Many people say that the situation in Cuba is the worst it has ever been.
Up to half a million Cubans left the country in 2022, including pastors and other Christians. But in that same period, local church leaders estimate 400,000 Cubans chose to follow Jesus.
“It seems that the churches are lighthouses in this situation, and people who are desperate turn to churches,” an ICR field worker said.
CHRISTIANITY IS APPEALING
The Cuban government now admits that more than 10% of the population in this majority-Catholic country are evangelicals. Joshua Project puts the percentage of evangelicals at 11.3%. However, due to limited outside access and ability to accurately conduct surveys, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this closed nation is likely greater.
Christians throughout Cuba tell ICR that young people are especially attracted to Christianity.
“They see what’s going on in the world and, though their access to the internet is limited, they have an idea of what others think about Cuba,” the ICR worker said. “They are very open to the Christian faith.”
Christianity cannot solve the immediate economic problems for young people in Cuba, but after years of observing that the communist government has nothing to offer them, young people find Christianity appealing.
They see believers who struggle in the same ways they do but still have joy.
And while some pastors have left the country in discouragement, others are motivated to stay and disciple the new generation of young Christians
GOD’S GROWTH STRATEGY
Despite heavy government restriction, another reason the church continues to grow is because churches use strategies designed for their Cuban context.
An average house church may start with four or five people. After a year, the church usually doubles in size, in addition to having five or six interested visitors each week. Most homes do not have space for such a crowd, so the church plants another church by splitting in two. As soon as a church is planted, that church starts thinking about the next church they will establish.
Each church grows rapidly since Christians are actively reaching out to their neighbors. Because of government surveillance, they are not doing street evangelism or large events. Instead, they visit people in their homes. If they hear of someone who is sick, they offer prayer. If they know of someone who is open to Christianity, they invite them to their home for coffee. The kindness and care of the believers makes a big impression in this society.
“The beauty of persecution is that sometimes things need to stay smaller, and more Christians have to use their gifts within their church.” the ICR worker said.
The realities of everyday Cuban life contribute to church growth, too. There is little public transportation between towns so instead of members driving to a central church, evangelical denominations send missionaries to each town to establish a house church. Denominations have regional pastors networked throughout the island who might oversee 150 other pastors. Each of the 150 pastors also has 10-15 missionaries working under him to form house churches in nearby towns.
“This strategy has contributed to tremendous church growth,” the ICR worker said. “It has been a beautiful strategy, and I see God using it mightily in Cuba.”
Even basic food goods are unaffordable for many Cubans.
GOD WORKS AHEAD
Many houses in Cuba do not have a building permit; if the home is used as a house church, the government uses that excuse to demolish it. Government inspector “Lucia” was one who had the power to issue or deny building permits. She was proud of her job and zealous for denying permits for Christians.
One day, she was directed to a particular house church for an inspection to deny their building permit. She knocked on the door and was struck speechless when she recognized the woman who opened it.
She had not seen “Maria” in 20 years, but the two women had once been close friends at school. Maria’s family had often checked on Lucia and helped her, and Lucia remembered their kindness with deep appreciation. Now she realized their love was because they were Christians. Lucia told Maria, “This will be the first house church I give legal recognition to!”
The believer who shared this story with ICR said, “God can prepare things 20 years in advance.”
All Cubans are suffering right now, but choosing to follow Jesus brings additional suffering. Cuban Christians know they will have fewer job opportunities. Their children will not be allowed to attend university. Their neighbors might reject them, and they might experience repeated interrogations by the communist religious bureau authorities. But even without worldly security, believers have hope. They realize change can only come through Christ.
“There is no other solution for this country but Jesus,” the ICR worker said. — ICR
- Pray for the people of Cuba living through this economic crisis.
- Pray for believers who left the country to continue their witness and to not be distracted in their new situations.
- Pray that the new believers in Cuba will be like seeds falling on good soil; pray that they yield multitudes.