by Jon Hill
Finally reached despite communication shutdowns, one of TWR’s partners in Cuba expressed an earnest plea as extraordinary protests roiled the island nation: “Pray a lot for us!”
The Cuban native, whose name is withheld for security reasons, said Thursday that he hasn’t been able to leave his house but that he and his family are safe and nearby unrest appeared to have cooled – at least temporarily. “We are living in a very dangerous and complicated situation,” he said.
Inflaming the crisis, he added, are exaggerated claims coming from both sides of the confrontation between the communist government and crowds protesting curbs on civil liberties, shortages of necessities and the handling of the pandemic.
TWR’s regular gospel broadcasts to all of Cuba travel over 700 miles from the Caribbean island of Bonaire and therefore are unaffected by the unrest. But TWR leaders for this region have been hard-pressed to communicate with their Cuban contacts since internet service was sporadically cut off, reportedly to block information coming from outside the country.
“Since its beginning,” said Esteban Larrosa, TWR international director for Latin America and the Caribbean, “our station in Bonaire has played a key role in speaking hope to Cubans in the midst of their hardships, encouraging them to put their faith in the eternal God who overcomes all barriers. Leaders have been trained through radio, churches have been established and many have come to know Jesus listening to our programming. Today, as a simple switched is turned off and internet is cut out, radio keeps being relevant as it crosses all restrictions with the message of the Bible.”
A TWR broadcast partner has rushed to respond to the crisis with special programming. El Faro de Redención (Redemption Lighthouse), sponsored by Haven Ministries, is written and produced for a Cuban audience and is broadcast from Bonaire every weekday. Host Dan Warne said he asked Cuban pastors how the program could most effectively respond to the situation, and their advice was unanimous: Pray. The program going out Friday, July 16, will be a “prayer meeting” called “Pray for Cuba.”
“Through a little ingenuity and perseverance with intermittent internet in the wake of this weekend’s protests, we put out a call for recorded prayers for Cuba to air during this special broadcast, and the response has been overwhelming,” Warne said. “I will say very little myself on the program and instead allow these many prayers sent in from Cuba and around the world to lead the island in a time crying out to the Lord for peace and turning to Jesus, the only hope for lasting change in the human heart. That’s what changes a nation.”
The following week, El Faro will feature a series called “We Will Not Fear” with “themes from Scripture addressing the promises of God and his faithfulness in the past which ground our hope in present suffering.”
The Baptist Convention Association of West Cuba issued a statement Thursday, July 16, expressing “pain and condolence” for people harmed in the turmoil, concern for members of the military who “may be assigned to intervene against their will in the confrontations,” and the rejection of all violence and vandalism.
The board of directors also called for all sides to forswear inciting confrontation; for recognition that people have the right to express their ideas in a civil, orderly and decent way; for authorities to hear “the legitimate cry of the people”; for citizens “demonstrating peacefully” to not be detained and prosecuted; and for Cubans regardless of their position to refrain from violence.
“Dear brothers and sisters, these are times to exercise love of neighbor, Christian unity, the spirit of service, mercy and peace, of which we find a full example in our Lord Jesus Christ,” the statement read.
[ UPDATE JULY 22, 2021 ]
El Faro host Dan Warne said he is managing to stay in touch with his contacts in Cuba, though internet service is slow and intermittent.
“No major developments,” Warne said when asked what he has been learning from his Cuban contacts. “Still uncertainty and unrest but not massive public demonstrations at present. I have been encouraged by the many official statements coming out of all the major Cuban [Protestant] denominations addressed to the government. The statements I have read demonstrate gospel-centered boldness, offering to help in any way the church can serve, condemning all forms of violence, calling for justice to be observed, and pointing to Christ as the only hope for Cuba.”
An important way believers can help in this crisis is to pray, and Warne outlined these specific points:
- Pray for Cuban churches to model the love and grace of Christ in this time of unrest and to speak the truth to all Cubans – in the pews and in power – biblically, without compromise or repercussions.
- Pray for the island to be rid of the coronavirus, which has brought so much heartache and loss, particularly in the province of Matanzas.
- Pray for a path forward in resolving the hunger crisis.
- Pray for pastors and others detained to be granted their constitutional rights and to receive fair treatment.
Pray for the gospel to reach many in Cuba during this tumultuous time and for changed hearts to lead to a changed country.