The Methodist Movement is Alive in Cuba
The Methodist Movement began in Cuba nearly 125 years ago. Men and women from Florida arrived in Cuba in 1883 with the vision and passion of preaching the Gospel. They founded the Methodist Church and it grew until, in 1959, it was the largest denomination in Cuba. However, in the 60s and 70s many people left Cuba or left the church. Then, during the late 1980s the fire of the Methodist church was rekindled in a powerful dynamic. This fire has produced a prophetic movement across the Island.
Today, in the Methodist Church in Cuba, seventy percent of the total membership is 30 years of age or less. More than ninety per cent of the membership today entered the church since 1990. Today the Methodist Church has more than 120 church sanctuaries and more than 700 mission churches with a pastoral staff of 244, full membership of nearly 20,000, and more than 30,000 in the family of the church. The “people called Methodist” in Cuba are “holding fast,” and they are alive!
In March, 2007, Dr. Eddie Fox, World Director of World Evangelism participated in the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Havana, Cuba. The theme of the 10th General Conference was “Enlarge your tent; let your curtains be stretched out. Do not hold back, lengthen your cords. Strengthen your stakes. Isaiah 54:2
Throughout the conference, the laity, the clergy and Bishop Ricardo Pereira, who was reelected by the conference for his third four-year term, focused on the challenge to “Enlarge your tent, and strengthen your stakes.” It echoed the message of Wesley more than 200 years ago.
Holding fast to the Doctrine
For the Methodists in Cuba, the Bible is “la Palabra del Dios” (the “Word of God") At the heart of the movement is “sound teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” This is true in the training and development of the clergy and lay leadership. When a person responds to the gospel message in repentance and faith, the new convert is enrolled in the “abc’s” of the faith and attends classes in Bible; the life, ministry, history of the church; and witnessing to their faith. In dynamic worship services of three hours in length with music, praise, dance and proclamation there is always the refrain, “Gloria a Dios” and the echo, “Hallelujah.” The central affirmation is “Jesus is alive” (vivo). During the worship service in which Bishop Pereira was being consecrated for his third term as Bishop, he was handed the Bible and challenged to defend its word and to be a good steward of this message given to the church.
Holding fast to the Discipline
As certainly as the Methodist Movement was a missionary movement, the Methodist Church in Cuba is a missionary church. As the Cuban Methodists entered this new century, they were devoted to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of any difficulties they may face. With a basic commitment to train lay people to serve as lay missionaries and lead “house churches,” they have started 700 mission churches in the past decade! All of these mission churches are led by lay missionary pastors under the leadership and encouragement of the District Superintendents. Today, throughout the whole country, churches are growing and congregations are meeting to praise the Lord and thank the Lord Jesus Christ who sustains them.
Holding fast to the Spirit
The Methodist people in Cuba are open to the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is the dynamic of worship and the dynamos of mission in every place. With a constant focus on prayer and fasting, communion together in the name of Christ Jesus, the Methodist church is passionate for the spread of the gospel during this moment in their country. In 2001, Bishop Pereira shared about his dynamic lay missionaries with Dr. Fox, “Eddie, if the lay missionary had a bicycle, he or she could lead two house churches instead of just one.” That need was shared with people around the world and there was a great response which provided more than 400 “EvangeBicys” through World Methodist Evangelism! During Christmas time, 2001, Dr. Fox was invited by Bishop Pereira to come to Cuba for the dedication of the EvangeBicys. Dr. Fox said, "It was the first time I had ever preached for the dedication of a bicycle, so I had to search the Bible carefully. I finally found my text in the book of Ezekiel, 'the spirit is in the wheels.' The world may think that it is air in the tires, but to the Methodists in Cuba, the Spirit is in the hearts of the people. And, not only are EvangeBicys rolling from one end of the island to the other with the good news, the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts and minds of the deeply dedicated believers and the gospel is being spread with converting power."
