Two Quiet Hour Ministries (QHM) mission teams were making their way to serve in Cuba just as scattered reports of COVID-19 were beginning to pop up around the United States. They did not know what was coming in the days ahead, but God knew, and He had a plan!
“We are praying for travel mercies for all of you,” Randy Bates, QHM president and CEO wrote the departing team. “I invite you to claim the promise in Proverbs 3:23, 26: ‘Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble … for the Lord will be on your side’” (NIV).
Over the next few hours, QHM mission team members from around North America began to check in on the WhatsApp mission team group chat. “We are almost to Cuba!” reported team member Moraa, unaware of the incredible week that lay ahead of her.
The teams arrived safely on March 12. One team headed for the city of Pilón and the other to Niquero. Amazingly, all of their evangelism supplies made it through customs quickly. They weren’t even opened, which is uncommon for missions to Cuba. The teams were ready to focus all of their energy on their work.
First, each team tackled construction projects and held free clinics, sharing Jesus with hundreds of people along the way. In Pilón, team member Linda reported that attendance at the children’s program had jumped from 26 the first night to 54 the next. At the first clinic, the team served close to 200 people in four hours. In Niquero, they were also experiencing packed clinics and excellent progress on construction.
Back in the United States, the coronavirus was rapidly overwhelming the news as the seriousness of the situation started to mount. Back in the QHM office, prayers were going up for wisdom. Should the teams come home? Or should they continue the work?
Randy wrote the teams: “We are so excited as we hear how God is blessing your work in Cuba. We don’t want to bring you home early if we don’t have to.” The teams were relieved. They wanted to continue, praying they’d be able to finish what they started.
As the week went on, there were small challenges. In some places, there were whispers that U.S. citizens were sent to spread the virus and warnings not to attend clinics. But people continued to flock to the clinics and the nightly meetings anyway.
By Thursday, March 19, however, the situation had become more urgent, and when the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory for U.S. citizens, QHM knew it was time to bring the teams home a few days early.
“As you have all heard,” Wes Peppers wrote, “it’s likely that we will need to leave for home as early as tomorrow. If you are planning to leave anything behind for the churches, do that tonight.”
At home, the QHM office team was scrambling to make arrangements on short notice to get the whole group safely home. The teams would take a bus trip for 20 hours to the airport in Havana, and then fly back to the United States. The team was prepared, yet heartbroken to have to leave before the end of the mission.
The night before the teams left, however, they were incredibly blessed to witness baptisms from their work already, with even more to follow. While the final numbers are still coming in, this team knows they got to be part of something extra special.
Sunday evening, with everyone home safe, Darryl Bentley shared with the group:
“The union president in Cuba said that these two mission teams were the most impactful of any team from any group in his conference. Between the turnout from the clinics, the requests for Bible studies, and harvest of those ready for baptism, he said he was just overwhelmed by how the Lord worked.
“That affirms to me that we did the right thing by staying the course as long as possible and conducting our mission as the Lord directed us,” Bentley wrote. “I believe the timing to make it into the country and the timing to get everyone out was just as the Lord wanted. The enemy tried hard to derail us, but our teams stayed the course, and the Lord got us through it all.”
God had a plan with perfect timing. And He used it all to His glory.
Team member Janice shared, “Praise God! We came from Niquero, where we were infused with love and peace through our experiences. May the peace we have stay with us as we come back to [the United States] during this chaotic time.”
The original version of this story was posted in the Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) April 2020 newsletter.