Coming from Communist Romania I would have never imagined that one day I would had the chance to visit another Communist country. A month ago I felt so privileged to join the fourth Cuba ESL short term mission trip, January 22 to February 3, 2014.
This annual mission trip was initiated by Hillside Community Church in 2011 and it has been led by Win Gritter, who in 2013 celebrated 50 years of service through World Missions. The main objective of the trip was to teach English as a Second Language to the church leaders in Cuba. Win Gritter led a team of ten people from Hillside Church, LaGrave Avenue Church, and Hope Church.
Our team worked to accomplish the following objectives:
ESL Camp in Cuba.
We taught English as a Second Language to about 25-30 students. We were divided in seven classes, each class having between 3 to 5 students. We had two sessions in the morning and two sessions in the afternoon, starting at 8:30 in the morning and finishing at 5 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday.
Visiting and Encouraging Churches in Cuba.
We’ve been privileged to worship with three churches and two house church plants on two Sundays and two weekday nights. Our eleven member group sang during worship and Win Gritter translated the five sermons I was invited to preach. We experienced a variety of worship settings. First Sunday morning, January 25, we drove over an hour to worship with a church plant in Cardenas, a small community that worshipped in this house church for the first time. Sunday evening we worshipped with the church in Jaguey Grande, Matanzas province, located within a walking distance from the place where we lived. Tuesday evening at 8 pm we joined the church in Torriente, and Wednesday we worshiped outdoors in Calimete. Sunday morning, February 1, on our way to Havana we joined in worship a three year old church plant in Guines. These opportunities opened our eyes to the Spirit’s work through the CRC in Cuba in reaching lives with the transforming power of the gospel.
Alpha in Cuba.
A third objective was to introduce the Alpha as an outreach tool to the Cuban CRC. Hillside Church uses Alpha since 2003, offering two seasons per year. On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning I enjoyed introducing the concept of Alpha to a group of pastors, seminarians and denominational department directors, including Jose Ramon, the evangelist for the CRC in Cuba. The participants saw a great value in the idea of combining teaching with a dinner, but for them the challenge is to think of offering a dinner when there is little food available. It was intriguing to them to think of setting aside an intentional social time in order to build friendships with the people in their community. Since they CRC in Cuba already has a diaconal ministry that offers free meals to the people in the community, they may be able to use Alpha as a bridge between their diaconal and evangelistic efforts.