BAYAMO, Cuba—Two leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Great Commission Team served a week of ministry and missions in Cuba, returning home about one week before Fidel Castro’s death.
For Evangelism Diretor Joshua del Risco, the trip marked a return to the country of his birth.
Del Risco fled Cuba at age 5 with his family, following threats from the government regarding his father’s opposition to Castro’s leadership. Castro’s regime killed two of his uncles. His older brother—a medical doctor—was denied exit from the country and held there nearly 30 years.
Texas Baptists speak at Cuban Congreso
For most of his life, Del Risco had not planned to return to Cuba. But the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba invited Del Risco and Delvin Atchison, director of the BGCT Great Commission Team, to speak at their Congreso youth evangelism event. Primera Iglesia Bautista Bayamo served as host for Congreso, which drew 800 students and youth ministers from across eastern Cuba.
“It was a phenomenal experience to be with them,” Del Risco said. “I shared a message of hope for the change that will come. I told them God is looking for a generation of young people to bring about change, not knowing Castro would pass away a week later.”
Atchison talked to the young leaders about following the dreams God has designed for each of their lives.
Del Risco and Atchison saw the trip as an opportunity to encourage pastors, youth leaders and young people to grow and embolden their faith. Several people made decisions for Christ during the conference, and many students responded to God’s call to ministry in their respective fields.
“The Cuban people have a tremendous dependence on God and reliance on the Holy Spirit,” Del Risco said. “It is really refreshing and very moving to see how these people are so committed to the Lord. They know their existence is because of him.”
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Expanded partnership involves Texas and Cuban Congreso events
Texas Baptists sponsor a similar Congreso event each spring. In 2017, Texas Baptists’ Congreso will be live-streamed in five locations around Cuba. Additionally, several key leaders from Cuba’s Congreso will attend the Texas event, providing an opportunity for youth ministers to learn about ministry opportunities for their groups in Cuba.
“Our goal is to give our Congreso a greater global vision,” said Atchison. “We want to reach students from Baylor to Bayamo. Lives are touched the same way—through Christ.”
In the poverty-stricken country of Cuba, many pastors live on as little as the equivalent of $8 U.S. a month. Few places have hot water, food is scarce, and the churches have many material needs. Despite difficult circumstances, Del Risco and Atchison found a thriving faith and determination among believers.
“There are a lot of needs, but that has fueled the church,” Del Risco said. “What drives them is their love for the Lord. They are all about preaching Christ and the hope we have in him.”
Del Risco hopes this new partnership will open many new possibilities for expanded ministry between Texas Baptists and Cuban Baptists.
While in Cuba, Atchison connected with Segunda Iglesia Bautista de Jiguaní, a church plant in need of assistance for purchasing land for a building. Atchison and his family provided funds to purchase the land and financial assistance toward materials for the new structure.
“My desire is to get others involved in this very important work,” Atchison said. “The American church can learn, whatever state we are in, to be content and involved in something greater.”