"He Is Risen!" in Santiago de Cuba
I'm squeezed into the very last window seat on this American Airlines jet, ready to taxi away from the Frank Pais Holguin international airport in Cuba on our flight back to Miami, Chicago, and home. The lady beside can't speak a word of English, and after ten days in Cuba my Espanol has only increased by a dozen formal you-can-say-this-from-the-pulpit sentences.
But for the 31 of us from the seminary at Andrews University, we return home with the joy of the resurrected Christ. Not just because of the 258 people of Santiago de Cuba who rose up with Jesus out of the salt watery "grave" of baptism this past Sabbath along a sun-baked beach.
Nor just because of the five churches we were privileged to serve as preachers and visiting pastors for this Cuba evangelistic mission, getting to know the faithful Bible workers and church members who with friends, guests and strangers night after night filled our Seventh-day Adventist sanctuaries (ranging from a wall-less worship site [known as Chicharrones—literally "pork chops"] still not recovered from Hurricane Sandy's devastation to a wooden banistered wrap-around balcony sanctuary where I and my seminarian translator Sandro Sandoval were blessed to preach).
And not even because of the warm Cuban hospitality that filled the tiny homes where our entire team was hosted by volunteer families who from their meager largess fed us breakfast and supper, and who did so with unflagging kindness and cheer (group lunch was served everyday in the central church "fellowship hall" [a wall-less roofed space with chairs and plenty of flow through ventilation], where our field school was conducted every morning).
No, we all return home this day and night with the joy of the resurrected Christ, because we were granted a front row seat as witnesses to the mighty New Testamentesque outpouring of the Espíritu Santo. Alcoholics coming forward with tears in response to the altar call. One of them a husband with a knife in search of his espousal. Strangers showing up for the night meeting only to make the decision then and there to embrace Jesucristo as Lord and Savior. It is the stuff and fervor of evangelical life once upon a time in the United States, but seen or at least testified to less and less these days in this sophisticated and a bit jaded land we call home.
"Una Nueva Esperanza En Cristo" ("New Hope in Christ") is the message we went to preach. And when nearly 1,800 people crowded into Santiago's Teatro Heredia convention center (across from the Plaza de Revolución) for the final two joint meetings last Sabbath—the high octane music, the moving personal testimonies, the altar call respondents—all radiated that new life-giving hope en Cristo.
We know it. We saw it. Nueva Esperanza. It changed them. It changed us. And truth be known, it must change our homeland, too.
New hope. Gloria a Dios.
Because He lives!
Don't miss the video and personal testimony report of Team Cuba Mission on Sabbath, April 9 (9:00 & 11:45 AM).