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My Reflections On the Cuban Church by Jean Johnson

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NEWS!!! NUESTRA RADIO Estamos iniciando transmisiones de Radio desde nuestra iglesia por internet. Un sueño hecho realidad. Por el momento se escuchará nuestra música y predicaciones del pastor Alejandro Nieto. Más adelante iniciaremos las transmisiones en vivo de nuestros cultos y otros. #radio #emisora #cristiana #soyligueño #lec www.ministeriotv.com/channel/view/iglecuba-1608

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Someone has asked us for details of a church for a town they are visiting on holiday in Cuba. It has been a joy to give details of one where they can visit to encourage brothers and sisters in Cuba.

They then generously asked how they might bring blessing to those they visit, perhaps with a bible or gifts for the children in the church. We were greatly encouraged by this desire to love in a generous and sacrificial way, but - after careful thought - I (Carl Chambers, chair of Cuba para Cristo) replied along these lines. I commend it to you if you seek to be wise in your generous love for Cuba.

"Thank you for asking this. I appreciate your concern and thank God for your desire to help, with generous love for others.

Since you ask how best to help, permit me to be so bold as to make some comments which might orientate you differently.

There is a real danger in Cuba, as in so many parts of the world, of developing a mentality that says “when a foreigner comes, it’s like Christmas”. Ie gifts arrive with the unknown visitor from afar.

This is damaging in a number of ways. It breeds a dependency on those who come, and it provokes a lack of gratitude for what they have (which you will see is minimal, but is not nothing).

It can also breed a deceitful culture, where people learn to tell stories that the innocent unsuspecting foreigner believes (and can be excited by). With almost thirty years experience in Cuba, I would still admit that if I met someone for the first time, I wouldn’t know if what they were telling me was true. This is hard to say but based on experience. (The UK parallel is exemplified by the debate in Windsor over who is really homeless... we want to help, but sometimes this encourages people who look like the homeless but aren’t).

I am categorically not saying that every Cuban Christian is a liar. Just that we are not qualified to discern.

I do think there is something lovely about taking a bible and gifts, of course. If I may suggest, don’t give anything to someone you don’t know. The pastor is in a position of responsibility, so ask if you can give it to the church through him, to give to those in need. Similarly, if you take gifts, then give to the church through him. (But I would urge caution. Varadero is, by Cuban standards, very prosperous, so most at risk of developing a worldly attitude).

This is very hard, I admit. Our hearts go out for those we see with needs that we have met. But crucially, we often see these needs as material, when the Christian knows they are always so much more spiritual. God does provide .. yes, through foreign help, but equally through people’s own resources. Often the former can crowd out the latter, meaning that helping actually hurts.

Perhaps a suggestion as to what you could do? Take one or more Spanish bibles, to give to pastors you meet. Pray that the Lord might lead you in how to help meaningfully in Cuba. He will know your hearts. When you return, continue to pray and seek discernment. I trust the Lord will honour your desire both to be generous in your love, and wise.

I hope this response is helpful. It comes with a passion for the good for the church in Cuba, in every way.

Please do come back to me if you’d like."
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I was able to speak with a pastor in Havana today.

Here is his report:
- things are very difficult here
- there have been a number of deaths - we don't know how many but there are a number of reports of people dying
- we have no electricity - most people don't have electricity
- the airport is closed
- we are thankful that we are alive and well where we are, as we are slightly higher up
- but people near the sea front have lost everything : houses have been destroyed, people have died, they have lost everything

When I asked about the visit of a colleague the response was: "well that would be a little complicated". "un poco complicado" was the phrase. The kind of phrase that an Englishman might use when saying "it's a bit wet" - as the rain bucketed down and floods were everywhere. Or a Russian in Siberia saying "it's a bit chilly".

He reported that things in Varadero, the famous beautiful beach resort 90 miles to the east of Havana, is "a disaster zone - and things further east are even worse".

We have £1,500 which we are sending by bank transfer imminently to help those in need. We know it will be a drop in the ocean but will help a little. The 'hurricane relief fund' is still open (see Cuba para Cristo website - giving). Money is transferred to a bank in Cuba, and 100% is spent on hurricane relief (ie no admin charges whatsoever).

CARL CHAMBERS
Chair Cuba para Cristo
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Recent research from one conference has found that 7 organisations in the US are planning on sending 192 short term missionary teams between them to Cuba this year - to just two denominations. That's just what we know about.

We have been told that many who are going aren't even asking permission. They just go and offer "help".

The impact on churches in Cuba is likely to be horrendous.

If you know someone planning a short term trip to Cuba, the kindest thing will be to suggest they put a halt to it. When they ask why, ask them how much they are aware of the damage short term missions trips do (it's well documented) and what steps they've taken to avoid these. If they have produced a dossier on this, then please ask them to send it to us (cubaparacristo@gmail.com) because we have never yet seen a church or organization present a clear cost/benefit analysis for their short term trip to Cuba which considers the wider church too.organisation
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