred of hope before hearing the gospel. Like many without hope in the face of crumbling homes, broken relationships and low-paying jobs, one young man saw only pain in his future. Renier's anguish had become so intense that death grew more appealing, and he had resolved to kill himself.
"I did not find anything good out there," he said. "I was ready to commit suicide."
A neighbor invited Renier to one of the indigenous ministry's local church plants, where he heard the message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.
"Here in the congregation, I found the power and love of God – I thank those who shared about Jesus with me," he said. "Now there are two things that motivate me to live: my 4-year-old boy, and the love of God I found here in this congregation. It is the best thing that ever happened to me."
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