By Fernando Ocampo
“Autentica Cuba!” Those words were written on a billboard on the street in Toronto. Featured in the background of this ad was a white sandy beach surrounded by coconut trees and a hammock. The message was clear: put yourself in the picture and have a good time! We Canadians should know. It’s our favourite sun destination.
For our church, however, Cuba with all its unique beauty is a white field ready for harvest (John 4:35). Since 2009, Iglesia Bautista Betel in Scarborough, Ontario, has been partnering with Primera Iglesia Bautista (First Baptist Church) in San Luis, Santiago de Cuba. Through the years we have trained leaders, counselled families, financially supported over 15 missionary families and helped start new churches beyond the San Luis community.
Inevitably, every time we set foot on the mission field we see the reality of the awe and mystery of God in the life of those who hear about Jesus. This year’s trip was no exception.
From July 21 through 28, a team of four from our church returned to Cuba to lead the second Summer Youth Camp. Our goal was to reach out to non-believing youth.
In last year’s summer camp, we were able to gather 150 non-believing young men and women. Half of them are now discipled, baptized and engaged in youth ministry. Furthermore, they were on the frontline of this year’s summer camp.
At this year’s Summer Youth Camp, more than 80 non-believing young men and women gathered with one question in mind: “What’s all this about?” On the first night, two young men who became believers in last year’s camp shared with all the guests how God had turned their lives around. It was such a God-moment when we heard them challenging and encouraging their peers to put their trust and faith in Jesus. At the end of the camp, more than 30 gave their lives to Jesus.
Going on mission to Cuba is more than being aware of the church’s needs and projects. We go there to make a difference and bring hope with the message of Jesus. How priceless are the brief moments when we sit down with the people and hear about their encounter with the living God, or when we preach and see the young and old stepping forward to be saved. When we visit the missionaries on the field, we pray and encourage them, but we also laugh and cry with them. It’s an amazing experience you have to see for yourself!
As a church, we are committed to continuing the mission that God has entrusted to us not only in Cuba but also in Nicaragua and Colombia. We are ready to go back next year and continue making a difference! But as Jesus said, “The harvest is [still] plenty and the workers few” (Matthew 9:35).
Fernando Ocampo is senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Betel. A grant from the CNBC Global Mission Offering helped make this mission trip possible.