Converting Power at the General Conference
Dr. Fox preached on the closing day of the Cuban Methodist Church'sr General Conference in Havana in March, 07. With more 3,000 people in attendance, there was great praise, music, dance and joy in worship. Following the message when the people promised that Christ Jesus, “Can count on me” there was a time of dedication and renewed commitment. During a moment of praise and singing later in the service, word came to the Bishop from outside where several hundred people who could not get into the sanctuary had been worshipping, that there was a man there who wanted to convert and follow Jesus. The General Conference stopped and seven persons entered the sanctuary to make their public confession of “believing in Christ Jesus.” With prayers for each one, leaders moved to counsel with the “converts,” and enrolled them in classes for the two years leading to full membership in the church.
Passing of the Torch
In the closing moments of the conference, a lighted torch was carried into the conference by children and then passed to each generation and received by Bishop and Mrs. Pereira. People responded with “Hallelujahs” when it was declared that this flame will visit every Methodist Church in Cuba in the coming year. The flamesof the Holy Spirit touches the Methodist churches and the Methodist Movement in Cuba is alive and growing.
Rejoice and give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ
Praise the Lord Jesus Christ for the movement of the Holy Spirit among our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cuba. There is passion in the pastors, the laity are empowered and mobilized and the leadership is focused on mission and evangelism. They are teaching us what it means to be “dependent upon God to meet our needs and sustain us in our journey of Christian faith. The Methodist Movement in Cuba is alive because they are “holding fast” to the doctrine, discipline and spirit with which this movement began more than 250 years ago. All those who have ears to hear, let us hear.
METHODIST MOVEMENT IN CUBA EXPERIENCING PENTECOST 2001
Membership has doubled in the past two years
"The People Called Methodist in Cuba" are in the midst of a tremendous revival and renewal in the early days of this new millennium. Dr. H. Eddie Fox, World Director of Evangelism for the World Methodist Council, who recently traveled more than 1000 miles across the island nation of Cuba, said, "The Methodist Church in Cuba is experiencing revival with its ministry increasing and the membership of the Methodist Church doubling in the past 2 years from 8,000 members to 16,000 members. They are being sustained in power while challenging a difficult situation and they are confident that 'God has opened a wide door to them.'"
"For eight days, we have worshipped, preached, taught, prayed and enjoyed our people across the beautiful island of Cuba. Today, the Methodist Church in Cuba is experiencing the kind of joy, renewal, and contagious worship, which described the early Methodists. Three years ago, I was denied a visa by the government to visit our church in Cuba, but 2001 is the kairos moment in Cuba by the grace of God. We are witnessing a church which is totally open to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. From the east to the west, we experienced the generous hospitality of the people and the glorious presence of the Holy Spirit. I have been in the 'company of the committed.'"
Fox, along with Dr. Winston Worrell of World Methodist Evangelism, were invited by the leadership of the Methodist Church in Cuba to preach and teach "FAITH-SHARING" at the 2nd Congress on Evangelism for the church in Cuba. Rev. Moises Isla, the National Coordinator for Evangelism for the Methodist Church in Cuba said, "This was our Second Congress, but it has been 23 years since the first one. We rejoice that we are permitted to gather together for this Congress on Evangelism for missionary leaders, evangelists and pastors for our church."
During the opening session of the Congress, Rev. Isla read from the opening address of the first congress in April 1978, "The future of our church is not very good. The largest number of attendance in our church, members and friends are older people. The young people's attendance is very small and they are the ones to substitute for those who will die in the way of life."
But it was with a different mood and expectation as 323 persons, including 69 pastors, 45 evangelists, 113 missionary leaders and 70 evangelism team members and guests gathered at Camp Canaan for the Second Congress. Isla declared, "Let's evangelize. Because of prayer a great chain is broken. This congress will make a great difference in our church. We are seeking God's Missionary Vision for our church for the coming decade and working to develop the strategies which are most important for us in our missionary and evangelistic work."
