March 2023 in Havana, Cuba, was a benchmark evangelistic experience for nearly 30 students and staff of the seminary at Andrews University and six pastors from Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States. Fernando Ortiz, director of the Master of Divinity program at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, has led these “Care for Cuba” evangelistic missions for more than a decade, but this first trip after the pandemic proved to be the most fruitful of all.
Hosting the Care for Cuba team for the 10 days and nights of our mission were the faculty, staff, and students of the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary near Havana. They welcomed us with typical Cuban warmth and hospitality. In addition to the team from Andrews, there were many on-the-ground pastors, Bible workers, and volunteers who did the heavy-lifting before our team even arrived. Factor in Ortiz, our fearless leader and gifted administrator, and we were truly blessed with a Spirit-anointed team of workers.
It’s true that power outages and water stoppage are staples of Cuban life these days — but the people of that island (the largest in the Caribbean) resiliently live above such Western annoyances. And we brought back a heart-full of memories made with our new Cuban friends.
It felt like a non-stop, wall-to-wall, full-court press (to mix similes). We left for Cuba at 2:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 16, and arrived back home at 4:00 a.m. on Monday, March 27, exhausted but exhilarated (if you can combine those two realities) with Heaven’s abundant blessings during those 10 days of mission.
And the numbers? We are praising God for the 311 baptisms during these evangelistic meetings, including the baptism of a Pentecostal pastor and his family, as well as a former mafia member, on the final Sabbath. We also praise God for the 755 children that crowded into the children’s meetings around Havana each evening. These numbers established a new benchmark for Care for Cuba’s evangelistic mission. The Holy Spirit certainly responded to the army of prayer partners back at our home campus and congregation.
While it’s true — the best is yet to come — what has already come is proof enough of the veracity of Jesus’ promise to Paul regarding Corinth, another seaport city: “One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid … because I have many people in this city’”(Acts 18:9–10, NIV). Indeed, He does in Havana, too, which is reason enough for us to pray on for the continuing work of Christ’s Spirit there.