West Virginia Mission Team Visits Cuba

May 24, 2001

Worship at 2nd Baptist Church of Santiago

The week of April 20-27, 2001 will be long remembered by the mission team of the West Virginia Baptist Convention. The week was spent in ministry with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention (ECBC) in Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba, the second largest city of Cuba, is located on the Southeast coast of Cuba. The city of some 500,000 was the setting for the group’s work and ministry.

The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention (ECBC) is comprised of 230 churches and over 500 mission house churches. The church is growing by leaps and bounds. Over the past ten years, the percentage of the Cuban population that is Christian has grown from 2% to 10%. The convention has worked in partnership with American Baptist Churches USA and the Board of International Ministries for over 100 years. “American Baptists taught us to stand by ourselves,” said Ruben Ortiz, administrator for the ECBC and the group’s host. “Our convention is stronger today because of the work of American Baptist Missionaries in Cuba.”

The group was able to spend considerable time in churches of the area. Members of the group were able to speak in at least eight different churches throughout the week. One church was located in the mountains. Iglesia Bautista Puriales (Puriales Baptist Church) was the sight of a wonderful evening of worship. The group was introduced by a brief history of the church and their outreach to the surrounding communities. This congregation, made up of mainly farming families, has an extensive outreach to the poor communities in the mountains. This fact was difficult at first for the group to grasp, especially when we found out that the average farming family would net about 150 pesos annually (around $8 US). Their stewardship and love for the Lord overwhelmed many of the group. The group was able to leave a large amount of clothing and personal items donated by churches of the team members for the outreach ministry. At the Segunda Iglesia Buatista de Santiago (Second Baptist Church of Santiago) we were witness to 16 baptisms. This moving service ended with Pastor Elmer Lavastida offering an invitation to which 28 individual gave their lives to Jesus Christ. The church is growing in Cuba, and we witnessed the moving of the Spirit of God in many services.

The group also spent an evening celebrating with other at the historic church Iglesia Bautista de El Cristo. This church was the sight for the field offices of the first American Baptist missionaries. This connection has special significance as we witnessed the graduation class of the Seminario Teologico Bautista de Cuba Oriental (Baptist Seminary of Cuba) commit themselves to mission and ministry for the Lord Jesus Christ in the ECBC. The work of the early missionaries continues today through the lives of those attending the seminary to further the work of the Lord in Cuba.

The group was a part of a small work project at the ECBC offices. They are currently building several sleeping rooms, kitchen and dining area for pastors and other church members from other parts of the ECBC to use then they come to Santiago. This will provide a valuable addition to the ministry of the convention to the churches of Cuba.

The group was also able to spend some time with our ABC Missionary Sue Hegarty. The connection to the past and the present was inspiring and humbling to experience.

Comments from the team have been wonderful to hear. One team member commented, “We have seen the church described in Acts at work here in Cuba.” The church is alive and well in Cuba, and it is in part a result of your giving to United Mission and the World Mission Offering that supports Sue Hegarty and the ministry of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention. Your contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing also have an impact through the supply of medicine and eyeglasses to those in need. Thanks for your faithful giving and for your partnership with others around the world.

If you would like to hear more about this mission encounter from the team members, please contact Rose Marie Durig at durig@wvbc.org or Greg Creasy at creasy@wvbc.org or call 800-879-9822. Thanks for your prayer support and contributions to this mission outreach.

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