Although Seventh-day Adventists were unable to worship openly in Cuba until recently, members from Potomac Conference’s Seabrook church in Lanham, Md., have ministered there for more than three years. And this summer, Seabrook church members Gavin Simpson, Noah Simpson and Audrey Clarke traveled with Margaret Cancelliere, a member from Pennsylvania Conference’s Pottstown church, and Kenton Rawlins, a member from Connecticut, for a third mission trip to Gibara, a small seaside town where they have worked for the past two years.
Story by Dawna-gene Milton and V. Michelle Bernard
During the reign of Fidel Castro, things were very bad for Adventists, says Gavin Simpson, who organizes the trips. “Some men even went to jail for staying true to their faith. Thankfully, the government is now loosening religious restrictions.”
Several years ago, the Cuban Union Conference, which has 317 churches and about 32,000 members, was able to open a printing press at the Adventist Seminary in Havana. But, because the average salary is about 65 cents a day, many cannot afford to purchase a Bible, which costs a week’s salary.
Mission team members visit a home in Gibrara, Cuba.
Simpson reports, “One of the sad realities, is that not many Adventists are undertaking mission projects in Cuba at the present time. Many still see the country as closed, but it has been opened to missionaries for almost 10 years. In fact, before the recent [restored diplomatic reconciliation] between the two countries took place, mission work used to be one of the only reasons the U.S. would allow a citizen you to visit Cuba.”
To help combat the lack of Bibles, Simpson organized the group and spent more than $2,000 purchasing Bibles, tracts and various books by Ellen White. The president of the Cuban Union says that they were the first group of missionaries that he knew of who visited Cuba and invested in literature for the church.
During their most recent mission, the team visited hundreds of homes, leaving a Bible, Great Controversy or other piece of literature at each home. They also visited the homes of sick and shut-in members. While there they read Bible passages and sang hymns in English with them. The team also hosted nightly evangelistic meetings, which resulted in 12 baptisms.
A group of Seventh-day Adventist missionaries has worked in Gibrara for the past two years.
When asked about the recent reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, Simpson says, “It is still a very strict country, but I am noticing a new stance on religious liberty, and the government allowing people to have Bibles and religious literature for themselves. In 60 years, Cuba is now seeing the most favorable conditions for evangelism. The people there have been cut off from the world for a long time and are now eager to again be a part off the global Adventist community.”
The group is already planning several mission trips to Cuba in 2016.