Maranatha Volunteers Assists Cubans in Their Hour of Need

The supporting ministry is sending containers of supplies and will open new houses of worship.

Maranatha Volunteers International
Maranatha Volunteers Assists Cubans in Their Hour of Need
Volunteers at the Cuban Union Conference office sort out items unloaded from containers Maranatha sent to assist church members and others across the island. [Photo: Maranatha Volunteers International]

The work of Maranatha Volunteers International in Cuba continues to evolve in response to the country’s worsening economic climate.

In the past year, the Cuban people have been struggling from a lack of basic necessities, including food, water, electricity, fuel, medicine, and personal hygiene products. The few supplies that are available for purchase cost more than even employed citizens can afford.

“The situation is pretty horrible,” Aldo Pérez, president of the Cuban Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said. “But in the middle of that, God is with His people.”

Maranatha stays active in Cuba amid the turmoil, sending shipping containers full of basic necessities and developing plans for congregations to have new places of worship.

During last year’s Cuba-focused #GivingTuesday campaign, generous donors raised more than US$250,000. In February of this year, Maranatha used these funds to send four shipping containers full of food, medicine, and other essential items to distribution points across the island. These resources aided more than 5,000 families, representing roughly 20,000 individuals. Since that first shipment, two more containers are full and ready for transport from Panama.

The Adventist seminary building in Cuba. The seminary depends on the arrival of shipped supplies to keep its doors open, as leaders are finding it hard to feed their 70 students. [Photo: Maranatha Volunteers International]

A country-wide labor strike shut down Panama and postponed the containers’ voyage to Cuba. The supreme court in Panama ruled on the case in question on November 28, prompting the country’s gradual reopening. “It’s hard to say with absolute certainty, but we believe the containers will be on their way soon,” Maranatha’s Chief Operating Officer Kenneth Weiss said.

The clock is ticking for the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary in Havana, which depends on the containers of supplies to keep its doors open. Built by Maranatha in 1995, the seminary is a pillar of Adventist Church growth on the island but is currently struggling to feed its 70 students.

Amid economic stagnation, the 40,000-member Adventist Church in Cuba is still flourishing. Of the island’s 168 counties, 161 boast an Adventist presence. “The only way the people in Cuba can survive is through faith,” Pérez explained. “And we offer them faith and hope in Jesus Christ.”

Maranatha usually supports Adventist Church growth through the construction of new church buildings, but Cuba’s situation presents unique hindrances to this strategy. In the past, congregations have faced delayed building permits and the costly shipment of construction materials from other countries.

“It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. It’s complicated,” Maranatha president Don Noble said of the construction process in Cuba. The solution? Renovation. This month, Maranatha leadership is preparing to purchase 10 houses across Havana, for just US$3,000 apiece. The plan is for local crews to remodel the homes’ main rooms into places of worship and any extra space into living quarters for pastors.

Since 1994, Maranatha has been working in Cuba to build and renovate Seventh-day Adventist churches. Despite economic circumstances that complicate the work in Cuba, Maranatha has been successful in building or remodeling more than 200 churches all over the island, in addition to the seminary in Havana.

The original version of this story was posted by Maranatha Volunteers International, which is an independent supporting ministry and is not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Maranatha Volunteers International