Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Books being Printed in Cuba

Copies of my commentary on Thessalonians and Timothy are now being printed in Cuba. Pray that the work would be completed in time for distribution. Pray also that the Lord would use these books to strengthen, encourage and comfort those who receive copies in May.

Religious Visa - Prayers Being Answered, More Neededd

Many people have been wondering and praying about our religious visa. This visa is required if I am to speak in any church or conference in Cuba,. Just yesterday I had two emails in the morning from friends telling me that their prayer groups were committing this matter to the Lord that day. I'm sure those who were praying did not know just how significant those prayers would be.

As they were praying, my Cuban host and coordinator of the events was traveling to Havana to pick up a number of religious visa that had been approved for conferences being held in May. My visa was to be among them. He was told, before he went, that all visas had been approved. Writing from Havana, however,  he said:
"I came here excited to pick up the visas for Wayne and his wife, but was told that there were no visas, the paperwork was never submitted."
This came as such a shock to him that he wrote: "I feel like I am going to die. I am really in a panic."

Several things happened as a result of this news. First, from my side I had to re-commit my trip to the Lord. In the hours that followed, I gave the matter to the Lord afresh and determined that the Lord had the right to use or not use my gifts as He saw fit. I also committed myself to take the money raised for these conferences to Cuba so that the events could take place whether I was speaking or not.

Secondly, in Havana the coordinator of the events and the denominational representative committed themselves to prayer. As a result of this prayer, they felt the need to contact the Communist Party to ask if there was anything they could do to help. They were put in touch with a leader who proved to be sympathetic to their request and told them that, for a small processing fee, he would see that the visa was granted in time for the conferences!

As it stands now, we are waiting for the paperwork to be processed. My Cuban hosts tell me to keep my schedule and come on Tuesday the 15th. While I may have to enter with a tourist visa, I will be able to change my status upon entry once the visa arrives and then be able to speak. As soon as the visa is granted in Havana, it will be put on a plane and sent to where my host can pick it up.

These last two days have been a bit of a roller coaster for me but I am seeing the Lord work in this. God is moving in answer to the prayers of His people in Canada, United States and Cuba. Somehow, this gives me even more confidence in the purpose of God in these days.

Thanks for your prayers. We continue to trust that the visa would arrive in time for our first conference on May 16th.

Tue, May 15, 2012 2:45p Visa Granted Just in Time

We arrived at the Halifax airport at noon for our 3:05 p.m. flight. We were waiting for a phone call to find out where we were staying in Cuba as this would be required for immigration before we entered the country. We had also not heard anything further about a religious visa and whether I would be able to speak when I arrived. At 2:00 I received a text message saying:

"Wayne, I am trying to call Lester (our host) but no answer on his home phone or cell phone. I will keep trying."

We were told later that 9 attempts had been made to contact our host without success to get the information needed. Time passed and the announcement to pre-board came over the loud speaker. As pre-boarding was taking place, I finally received a phone call telling me that the visa was approved and would be waiting for me at the airport.

After taking a moment over the phone thank the Lord, we boarded the plane with an awareness of the immense task before us but also with the assurance that the God who had gone before us, would also give us strength to accomplish that task.

Wed, May 16, 2012 3:46p Manzanillo: The Lost Sheep and Request for Books

We left at 8:00 this morning for Manzanillo, located about an hour south west of Bayamo on the ocean. There were about 50 pastors present for this event. I spoke to them on the Parable of the Lost Sheep, challenging them to see God's heart for hurt and struggling believers. They expressed their appreciation to me for addressing this topic.

Some of those present had been receiving copies of my books in the mail. The pastor of the hosting church showed them a book he had received and asked if I would be willing to send books to the other pastors present. I accepted to do so and over thirty pastors signed up to receive books in the mail.

We returned to Bayamo around 3:30 and I spent the rest of the afternoon resting and preparing for the next event.

Thu, May 17, 2012 4:06p Palmarón - Roasted Pork, Questions and Acts Commentary

Palmarón is a small village about half an hour from Bayamo. We left at 8:30 in the morning and traveled to an Eastern Baptist camp site where 50 Cuban missionaries (church planters) had gathered for the day.