Today, in 2001, the Methodist Church is in the midst of revival, which has been gathering momentum throughout the nineties. Bishop Pereira of the Methodist Church in Cuba said, "Since 1993 we have talked much about the Holy Spirit. And we are experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ. In the 1960s it was very hard for us. Only 5 pastors out of 140 remained. Our membership went down. The 70s also were very hard years. In the 1980s, our church started to awake. We found our refuge in God. Our church began prayer and fasting. In the late 80s people starting receiving the Holy Spirit. We are open to the Holy Spirit as we seek to be faithful, authentic Methodists. We are ecumenical people and we are faithful people as Methodists. We know who we are. We seek to be the strongest evangelical and faithful church in Cuba and we pray that others will work just as hard."
Membership growth of the Methodist Church in Cuba is as follows:
1990 5000 members
1995 7000 members
1999 8000 members (with 1200 constituents)
2000 16000 members (with 35000 constituents)
More than 65% of the worshippers today are under the age 30. Most of the pastors are also young in age and in the faith.
In the past five years, the church has started 500 missionary congregations (mostly house churches) across the nation. Lay missionary leaders who serve without salary lead these. The Missionary Leaders who travel to these missionary points are in desperate need of transportation and they need bicycles to help them. Fox said, World Methodist Evangelism is seeking 100 bicycles (at $115 each) for these missionaries. We are calling this ministry project; EVANGEBICY (A bicycle in Cuba is called bicy.) and we need Sunday School Classes, Men, and women and youth groups to help World Evangelism raise this support as soon as possible. If we receive support for more than 100 bicycles we will seek to provide transport through EvangeBicy for 400 missionaries!"
Fox and Worrell shared with the evangelism congress the "graceful pattern of Faith-Sharing." The Faith-Sharing New Testament is now published in 30 languages around the world. The Faith-Sharing New Testament in Spanish is currently being published by the Methodist Church in Mexico. World Methodist Evangelism has promised to seek support to send 5000 Faith-Sharing New Testaments for new Christians in the Methodist Church in Cuba. Most of these persons do not yet have the complete New Testament in their language.
In the past few years a covenant has been established between the Florida Conference of the UMC and the Methodist Church in Cuba. Fox rejoiced in the strength that this covenant is providing both ends of the connection. The Covenant was a vision of the late Bishop Cornelius Henderson and Bishop Pereira of Cuba. Through the Covenant the churches in Cuba and Florida share with one another what God has provided to each of them. Fox said, this model, like the Connecting Congregations of World Methodist Evangelism, is the way forward today in mission and evangelism.
Bishop Pereira expressed great joy at the visit of the World Methodist Evangelism leaders. "To have these World leaders with us, makes us feel that we are taking the hands of Methodists around the world. We are glad to hear the news of Methodists and receive their greetings and blessings. We are committed to the ministry of World Methodist Evangelism. Our people know that we are not alone as only several thousand people, but we are a part of a world movement of 70 million."
Fox declared to the Congress, "Christ Jesus for Cuba, this is at the heart of the good news of the gospel offered by the people called Methodists." And, at the Congress on Evangelism at Camp Canaan, the Methodist people have claimed the promises of God and are determined to offer "Cuba for Christ." As the people danced, sang, prayed and worshipped, hundreds of persons knelt and offered themselves to be Christ's missionaries across their land in this generation.
Churches and/or persons who are interested in providing support for bicycles for missionaries and/or Faith-Sharing New Testaments for new Christians in Cuba should contact H. Eddie Fox, World Methodist Evangelism, phone 615-885-5020, fax 615-885-1001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contributions may be designated for EvangeBicy, and/or FS New Testaments for Cuba and sent to the following:
PO Box 8388
Hermitage, TN 37076
A torch symbolizing the Holy Spirit was presented to Bishop and Mrs. Ricardo Pereira at the end of the General Conference of the Methodist Church of Cuba and Bishop Pereira promised that, during the next year, it would travel to every Methodist church in Cuba. Bishop Pereira was reelected to a third four-year term as leader of the rapidly expanding Cuban church.
At the Cuban Methodist General Conference, Bishop Pereira took Dr. Eddie Fox, World Director of World Methodist Evangelism, for a ride on one of the 500 Evangebicys that World Methodist Evangelism has provided to assist Cuban lay pastors serve the more than 700 house churches that have been created as part of the revitalized Methodist Church of Cuba.