The Church in Cuba
“It was both inspiring and humbling,” Pastor Jeff Bills says of his recent travel to Havana, Cuba with HOPE’s 14-member mission team. “There is profound poverty throughout Cuba and oppression by its government is still prevalent, particularly on the church,” Jeff said. “But the incredible joy and hope in Christ cannot be missed when you are with fellow believers there … Even though they continue to live with the reality that their churches could be padlocked and their pastors imprisoned if an official believes them to be too far out of step with the government.”
It has been over 50 years since “The Revolution” that brought Fidel Castro’s Communist government into power over the island nation of Cuba. However, the average citizen there still cannot change jobs without government permission. And all businesses are majority-owned by a regime that has established a $20-a-month salary as the most anyone can earn. Books, newspapers, radio channels, television channels, movies and music are still heavily censored. Special permits are required to use the Internet and are only available to selected Cubans. Mobile phones are also rare. Violators can still face imprisonment.
“While there, Pastor Rick Court and I had the opportunity to speak with half a dozen pastors who planted a church their homes,” Jeff said. “Because the home churches bring such a spirit of service to the areas where they are located, neighbors seldom report them to the authorities.” Home churches are experiencing prolific growth in Cuba though it is illegal to have more than 20 people in your home at any given time. So, when the house churches begin to grow beyond 20, Cuban Christians build three-sided pole barns to use for their worship. These “barns” are not considered a house and therefore have no limits on the number of people who can occupy them. “I don’t think I will ever again take for granted our freedom to assemble and our freedom to worship here in the United States,” Jeff said.
“What no one on our team will ever forget is the radical hospitality and the servant’s heart of the people we worked with in Cuba,” Jeff said. “We went to serve them, but we left feeling that they out-served us by many fold.”
“One small example came toward the end of our week. Members of our team offered to leave behind our used clothing, shoes and other items in our suitcases. The clothes and shoes we saw our hosts wearing were really thread bear. The pastor was excited by the offer and said yes immediately. He then said, ‘The people in the church in Guantanamo are very poor and could really use the clothes!’ I was humbled.”