We were greeted, on our arrival, with the site of a pig being roasted over an open fire. This pork would be a real treat for the Cubans present. Many of them would not be able to afford such a meal. My host told me that this was their way of blessing their missionaries for the work they do planting churches.

I spoke two times that morning on the temptations of Christ. After the meetings a group of people came with various Bible questions. We spent a good amount of time answering questions on various Bible topics. It was encouraging to see how these brothers and sisters had a real desire to understand the Word of God.

One of the ladies present shared with me that she had been given a copy of my commentary on the book or Acts. It had come to her at a very difficult time in her life. She read the book one chapter each day as she faced that struggle. She told me that it had a life changing affect on her and brought her through her trial. It is encouraging to see how the Lord is using my books to strengthen His people in Cuba.

Fri, May 18, 2012 3:41p Bayamo, Contramaestre - Before & After and Day One of Youth Event

There were no meeting in the morning but we received a phone call from Danilo, last year's translator, who is living in Holguin about 70 kilometers north of Bayamo. He and his wife wanted to spend some time with us. This past year had been very difficult for them so we were quite eager to meet with them.

They arrived in the morning at our hotel and we were able to reconnect and get caught up. Danilo brought two things with him. The first was the completed Spanish translation of my commentary on the book of Revelation. The second were some "before and after" pictures of his house.

When I was in Cuba last year, Danilo told me about the condition of his house. His roof and windows were leaking and causing damage. He was not able to get enough money together to make the repairs. I committed this to the Lord and had money left over at the end of my time in Cuba to pay for many of these repairs so I offered it to him for this purpose. When he came to visit me, he showed me photos of what they had been able to accomplish over the year. I was very much encouraged to see the difference it had made in their home. It was a great encouragement to me to see how the Lord used this money to provide for such an important need in their family.

We left for Contramaestre at 6:30 p.m. It is located about 45 minutes to the east of Bayamo. About 150 youth had gathered for the weekend. I spoke to them from Hebrews 12:1 on the subject of the "great cloud of witnesses." I was encouraged to see their enthusiasm. We returned home about 11:30 at night.

Sat, May 19, 2012 7:44a Contramaestre and Campecheula - Meeting with Youth and a New Challenge

We returned this morning to Contramaestre where I spoke last evening. I shared two more times from Hebrews 12:1-2. There was about 100 youth present in the morning services.

On our way to the meetings, my translator and I spoke about what to do with the material we were translating. He felt that there was a need to get material to more rural parts of Cuba where they did not have the benefits offered in the cities.

After the meeting that morning a man called my translator over and spoke with him. He had come from one such rural mountain communities. He told us that he had not planned to be at the meeting but felt the leading of the Lord to attend. He gave my translator a note and asked him to share it with me. The note expressed the need they had in their isolated community for training and encouragement. We felt that the Lord was affirming what we had been speaking about earlier that day. We decided that we would seek the Lord for how to minister to communities such as this through the books we were translating.

We returned to our hotel mid afternoon and were able to rest before leaving for Campechuela, about an hour and a half to the south west of Bayamo. I spoke there to a group of 100 youth from Luke 4 on the matter of purity of heart and mind.

At the close of the service, one of the youth, who had led the service, greeted me at the door. She asked if I remembered her from a previous youth conference. She told me that at that event she had received a copy of my commentary on the book of Acts. It had been an encouragement to her.

I am surprised to see how the books we have been publishing in Cuba have been reaching many people. God has been reaffirming this literature ministry and challenging me to step out further in it for His glory and the blessing of believers here in Cuba.

Sun, May 20, 2012 4:25p - Camegüey - Missionaries and Another Unexpected Contact

We traveled to Camegüey located about 3 hours to the north west of Bayamo. Our purpose was to spend time with a couple of missionaries from Action International Ministries who were doing a conference there. The trip went well and gave us a time of good fellowship.

In Camegüey I was able to re-acquaint myself with the pastor who had initially suggested my commentary on Acts be translated and printed in Cuba. He told me that the book had been a blessing to pastors in his denomination. It has now gone through a second printing.

While in Camegüey we also met a pastor who introduced himself to my translator. He explained that his ministries was to print and distribute Christian books throughout the country. We had not anticipated meeting him and felt this was again from the Lord, confirming our burden to see a greater distribution of the material we had been translating. He left his contact information and we gave him copies of the newly printed Spanish translation of my commentary on Thessalonians and Timothy.

