I WILL REJOICE IN THE LORD
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
~ Habakkuk 3: 17-18 (NIV)
Cuba is an island full of color, warmth and smells, yet it is also run down and dilapidated. This island seems to be open, but it is subject to many restrictions. Almost all Cubans experience shortages of literally everything.
Christians can be found throughout Cuba, and shortages are extreme for them. There is a chronic shortage of Bibles and Christian literature. “Every month, we have baptism services and we often have tens and sometimes dozens of new Christians being baptized,” reported a female pastor. “Due to the shortage of Bibles, we do not give people a Bible when they convert. They first have the possibility to enter a ‘Christianity course’ before being baptized. Once people have finished the course and have been baptized, they receive a Bible. This way we have more certainty that the Bible will really be used.”
Christian leadership is lacking in Cuba. “There is a shortage of good, solid Christian leadership in the churches. We don’t have the knowledge and could really use good study material on biblical leadership,” stated a Cuban pastor.
Christians lack places to worship together. One pastor in Cuba said, “We don’t have our own building and our houses are too small to meet in. Every Sunday we use all the means of transport that we can find to go out into the countryside. There we're less conspicuous and we can hold an open-air service. But if it’s raining or too windy, it has to be called off. That’s a pity, because we like meeting together so much.”
Another pastor said, “We don’t get permission to build new churches or church buildings. Only the church buildings that have been here before 1959 are officially registered as church buildings. Since then, it has not been possible to obtain permits for new church buildings.”
When a pastor was asked what his greatest wish is, he replied, “To conquer the city for Jesus Christ!” This is the dream of many Cuban Christians, who show their resiliency in the midst of restrictions. Are there too few Bibles? Then they simply share Bibles with each other and copy out Bible texts. Is it prohibited to proclaim God’s Word outside your church building? Then they make sure that the music and the words of the psalms and hymns are heard through the open windows of the building. When the police drive them away while evangelizing on the street, then they carry on somewhere else tomorrow. The scripture above is sung as a favorite hymn.
Cuban Christians see the restrictions as a challenge. They have the courage to dream. They stand up for their faith. In this way, the Word is heard and the Church in Cuba is growing.
RESPONSE: Today I will follow the example of Cuban Christians and rejoice in Jesus and serve Him faithfully even when the necessities and comforts of life are absent.
PRAYER: Lord, I want to be so dependent on You that I can sing the closing song of Habakkuk too.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.