CARY, North Carolina (Nov. 29, 2016) – TWR has an important role to play in post-Fidel Castro Cuba. It isn’t political, and it isn’t commercial. You could, however, make a strong case that this role is more important than either of those and one that has already had a half-century impact on the communist country.
“More than a political change in Cuba, we need Jesus,” says Alberto Gonzalez, the pastor and broadcaster who serves as the representative of TWR in the island nation. “People in Cuba are expecting a lot of changes, new opportunities for life, and they are really open to receiving new things into their lives. So this is the moment to have Jesus for them."
Several years before his death on Nov. 25, 2016, Fidel had turned over power to his brother Raul, but the bushy-bearded, uniform-wearing revolutionary leader continued to be the image of Cuba around the world. Fidel was revered by some for improving education and health care for low-income people and for standing up to powers such as the United States that he labeled imperialists, while he was reviled by others for persecuting political opponents and banning Christmas.
TWR has been broadcasting to Cuba since the mid-1960s, when the ministry’s powerful AM transmitter went on the air from the Caribbean island of Bonaire. About that time, Gonzalez, then a seminary student who had been arrested along with other Church leaders and sent to a re-education camp in the wake of the revolution, stumbled across a TWR broadcast.
“I really don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t been listening to Trans World Radio that night,” he says. “I was in a real crisis in that moment. To me it was like a miracle. … I was feeling isolated, I was feeling far from God. I was feeling forgotten by God. It changed my life.”
Times have changed significantly as a result of Fidel Castro’s passing from the political scene, the re-establishment of relationships with the United States and the Catholic Church, and the relaxation of some civil-rights restrictions. Gonzalez’s five-minute daily radio broadcast, Messages of Faith and Hope, is widely known and admired, especially in the part of the country where the signal from Bonaire is clear and consistent.
TWR’s ongoing commitment to proclaiming the gospel and touching lives in Cuba is reflected in its Power Up project. Now in its final phase, the $3.8 million upgrade of Bonaire facilities will mean its biblical programming can be heard across Cuba. During this period of rapid change, the message is needed more than ever, Gonzalez believes.
“Cuban people are experiencing a hunger for God,” he says. “You can preach to everybody wherever and whenever. … They may not be deciding to become a Christian at that moment, but people are really listening to the gospel.”