In September there was much in the news about Irma as she sadly brought destruction across the Caribbean. At PTI we were concerned that the conferences we had planned would not be able to go ahead but when we made inquiries it was clear that all the pastors were keen and they would make sure everything was ready.
So, on Friday 22nd September, Simon and I traveled to Havana and there we were met by our host for the next two weeks. Very quickly we could see the devastation caused by Irma but it was clear that the government were getting the roads fixed, the buildings made safe and making sure life in Cuba returned to normal as quickly as possible.
Our first conference was held in Havana, which enabled pastors from the surrounding area to join us, including a group who hitchhiked for six hours to get there. A church in Havana with good facilities proved to be a great venue as it gave us a place to teach, a room where we could eat as well as places where many of the pastors could sleep overnight. Although the numbers were rather low on the Monday, it was encouraging to see more and more come each day as news of the teaching spread among the pastors. What was even more thrilling was to see how quickly and eagerly the pastors understood and applied the teaching that we were sharing. When we were teaching from the front all were listening and writing notes. Then, when there were group activities, the pastors joined in so enthusiastically that our translators had difficulty in combining so many simultaneous comments into a single translation! A few of the men could speak some English and so during the break times they were able to chat with us. As we spoke with them, it was clear that being a pastor in Cuba is not easy but their love their Lord and their country and feel privileged to serve Him there. When it was time to leave, the pastors truly showed their appreciation and thanks for the things they had learnt and the skills they had acquired.
Our venue for the second week was on the other side of the island, where our host pastors his church. To get there we took an internal flight and as soon as we arrived we could see how rural it was. The shiny yellow government taxis of Havana had been replaced by older American cars as well as bicycle taxis or even horse and trap. On the Sunday a number of churches had all gathered in one village, so we could meet the people and some of the pastors. As we began the conference for the second time, we saw the same enthusiasm and desire to learn. Once again, numbers grew day by day as others found their way to the venue and heard about the teaching. The men joined in with all the studies and enjoyed sharing their thoughts during the group times. There were less who spoke English but nevertheless through our translator we could speak and share with them.
It is difficult to express in words the gratitude all the pastors showed at the end of the conference but what was clear was with God’s help we had been able to “teach to preach”. Some of them are keeping in touch by e-mail and a few who can speak English are seeking to enroll on the mentoring scheme, but all the pastors would like to express their thanks to the supporters of PTI for making this conference possible. Simon and I would also like to thank everyone for their prayers and support. Cuba is a very unique county but it is difficult to be a pastor there. However, those who have been called to serve in such a way have both the need and desire to be trained, so that they may serve their churches effectively and glorify God in their ministry.