Let me take you for a moment to Cuba . . . To a little town...
. . . To meet the town drunk.
A guy who consumes alcohol, loves mariachi music, and that’s about the extent of his life. Drinking isn’t this fellow’s only flaw. He also has a hot temper. He’s built like a bald Russian muscleman, and he would just as soon fight you as look at you. You probably don’t expect his name to be Nelson . . . but it is. Not the typical Cuban name, no. . . . It’s a unique name—for a unique individual!
Now look again. Nelson has changed.
Still bald, still a muscleman, but he’s beaming. He seems always to have a huge smile. He also has a wife, as sweet and shy as he is tough and bold! What happened to Nelson? The Lord got to him through a simple message: God loves you, Nelson, and wants to give you a whole new life. It wasn’t some celebrity evangelist who reached Nelson. It was just a team of ordinary Christians visiting Nelson’s little town, sharing with anyone who would listen: Our team!
Nelson is not a man of half measures. He accepted Christ and jumped in with both feet. His life was radically changed. He had been in “the kingdom of darkness,” but now was “transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Just like Christmas! “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light” (Isa. 9:9). Nelson was soundly converted. He joined the team of those proclaiming the Gospel. He soon felt that church music needed improvement—so he began writing Christian mariachi music! Soon he signed up to become a church planter with our team! The Holy Spirit led him to focus in the center of the island. Nelson planted his first church in the town of Zulueta. Then he led this church to plant six other churches. Pastor Yaniel, leading the work in Placetas, is so enthused about Nelson’s zeal that he has put him in charge of a project to plant 47 more churches!
The last time I visited Nelson’s original church in Zulueta, Nelson made sure to be there. I had the privilege of giving the invitation. Many received the Lord that day; one man among them was singled out by Nelson. I saw tough man Nelson break down and weep, he melted down as he embraced the new convert. I figured this man must be one of his relatives.
No, Nelson explained through his tears, “he took my place as the town drunk! He is just like I was."
I could fill pages with true stories of people coming to the kingdom of the beloved Son thanks to your support of our workers in the field. But some of our workers in this nation are facing terrible challenges—and this is the most important reason I’m writing to you today. . . .
Hurricane Matthew pounded the major cities of Santiago, Bayamo, and Holguin. In the easternmost city of Punta de Maisí, the wind and sea made a joint assault. The enraged ocean attacked from the south, east, and north. The only escape route was to the west. Nineteen of our church-planting pastors and their families fled Hurricane Matthew with only the clothes they were wearing. When they returned after the storm, their homes were completely gone—even the debris had been carried away by the horrible storm.
A church in California has pledged to send $10,000 when approved by their elders. It’s a beautiful gift—but the need is even greater because of the massive devastation and loss. It will take $2,000 to build each family a basic structure for housing. When I told Pedro, our national coordinator, that we only had $10,000 pledged so far, he was jubilant. “At least five families will be able to live and sleep in a house!” he exclaimed. “Right now they’ve bought cloth and have tied it from trees to make a roof over their heads.”
My friend, let me just tell you what I feel: I think it would be grand to be able to announce to those workers they will get to spend Christmas in a house again. It would take a total of $38,000. But if the first $10,000 pledged is approved, we’ll only need $28,000 more. I hope we can “back up” and get the big picture of what God is doing in Cuba.
He could have prevented the hurricane, but He also knows the need of millions who need “rainmaker” events that bring water to crops. It makes sense that those who are blessed share the blessing of those who got soaked in the process! So I invite you to give as generously as you can today. In the meantime, may you have a most wonderful Christmas—crowning a year when together, we preached Christmas all year long! I hope to hear from you right away so that we can get these 19 families “home for Christmas”!