As I mentioned in an earlier post, any thought I had of Cuba, was dominated by fear, threat and invasion. The fact that the church (evangelical, gospel centered) might exist was the last thing on my mind. I just assumed that it didn’t exist….or at best, that it had been snuffed out, pushed far underground, or just small and insignificant. I don’t ever recall hearing anything about it in the mainstream media.
I do have to confess my own ignorance and lack of knowledge of the global church as I write this. It’s embarrassing to say that I first heard of the rapid growth of the Cuban church about 6 or 7 years ago. I was very excited to learn what was happening. Little did I know at the time, that I would be seeing it for myself.
The reality is that the church in Cuba is strong and healthy. It is growing. Lives are being changed. The denomination, “Los Pinos Nuevos” (“New Pines”), who we as The Compass Church are considering to come alongside in partnership, has been in existence for 87 years.
This church movement began in 1928…primarily focusing on evangelism and church planting in rural areas. It’s name, “New Pines”, was given by founding missionaries in 1936 after seeing how new pine saplings withstood the ferocious winds of storms and hurricanes. They would bend, but would not break. Their vision was to raise up a new generation of church planters who would withstand the challenges emerging within the country. By 1941, there were 100 churches spread throughout the the country.
But then came the revolution.
In 1958, Fidel Castro declared Cuba to be an atheistic state and claimed that the church was dead. He seized 90% of church properties (both Protestant and Roman Catholic), closed churches and many pastors were taken to rehabilitation camps. Foreign missionaries were expelled. Printing of Christian publications was prohibited and Bibles were not allowed into the country. Christians were heavily discriminated against in seeking employment. Government approval was required for any religious activity.
The new pines were bending to the ground in the storm…no church was to be planted for the next 30 years.