Mon, May 21, 2012 8:43a - Palmarón - Pastor's Retreat - Fellowship and Fun

Yesterday my host was feeling quite troubled. He had been invited to the United States but was having difficulty getting an exit visa to leave the country. There was much confusion surrounding his application. My translator and I noticed how quiet and reflective he was during the day. Before going to our hotel that evening we took some time to pray for him and his exit visa. In the morning when he picked us up, he told us that, while he did not have the papers in hand, he had heard that the exit visa was going to be granted! He was very happy about this and saw it as a direct answer to our prayers.

We traveled to Palmarón in the morning for a one day retreat with a group of pastors and their families. The meeting was to start at 9 a.m. We arrived about half an hour late but no one had yet arrived. The truck that was picking up all the families and bringing them to the retreat had been delayed. About 50 people arrived in the back of the truck at 10 o'clock.

I spoke on 2 Chronicles 5 challenging them about putting the Lord first in their lives and ministries. There seemed to be a good response to the challenge. One pastor's wife told me it was exactly what they needed at that time.

Because we started late, I was not able to speak a second time. The leaders felt their families needed time to relax and interact with each other. Just before lunch, the pastors challenged the youth to a baseball game. It was a joy to see them play. There was great laughter and joy. At the lunch table, fellowship and laughter was abundant. Many of these men and women were coming from difficult ministries so it was a blessing for me to be able to provide financially for this retreat to take place.

I left encouraged to see the desire of my hosts to bless those who were serving in full-time ministry through these events.

Tue, May 22, 2012 9:06p Santiago - Personal Ministry

We traveled this morning to Santiago about two hours to the south where we stayed at the Eastern Baptist Headquarters. After lunch, my translator took me to the home of some good friends of his. This couple had been working with him translating books. He wanted to introduce me to them as he would like them to work on some of my books. While we were there another friend of his came by to see him and to meet us as well.

We had a wonderful time of fellowship. During the course of the conversation, the Lord showed us a very specific struggle that one of those present was facing. I had personally gone through the same thing so it was a rich blessing to speak to her and pray for her about it. She was greatly encouraged at how the Lord ministered to her at that time.

She shared with me later how the Lord had challenged her personally in her time with Him the next morning on this matter. We trust that the Lord will continue to give her strength and great victory.

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Wed, May 23, 2012 12:29p - Santiago - Print Shop and Youth Leaders

I was scheduled to speak in the afternoon to a group of youth pastors and their wives. Because the morning was free, we had time to visit the print shop that had printed my books. It was a blessing to sit down with the administrator and see his passion for the work.

Much of the equipment was very old. One trimmer dated back to the 1920's. They have done very well with the equipment they have. I was able to give a word of encouragement to the workers and pray for them and the ministry they were doing for the Lord.

One of the workers told me, at that time, that my commentary on Thessalonians and Timothy brought her to tears as she read it. Before leaving, all the workers insisted on having a signed copy of my commentary.

I spoke to the youth leaders in the afternoon on Exodus 4:1. As we concluded in prayer, one leader in particular was visibly touch by the Word of God. He told me later in the evening that the message had a strong impact on him.

The evening was spent at a restaurant with all the leaders and their wives. This was a very special event for these couples as none of them would have been able to afford this. The weekend was designed to encourage them spiritually but also to give them plenty of quality time as couples. Again, I have been encouraged to see how the Eastern Baptist Church has been taking care of its workers. I am thankful to the Lord that the money the Lord provided through many supporters in Canada made this time possible for them.

Thu, May 24, 2012 3:46p - Santiago - Youth Leaders

This morning we left the denominational headquarters in Santiago and traveled to a centre about 20 minutes to the outskirts of the city where we would spend the day. This centre overlooked the valley below. We were introduced here for the first time to the cashew tree and tasted its fruit. My translator told that many Cubans were unaware of the fact that in other countries they eat the nut.

I spoke on Exodus 4:2. God's Spirit seemed to move in a special way and after the message, a number of people wept as the Lord continued to speak to hearts in a time of quiet reflection and prayer. It was a beautiful thing to see how the Spirit of God and the truth of the Word were touching and changing lives in such a simple way.

