Joel Luis Dupont grew up in Cuba and lived through the days when most people wanted nothing to do with Jesus or the gospel.
Now, things are starting to change.
“This is the best time in Cuba for the gospel. People are ready,” he said, during a recent visit to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. “Today is the hungriest generation there has ever been.”
Dupont, president of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, said interest in the gospel is growing because Cubans are coming to realize that earthly things cannot satisfy.
“The government tried to feed the souls of people with culture, education, philosophy, sports and entertainment. But none of this worked. The people tried all of that and it didn’t satisfy them,” he said.
“The people can destroy their lives, or turn back to the author of life. And that’s what is happening in Cuba; they are turning back to the author of life.”
About eight years ago North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) began a partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention that focused on building a Cuban Baptist retirement home in Santiago, the country’s second largest city.
Although the government does not allow Cuban Baptists to purchase buildings for church services and ministries, the government did grant permission for the retirement home, and about 40 senior adults are already living in the facility.
“With our own resources we couldn’t have achieved that,” Dupont said.
“God used North Carolina Baptist Men as a channel to make this a reality. We want to express thankfulness to North Carolina Baptist Men for being used as an instrument in God’s hand.”
When North Carolina Baptist volunteers first began arriving in Cuba to help build the retirement home they were greeted with suspicion and questions. Over the years trust developed as they faithfully continued to love the Cuban people and help provide for their needs. Now the people know that the volunteers continue to come because they want to serve.
“The government knows we care for the people,” said Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director.
Brunson said he sees a genuine desire among many Cubans to know God.
“Difficulties in this country have turned people to God, not away from God. People want to hear about the freedom that comes in knowing Jesus Christ, and the churches in Cuba are strong.”
Existing churches are growing and strengthening, yet many more are needed, as one church exists for every 1,000 people. The Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention has a goal to plant multiplying churches all across Cuba that will reach people with the gospel.
Dupont shared that churches are now more focused on evangelism, as well as social ministries, as they are no longer content to leave social ministries to the government. Churches are ministering to alcoholics, prisoners, deaf people and now, thanks to the retirement facility, senior adults.
As a variety of cults and false doctrines remain in Cuba, one of the greatest needs there is theological education and training.
“We want to prepare our leadership in the churches to serve with integrity and knowledge,” Dupont said.
With the retirement facility completed, NCBM moves into a new phase of the Cuba partnership that will focus on leadership training, disaster relief training and construction of a new conference center to be used for training leaders and pastors.
Earlier this year a team of N.C. Baptists traveled to Cuba to lead training for youth leaders, university leaders and camp staffs, and to provide life skills training for women.
“Cubans are depending on God working. You really see God working because He is all they have,” said Tom Beam, NCBM student missions mobilization consultant.
Beam participated in the youth leader training and is also leading a group of students to serve in Cuba next year through Deep Impact. Deep Impact mission weeks are pre-packaged experiences that provide middle and high school students an opportunity to serve and share the gospel.
Spots are still open for the July 26- Aug. 2 Deep Impact mission trip to Cuba. To sign up or for more information, contact Beam at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5626, or [email protected].
Beam encouraged N.C. Baptists to get involved in ministry in Cuba. “You will see miracles there,” he said. “You see God at work there unlike anywhere in the world.”
When Hurricane Sandy hit near Santiago, Cuba, in October, the retirement facility, as well as many homes and churches, suffered much damage.
For more information about how you can help, visit baptistsonmission.org.