Relaymedia

Small Cuban house church grows to almost 3,000

( [email protected] ) Mar 23, 2004 03:05 AM EST

What began as a small house church in Cuba has grown to be a place of worship for over 3,000 people, according to the Religion Journal.

Several people, including seven pastors, author Ellie Lofaro, and David Howard, a Cook Communications Ministries board member, and Tim Gunsolley, Vice President of Development, Bible Literature International at CCMI visited Cuba last month.

"We were overwhelmed to discover how quickly the Gospel message is spreading across Cuba," says Gunsolley. "We are so excited and thankful to the Lord for the work He is doing there. We visited several churches. The second one we visited began as a small, house church that now holds weekend services for almost 3,000 people! This church is so alive you can feel it. Every seat was taken and there were young people standing outside, looking through the windows throughout the entire two- or three-hour service."

"I went to Cuba to distribute books and Bibles," says author Ellie Lofaro. "I went to be a giver, but what I gained was so much more. I went to be a teacher, but I was the student. I went to give encouragement and hope, but what I learned is that the Cuban believers embodied those things in a way I have never seen before. They are so intense, focused and passionate. Forget committee meetings! These people spend their time meeting the dire needs of the people. One church alone, through the house churches they have planted, is responsible for more than 8,800 salvations in just this past year alone. Sadly, they had less than 400 Bibles to give the new converts."

Pastors report that house churches and children's ministries are multiplying with less official harassment. Bibles and some Christian books are entering with less restriction. Even some new church buildings are being built for the first time since the 1959 communist revolution.

"Things in Cuba have been improving for a long time," said Joel, a Pentecostal pastor in Matanzas who also asked that his real name not be used. "The Cuban church is in revival."

Perhaps the greatest official concession to Christians involves house churches, which since 1959 were illegal or greatly restricted. "We've had a lot of house churches legalized," Joel said.

"The gospel has been preached all over the country," said Carlos, a pastor in Havana who asked that his real name not be used. "People are preaching in hospitals, they're visiting homes, they're inviting people to go to church. Christians are doing it, though it's not exactly sanctioned. They're doing it more than before. Now people go to church with greater freedom."

Although persecution is still very much present in the country, many are seeing greater hope for Christianity in Cuba.