'Can We Go To Cuba?'
As we neared the end of our mission trip to Guatemala in March 2016, members of my church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, were already asking, “What are we doing next year? Where are we going on our next mission trip?”
This was exciting to me since it had been one of the results of this trip I had hoped for. But what came next was completely unexpected and entirely foreign to me.
“Can we go to Cuba?” This was Ben Rodriguez’s first mission trip, and he couldn’t wait to go again. And now, inspired by his friend who was also with us in Guatemala, Tony Henneberg, Rodriguez was asking if we could do our next mission trip in Cuba.
Henneberg had lived in Cuba as a teenager in the 1950s while his dad served as conference president there. His family left Cuba when Fidel Castro and Che Guevara won the revolution. Henneberg, now a retired physician, had only been back once briefly. The thought of going to Cuba on a mission trip put a smile on his face.
Cuba?! How do we get there? What are we allowed to do? Who do we know there who can help us? Having never been there before, I had a million questions. Over the next few months, I began to get some answers to those questions. Through a variety of contacts, slowly a plan began to develop.
There are many Adventist churches in Cuba across the nearly 800-mile long island. While these churches are allowed to function as places of worship, building new churches has been illegal in Cuba since the revolution ended in 1959. But the church has found a way to grow in these frontline cities with something called “Houses of Light.”
A few years ago, it also became legal for Cubans to buy and sell property. So, with the help of American donors and Cuban church members, a house can be purchased in a city without an Adventist church. A Bible worker can move into the house, sharing Jesus in the town. As interest in the Advent message grows, permission can be obtained for this new group of Seventh-day Adventists to worship together in this home. Using this model, Houses of Light are beginning to slowly shine across the country.
Excited about this work, Rodriguez and I traveled to Cuba in January and found a house in a coastal city on the north side of Cuba. After plans were set into motion to purchase the house, we came home and excitedly began growing the group of missionaries who would go in March to renovate the house and get it ready to be the newest Adventist presence in Cuba.
About a month later, we received word that the sale of the house had fallen through. We had no project for our group. Disappointed and somewhat unsure of how to move forward, we asked the local conference in Cuba if there was another option. As a last-minute decision, Rodriguez, Henneberg and I found ourselves on the plane headed to Cuba. By the end of that trip, we realized why everything had fallen through.
God is good, and He has plans that are unlike anything you and I can imagine — and you can know them if you’re willing to let Him lead. During this second trip to Cuba, we were able to purchase a better house for less money in the center of a more populated city, this time on the south coast of Cuba. The work project was more significant, as it included a new construction project for some Sabbath School rooms behind what would eventually be a new House of Light.
While our group of 29 missionaries was in Cuba, we faced several unexpected challenges, perhaps the biggest being the local government shutting down our construction project halfway through the work week. Despite those challenges and setbacks, we were able to accomplish some amazing, God-sized tasks. Walls were repaired inside and out, and the entire house was repainted. All the plumbing was redone. We even received the permit necessary to worship there and did a weeklong evangelistic series and kids’ program. Perhaps best of all, we created relationships that will last for eternity.
As we share our story with others and I reflect on how so many things didn’t go as we had planned, I keep thinking about the plans I have for tomorrow and in the future and wonder, “What does God think of my best-laid plans?” It has been a good reminder of God’s declaration in Jeremiah that He knows His plans for us and, best of all, they’re good plans. Aren’t you curious what they are?
There’s a group of us in Coeur d’Alene who are excited about our next mission trip. We don’t know where we’re going yet or what we’ll be doing, but we’re excited to see where God’s plans will lead us and how He will use us to bring glory and honor to His Name. I hope you’ll let Him lead you too.
To see more pictures from our trip, visit CDA Adventist on Facebook.