The rest of the time was given to fellowship. A number of youth leaders took advantage of a swimming pool and others simply enjoyed each other's company. One of the leaders told me that he and his wife had come looking for an "oasis" in their time of struggle and that the fellowship and the Word of God provided them with exactly what they needed.

They discovered today that Diane's birthday was a few days ago. Tonight they sang "Happy Birthday" to her in English. She also was treated to a piece of cake.

Fri May,25, 2012.10:40p.- Guantanamo - Youth Congress

We had the morning off so we took some time with our translator to walk around the city of Santiago. Because he lived for many years in Santiago, he was able to show us some of the highlights of the city. We had time for a rest in the afternoon and left for Guantanamo. Upon arrival, we settled into our hotel. Later that evening we went to the youth event. They were meeting in a Baptist Church near the hotel.

I had the opportunity to speak to the youth from Isaiah 52:1-2 challenging them to rise up as children of God. The main sanctuary of the church was filled and the overflow settled in all three sides of the upper balcony.

My host told me that while the churches in this part of Cuba were generally smaller, there were many Baptist churches on this part of the island. A good number of quality leaders have come from this region.

Sat, May 26, 2012 11:38a - Guantanamo - Youth Conference

After breakfast we went to First Baptist Church in Guantanamo. The church is 113 years old and is going through some reconstruction. It is the biggest Baptist church in the region so it is often used for larger events.

I spoke on Colosians 1:19-20 in the first session and from Haggai 1:8 in the second. Over 200 youth were present. As each message was delivered, I sensed a growing openness. I left this afternoon with a feeling that the Lord had indeed challenged the youth through the Scripture passages we had addressed.

My Bible commentary on Thessalonians and Timothy was distributed to all who attended this event. As at other times, many wanted their book signed. I often struggle with signing books as I don't particularly enjoy the attention it brings. I am trusting, however, that these books will continue to have an impact over the coming weeks.

We left after lunch for Bayamo, a three and a half hour drive.

Sun, May 27, 2012 10:40a - Bayamo - Cancelled Event

I was told last night that I was scheduled to preach in this evening in a Baptist church about 30 minutes from Bayamo. Until that time we were free to relax.

We had breakfast with our translator and Diane and I went for a short walk to a park nearby. We spent a couple of hours talking and enjoying the shade of a tree.

I spent time in the afternoon preparing for my speaking engagement. Just as we were preparing to leave, we notice a thunder and lightening storm approaching. When our host arrived, he phoned ahead to speak with the pastor of the church where we were going. The pastor told us that many people would not venture out under such conditions. Our driver felt that parts of the road to the church would be unsafe with the heavy rains. It was decided, therefore, that the evening speaking engagement be cancelled.

We spend the remainder of the evening at the hotel with our host, translator and driver. They expressed that they were very happy with how events had unfolded in these two weeks. Our host told me that our time in Santiago with the Youth Leaders was a time he would not forget. God had ministered to he and his wife in a special way at that time.

Mon, May 28, 2012 9:25a - Bayamo - Evaluation of Two Weeks

This is the last day in Cuba. After breakfast with our translator we met with our host to evaluate the past two weeks. He expressed his contentment with how the ministry had unfolded and with what the Lord had done. He invited us to return again in May of 2013.

We reaffirmed our friendship and desire to work together in the preaching of God's Word in conferences and in the publishing and distribution of my Bible commentaries in Spanish for Cuba.

My translator left this morning. Our host asked another translator to come to lunch with us. She is involved in a music ministry in her church. In the course of the conversation, we discovered that she had gone through some difficult issues in her life. We had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with her and speak to her about her situation. She opened up to us and we were able to offer her our encouragement. We all felt that this was a wonderful gift from the Lord and that He had put us together for this purpose.

Our host gave me a receipt for the expenses incurred during the two weeks of ministry. These two weeks cost $7,250. This covered the following:

- 7 Youth and Christian Workers Conferences
- Transportation for speakers & participants
- Meals for speakers and participants
- Printing and distribution of 1,000 books
- Religious visa, tourist visa, departure tax
- Accommodations for speakers & translator
- Airfare to Cuba for Diane and I

I am thankful to the Lord for the provision of these finances and the investment we have been able to make into the kingdom of God in this country. Pray with us that this investment of time, literature and resources will have a lasting impact on this nation for Christ.