Members of the First Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., gained valuable insight into another culture during a missions trip to Cuba in March.
FBC Memphis’ John McCall led a trip to Cuba to visit the First Baptist Church of Florida to establish a partnership between the two churches (see related story).
“I thought I knew what it was like—it totally blew me away,” McCall told EthicsDaily.com. “I can show you pictures, I can talk about it, but it’s like going to the Grand Canyon. Until you experience it, there are not words to describe it.”
FBC Memphis Associate Pastor Carol Richardson recalled a particularly fond memory upon her arrival at the church.
“When our bus arrived at our destination, the pastor said, ‘I have prayed and waited for four years for you to come. I didn’t know your name or what you looked like but I knew you would come. You have come to help us share the Living Water with those who need to drink deeply,'” Richardson told EthicsDaily.com. “And so we did and so we will continue to help as we are able.”
In four days, the team made numerous house-to-house visits to spread the gospel, had prayer with the members of FBC Florida, distributed New Testaments and booklets to new believers and taught a three-hour session at the church.
McCall said he found the Cubans eager to learn about God despite the difficulty many of them had with comprehending the concept of a personal God-human relationship.
“These churches are what we imagine the New Testament church to have been like—joyous, gracious and generous in spirit, giving to all who are in need, exercising often the disciplines of fasting and prayer and passionate for their fellow Cubans without Christ,” Richardson said.
For McCall, several preconceived notions he had about Cuba were quickly dispelled.
“I thought I would go down there, have to watch my back, watch what I said. They talk pretty much openly,” McCall said.
Cubans still want democracy and freedom of the press, McCall said.
The military presence in Cuba is not as evident as McCall expected. Although many military personnel wear street clothes, he said he expected to see an abundance of men in uniform.
McCall was surprised to see that tourism in Cuba is booming. The team was greeted with nice hotels, restaurants and a variety of products or services.
Although the general health of the population is good, outside of Havana, “they have no resources when people get sick,” McCall said.
In addition, education was good in both urban and rural areas, and while McCall observed some traces of poverty, it was not overwhelming or as widespread as he had anticipated.
McCall was touched by a sense of unity among Cubans.
“I saw there is no open racism in Cuba. You see people of all [races], going to church, intermarrying. Racism disappears,” McCall said.
The trip is one Richardson will not soon forget.
“We found the Cuban people to be warm and friendly, a very industrious and intelligent people, racially diverse only with few material resources and limited access to quality medical care for chronic illnesses,” Richardson said.
“This initial partnering endeavor provided blessings for us—beautiful music by a beautiful people with radiant smiles, divine appointments and changed hearts—ours and theirs,” Richardson said.
Jared Porter is a junior journalism major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.