What will happen now in Cuba?
Everyone is talking about it since the momentous decisions — the dramatic changes — after half a century of tension! The relaxing of the official relationship opens up ma ny possibilities!
The basic facts are quite straightforward:
There will be no institutional changes in the administration in Cuba.
The U.S.-Cuba relationship will be similar to the relationship between the U.S. and China or Vietnam.
The reaction has beenpositive in most cases — with the exception of many Cuban-Americans who feel “betrayed.” They’re not happy that, after 50 years, the U.S. has “recognized” (or, some say, “approved”) the administration in control of Cuba.
Of course what happens to Cuba is of huge significance to us. We are heavily invested in ministry there! I would venture to say that it’s good to see the U.S. opening the door to its own backyard. The Chinese and the Russians have wanted to exploit the vacuum in recent years. This change opens up a whole new scenario that could truly transform Cuba’s economy in a major way.
By contrast to the Cuban-American reaction, the response of the people in Cuba is excitement — to the point of dancing in the streets and honking car horns — and a huge inf usion of hope for the future.
Investors responded in a big way. On the day of the announcement of the new policy, the market saw great gains. It is particularly interesting to see that cruise line stock rose from 3.5 to 6.6 percent. People surveyed about their likelihood of traveling to Cuba said they would, by more than 55 percent. The consensus among businessmen: “There’s a slew of opportunity there!” Investment groups are optimistic and very hopeful. The state of Texas, operating under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, had already been selling a lot to Cuba. They know there is huge potential for more.
But what about the Lord’s work in Cuba? For the past 15 years we have been in a “soul-harvest”in Cuba. The isolation has prepared the Cuban people wonderfully well for an evangelistic explosion —
like the explosion of the Gospel in the first century! Now, as the door opens, it’s clear that there will be even greater opportunities — unprecedented opportunities — to make the Gospel known in even greater public venues.
Evangelistic campaigns, until now, could only take place in recognized churches. Now it appears they will be possible in much larger venues with larger crowds and with greater response.
The camps, which we have celebrated, have been limited due to government concerns about control and the potential of others using them for political reasons. Things could be quite different now.
We’ve used country music and line dancing in Gospel campaigns in Europe and Japan — with wonderful results. An open door in Cuba would dwarf the European and Asian outcomes — because these approaches are perfectly suited to the happy, festive Cuban people.
There’s gigantic potential in relationships with sister-churches in the U.S. In these years of “vacuum” with Cuba, and with so many dangers in Mexico, many American churches have reached out to the churches of Haiti. Now we will see churches of all kinds wanting to establish enduring relationships with churches in Cuba. (It will be important to manage those relationships, to avoid activities that could end up doing more harm than good.)
The harvest in these next few years will also be threatened by spoilers — cults will rush in to get their bases established and producing. The Latter-day Saints (Mormon) church has been denied access by the Cuban government because of its U.S. roots and its “ambassadors.” The Mormons are sure to be excited about this new normalization. And they’ll find that they’re successful — because Cubans love (and nearly worship) Americans. The Mormons’ clean-cut “all-American” image will have tremendous appeal. I’m sure they will not only plant churches but also build temples.
The “health and wealth” cults are already in Cuba, and they’re doing incredibly well. Many Cuban s are willing to try any formula that might get them out of poverty! Many other groups will be looking to grab as big a piece of the pie as they possibly can. BUT — there is another truth in play here: You and I have already been at this for 15 years.
We have not only been evangelizing and planting churches, but we have also been teaching sound doctrine — and every book of the Bible. We have been training and deploying leaders, who are now well known and well positioned to lead into the next stage.
We used to be few. But today, by God’s grace, and thanks to your strong support, we have a great group of leaders who know the truths of the Bible! In Christ’s parable of the house upon the rock, the wise one hears His words and DOES THEM. You and I have been building on the Rock for 15 years. People inside and outside the church know us. People in the government have told us:
“You are the group helping most consistently.”
“You are always month-to-month with your funding.”
“You help the biggest number of groups.”
“You are all over the nation.”
I finally got to meet the chancellor of the largest denomination (after 14 years of work in the country). Here’s what he said to me:
“You don’t need to say anything. We know who you are. We know what you do. Your work is clear to everyone. Besides, you have been doing it for many years!”
He went on to say that we support more church planters for his organization than for any other group. Then he added this interesting detail: The total number of church planters we support for all other groups is greater than his group. Yet his group is the single largest group we support. (Do the math! I can’t. This I know:
YOU are supporting a LOT of church planters!)
Today, the challenge before us is clear: We are entering an explosive harvest time. The cold of materialism and secularism is rushing in.
But before the heart of Cuba tastes materialism — with all its toxic byproducts — we need to preach and warn the people
about the things which are coming their way “in the name of prosperity.” We need to establish commitment-bases in their hearts which will dedicate them to the most important priority: to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . the priority which materialism has tragically replaced in many already.
Jesus is our Guide. He taught that “no one can serve God and money” (Luke 16:13). We will either love money and hate God or love God and hate money. Luke makes it very clear that Jesus was talking about God as the Master — OR money as the master — in the life of the believer.
Russia has seen the syndrome of a rush to materialism. Ukraine is seeing it also. Vietnam is experiencing the same thing. Our work is challenging indeed. We need to mobilize as never before in Cuba so we can prepare disciples who wi ll “build upon the Rock” and not be swept away in the coming flood. We need to mobilize workers in regions where we are short handed. (As I write, I think of Matanzas: It is such a province where we have a shortage of workers. We need to prepare more groups than ever to come to Cuba, to help us bring in the harvest before the storm.)
Today the fruit is ripe and falling off the tree. We must act quickly so it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. We have always known that we have a closing window of opportunity. Now the opportunities are even greater, yet the closing of it even speedier.
I’ll tell you what the American business investors are thinking when they look at Cuba today: ROI — Return On Investment.
Right here in my own backyard! Soon there will be half-hour flights from the U.S. to Cuba! Investors are rubbing their hands with anticipation. But Cuba also presents an unparalleled opportunity — to those who invest in eternal gain. I call it EROI — Eternal Return On Investment.
My friend, there is an eternal, explosive “soul-harvest” materializing for us in 2015 . . . within our own backyard! Here is the practical reality in the “new normal”:
1. Properties for churches, which today cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, will skyrocket in the near future. We must acquire them today.
2. Camp properties which today cost several thousand dollars will be grabbed by investors who want to ride the crest of the wave to make their fortune. We must snag them today.
3. Workers who toda y plant an average of three or more churches for $25 per month will simply not be available — because in the new economy the cost of living will force them to look for higher paying jobs in order to provide for their families. We must mobilize them today.
This new year is EXPLOSIVE. It presents us with great new opportunities to advance the Lord’s work. If there was ever a time to act, it is now!
I ask you today to give. Give as generously as possible. Give as the Lord has empowered you to give. Not for my sake. Not for an organization or a “project,” but for the sake of the extraordinary harvest God has made possible in Cuba. May God lead you, and may you follow Him in all things!