Canadians Impacting Cuba

Faith Today
November/December 2008
Alex Newman

A new openness in Cuba's religious climate has meant new opportunities for Canadian Christian organizations to reach out to Cuba's churches and people. This tolerance for religion may come as a surprise for many Canadians who are used to thinking of the Caribbean island as an atheistic state.

But when Cuba made the official switch from an atheist state to a secular state in the 1990s it actually meant "more freedom for the church. Because if a government is secular it has to be open to all religions," says Steve Wile, deputy executive director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada (BGEAC), one of the many Canadian organizations making inroads into Cuba.

Wile says the BGEAC has become involved in a support capacity for the Protestant Church in Cuba for the first time ever, providing videos, Bibles, and reading materials to help churches communicate the gospel to their friends and neighbors.

Their program also trains pastors so when congregants attend house churches they can watch a 50-minute video "uniquely created for Cuba, with music and interviews of local Cubans asking them about their hopes. The fact that people on the street will agree to be interviewed indicates the level of openness happening in the country," says Wile.

The video alternates between music - which Wile says Cubans love - and testimonies, including one from a female spiritus (witch) and a 20-minute dramatization of a man's conversion experience. Wile reports that during a recent visit to Cuba he witnessed hosts of home churches sharing their testimonies then providing the opportunity for congregants to make a decision for Christ.

Meanwhile, I.N. Network Canada, based in Collingwood, Ont., is also making what they call "unprecedented" inroads into Cuban culture in partnership with Seeds International, a Christian non-profit organization based in Abbotsford, B.C.

I.N. Network is focusing its efforts on child evangelism with a 14-week Christian discipleship program.

"We reached 26,850 children last year and we are now officially in our second phase of the outreach," explains Otoniel Perez, Latin America director. "We're well on our way to reaching 60,000 children." The program puts Christian workbooks into the hands of Cuban children, something Perez says has never happened before.

Perez, himself a Cuban-born Canadian, believes Canada has a special connection with Cuba, which residents of both countries feel. "Over half a million Canadians went to Cuba on vacation last year. Because of the American blockade of Cuba, we are the next neighbor to the north. We have a welcome mat. We ought to use it," says Perez.

BBB Festival of Hope My Hope with Billy Graham

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada

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