Your Cuba mission team arrived back safely in Nashville on Friday night. Over the course of time we will find ways to share with you what we learned, what we saw, what needs there are that we, as a congregation, might address. It’s very important to us that you know as much as possible because we believe that there is ample reason to begin a long-term partnership with our brothers and sister of the Vedado Methodist Church.
There would be no way to share everything with you in one article so allow me to give you just a few impressions.
Methodism is very strong in Cuba. There are 450 Methodist Churches in Cuba of various sizes. For instance, the Vedado Church worships about 1800 people a week. Other churches may worship 30. But in addition to those 450 churches, there are another 800 “mission churches”. A mission church is a “house” church. A local pastor will start a church in their own home. These homes are small, but a space is carved out for them to worship maybe twenty or thirty. When a mission church has grown to the 30 to 50 size and sustained it for a few years, they are then allowed to build a church.
I share this first because evangelism—bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ—is why they exist. Yes, there are other programs and ministries, but their primary task is to share Jesus. Do you remember my challenge to you at about this time last year?? If each one of us at Belle Meade UMC would reach out and disciple just one other person, our church would be transformed. That challenge stands. Did you attempt to bring others to church last year??
I was blessed to preach one service and teach one Bible Study. The worship service had 800 people. Worship at Vedado is more closely akin to a Pentecostal/ Holiness service than what we would typically expect in an American Methodist Church. Their worship is much louder and features a lot of high energy music. Pastor Lester Fernandez, our host, preaches for about 45 minutes—and he preaches 9 services a week.
I had a wonderful interpreter to assist me. Yes, I preached a 45 minute sermon—maybe I’ll try that here next Sunday. It was a challenge to have someone translate, but we developed a “cadence” of our own and she was so good, it was a smooth experience. Other than the fact that I am not from the Pentecostal experience and so my sermon was, shall we say, somewhat less energetic than they are accustomed.
The Bible study had 500 people and that experience was even better for me because there was interaction between us.
Our team was truly blessed to experience Cuba in this way—not as tourists, but as partners in ministry. We will share more with you in the days to come. For now, be thinking about whether you might like to be part of the next team to Cuba. We haven’t made any firm decisions, but we are thinking that every other year would be ideal.
Last thing—If the Vedado Church stresses nothing else, they stress the value of prayer. They are praying for our congregation. They have now received us as a partner. We will do the same and we will pray for their mission and ministry in and around Havana.