Let me tell you about a recent trip to Cuba.
I was with five young guys from Criswell College—and quite frankly, I was not expecting a whole lot. They seemed like five ordinary students, not too interested in the project, mostly just wanting to fulfill a missions practicum. A couple of them were first-year students, the other three were part-time pastors and/or part-time students. But when the fireworks began, it was electrifying!
It turns out these were five young men who signed up at Criswell because they are committing their whole lives to serving God—the fire was already burning inside them! The Word and the Spirit flowed! One of them, Jason, has actually been pastoring a church since he was 19. He has no “jitters” about standing before a church crowd. He was sensational as he spoke—with enthusiastic love and giftedness—to the adoring Cuban audiences! ¡Gloria a Dios!
John, another gifted speaker, was in a class all his own. He was able to connect with the audiences like no one who has ever come with us to Cuba before. (My apologies to the many preachers who have come before!) The people reacted with glee to his charisma, and to his gifted handling of the Word. He is not quite 30 yet. Yet from the moment he started, the audience began grinning—and grinned all the way till the end. It was as if they were eating the Word out of his hand!
The third pastor-student, Mark, was excellent—yet he had an entirely different approach. His life was the message. He was abused as a boy, and suffered much. He was LOST in a world of darkness—a world of darkened adults. Coming out was a very precarious journey. Victory was a happy finale. There were tears and compassion in the audience. The Savior shined through the victory that delivered Mark. Many identified totally with him. Sex abuse and verbal abuse have been rampant among them.
Then there were “the rookies.” We all held our breath: How would they do following such stellar speakers? What followed was ... a happy surprise! The first, Matt, was humble about his start, but he had “something to say.” He wasn’t there simply because he “had to say something.” The Word, the authority, and the power were from the same God—no apologies!
We had one last student to hear. Obviously, he had the pressure of following everyone before him. His “older brothers” rallied to coach him and encourage him ... a magnanimous act of brotherly love; I was blessed in the depths of my soul to witness it. Still, the delivery was something he was going to have to do all by himself.
Well, he was not afraid. He had a powerful witness. He spoke of a father who was physically abusive to his mother and to him as well. Then his father was sent to jail for dealing drugs. So Jeremy did not see him for the next few years. One day, he got a letter in the mail from jail, from his father. His father was deeply apologetic. He shared with Jeremy how, while in jail, God changed him.
Jeremy could scarcely believe it. He wasn’t entirely sure it was true. But his father was asking to be forgiven in a very different way. Jeremy went to the jail to see for himself. He was shocked to see the change in this man: He spoke openly about all the wrong he had committed. There were many more things than those Jeremy had known about! But he also shared how God spoke to him as he began to read the Bible in his cell. He prayed to receive the Lord, and he felt he needed to start a brand-new life. He had been living the wrong way, with wrong goals. He wanted everything to be new. He also wanted to be a new, good father.
Jeremy was dazed by the panorama he had just been through. He loved his father, and this man sounded like the dream-dad he had wished for so many times in his worst moments. He felt he wanted to start over with him. When his dad asked him to kneel with him and pray to receive Jesus, Jeremy gave His life to the Lord!
Jeremy’s mom was shocked to hear this story from Jeremy. Her prayers were being answered! Jesus had come to their home! He made everyone whole! The joy of the healing for all of them “filled their mouth with laughter and they were glad” (Ps. 126)—indeed!
Imagine the moment ... my moment of realization ... there, in Cuba ... that God had given me such a POWER TEAM!
From this moment, my job was easy. After these five amazing young people spoke, I would walk up to give the invitation: “Jesus has come here now. He wants to make you whole. He wants to give you a new beginning.” I would share a brief message and an invitation. People came to Christ in scores. After all was said and done, nearly 300 people came to Christ! And I must say, with a huge smile on my face: These five young preachers were out of their gourd with excitement! There were over 100 baptisms! It was a “soul harvest party”! We celebrated! And three of these young men want to go on to Dallas Seminary now!