By Mark Ellis, Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
CUBA (ANS – April 25, 2016) — Otoniel Martinez grew up in a Christian family. His father was a pastor in a time when government pressure made it difficult to follow Jesus. Otoniel was a gifted student and could have attended one of the top schools in Cuba.
But in order to attend a top university, he had to deny his Christian faith, which he would not do. He decided he would bypass upper-level education to follow Christ no matter what, according to a report by United World Mission (UWM).
His resolve was tested many times as he faced opposition from the authorities. He successfully planted one church, which proceeded to reproduce 26 other churches.
From there, the Holy Spirit planted a God-sized vision in Otoniel’s heart: to see churches planted in every corner of Cuba and to send workers into the rest of the world. For assistance, Otoniel reached out to UWM, because they led his family to Christ many years ago.
A church planting trainer from UWM was introduced to Otoniel. Together, they developed a training for Cuba known as the “Sembradores” (Sowers) Network.
They assembled 50 people from 20 denominations in Bayamo, the heart of communism in Cuba. After just one training session they were kicked out of the church they were using because the pastor feared that he would receive retribution from the local authorities.
“We began to meet outside in a remote area of a campground,” noted Joseph Milioni in the Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). “We didn’t use any chairs so that we could scatter if local officials came near.” Rocks scattered around the camp became their chairs.
“Even with all the setbacks, it was never a question of stopping the training. Otoniel showed dependence on God when things went well and when obstacles developed. This went on to be one of our best trainings. Many of our current network leaders came out of this training.”
As churches were planted a new need arose. In a country where the average person makes $15 a month, how could churches support church planters and achieve Otoniel’s long-term vision?
PHoto captions: 1) Cuban church. 2) Mark Ellis.
About the writer: Mark Ellis is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), and also founder of www.GodReports.com, a website that shares stories, testimonies and videos from the church around the world. He is also co-host for “Widows on the World” with ANS Founder, Dan Wooding, which is airred on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv).
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