In January 2016 we were honored to have visiting missionary, Bro. Mark Naimy (Philippines), with us in Cuba. While in Havana, we had several conversations about the nature of missionary work, both in Cuba and the Philippines. One topic was raised that struck a cord with me personally, and later has shown to be instrumental in the entire work in Cuba: missions giving from the mission field.
Bro. Naimy said, “Teach the Cuban churches to give to world missions. They will be blessed financially and it will transform the works.” At first, I just thought on it a while, and prayed. It felt right. In a meeting in January I presented this vision to the superintendent of the Cuban churches, Bishop Bárbaro Gonzalez, saying,
“We know that the Cuban pastors believe in tithing and giving offerings. They teach the congregations the same. What if the Cuban churches began to give to global missions? We believe that God will take notice and begin to bless the churches like never before. We believe that by giving to missionaries and churches outside of Cuba, the churches here in Cuba will experience the blessing of God and grow, both spiritually, numerically, and economically.”
Bishop Gonzalez embraced the vision immediately. He first began to implement it in his local church. Then, in February, at the national conference in Havana, he testified about this “new thing” his church was doing, and how God was blessing them. He immediately made an appeal for all Cuban churches to take up a special missions offering (ofrenda misionera) in the conference. The Cuban church raised the equivalent of $1,000USD to help Missionary Pedro Ochoa in Belize (who was also a guest speaker at the conference).
The concept of local churches collecting monthly contributions for world missionaries was introduced and embraced with gladness. Since February, as we have traveled across Cuba, we have received a combined total of well over $1,000 from the Cuban brethren. These monies are not for us, but given to us to be delivered to mission works outside of Cuba.
Now, $1,000 may not sound like much, until we consider the average salary in Cuba is about $25 per month. Medical doctors can average $50-$60 per month. There is a tendency in such cases to shy away from money matters when teaching and preaching. Some pastors in impoverished areas are reluctant to speak about giving. The pity that one feels for their neighbor because of their material poverty can become an excuse not to approach the subject, especially for fear it may be misinterpreted. Too many have been hurt by religious leaders who were solely interested in money.
Nevertheless, giving is biblical!
There is a culture of survival in Cuba, but the apostolic churches are teaching how to overcome the mentality of “just getting by.”
We have taught tithing and giving of offerings in Cuba since we began going in 2007. The Cuban leadership believes in paying tithes (diezmos). Over the years we have seen the blessing of God upon pastors and churches that practice God’s financial plan of tithing.
The leader of the apostolic churches of Cuba, Bishop Bárbaro González, has made great efforts to teach the Cuban people that giving is the way out of poverty. In his local assembly, he has modeled tithing and giving and has been blessed personally, both financially and spiritually. Several people in his congregation have testified how God provided them with new jobs, promotions, and increases in pay since being faithful in tithes and offerings. His church in El Cano has completed two building programs in the last 10 years, including new additions for classrooms, living quarters, and an industrial size kitchen and dining hall. Attendance has grown exponentially, from a small house church to a 200+ member congregation with local leaders and staff. And they started out in their home with a dirt floor in a small town in Cuba!
Global missions giving is now widespread in Cuba. We have traveled across the island preaching in local assemblies—and receiving offerings wherever we go. It is humbling to say the least—to know that we go with support from sending churches in the U.S. with the intention to bless the churches in the mission field—and we arrive and receive from them.
By giving to global missions, the financial situation is turning around, and there is greater awareness of the value of souls and the mission of the church. The Cuban churches do not see themselves as “the least of these” waiting for a handout, but as part of the Apostolic Church worldwide charged with the same mission to propagate this Gospel in all nations.