Faith Exchange Partners and Friends,
I greet you today from Santa Clara, Cuba. The weather here is mild for Cuba this time of year as the temperature is in the mid to upper 80s Fahrenheit. We have a pool here and buffet meals twice a day. There is air conditioning in the rooms and hot water in the showers … Life here at Los Caneyes — the hotel — is so much better than what the people here deal with on a daily basis. In some ways I feel that I am doing myself a disservice by staying here. The hotel is not so posh to compare to what we are used to in the United States but compared to the homes of the people who are without glass or screens for the openings that serve as windows. Electricity goes out for days. There is no television and the internet signal is weak or non-existent. Additionally, I am told that they are about to head into a time of sever rationing as the grocery stores are empty, so even if we give the people money, they can’t buy what they need.
Pastor Kelvin Box and I have been ministering since we arrived here. He is sharing a series called “Limitless” while I am teaching on “the authority of the believer” and the importance of our connections to each other as the authority is given for His Kingdom, His Body — His Family — and He has given the five-fold ministry gifts to the Kingdom/Body/Family to build them up, getting them off baby’s milk and onto adulthood/Sonship/authority through the meat of the word — which requires a consistent dose of both nurture and correction. We need both.
We had the joy of taking the whole church for a real feast yesterday. It was like a Thanksgiving dinner for these people as they ate with gusto. We rented a bus, and took two cars to get the people there. I’ll include some pictures so that you can feel the joy. We were able to do all of that for approximately 300 US Dollars. Money goes a long way here. Your partnership in this work would mean a lot to these people and to us. When I am here, I feel the influence we are having, but I want to do so much more.
In 2016, we came in September and we saw the vision. In December of that year we were able to raise the necessary money to purchase over 100 acres of farmland with a lake on it. Since then, we have been back twice and the Pastors Joel and Heidi Silva-Gonzalez have been both to NYC and Texas to continue to share the vision and engage our partners. We will be back in November with Brother Jerry Savelle and Pastor Ann will be with us for the first time.
Today our money will be working once again. Cement is being poured to put a roof over the kitchen has been built where they feed the church members each week. The foundations for a house have been laid on the farm. Without housing on the property the government could seize the land, so housing must occur and now. We have pigs and goats and crops occurring on the farm now and these provide cash for the church as well as food when the grocery stores are empty. There is a lake on the property and we have the beginnings of a septic/sewer system.
The vision is yet for an appointed time, but we see housing for as many as 30 families. These families will work the farm and provide leadership and staff for the convention center and bible school. With proper support we could accomplish this in five years. The people here will do most of the work and it will allow us to create jobs and infrastructure for businesses to come in and partner. We have already started the important conversations about partnering in sustainable power projects and clean water projects. Pray for us.
It may be difficult to see the importance of this work. Allow me to give you some of the back story. In 1959 a revolution occurred in Cuba. Fidel Castro and Che Guerrero rallied the people and overthrew the prevailing government led by Baptista. They brought in their form of Socialism. They declared that God was dead and they began to shut the churches down systematically. They took control over all private businesses. They began to educate the people along the Socialistic Dogma, mocking entrepreneurialism, free trade, religion of any kind and much more of what we revere and take for granted. Still, they could not obliterate the love that the people have for God. The Christian — non catholic — church has limped along. They have no access to technology and they are not allowed to build buildings of any kind. The churches that do exist have had to exist prior to 1960 to have standing. The churches we work with are considered cell groups or home churches and the church that you see in the pictures is actually an addition that was built off the back of the Pastors’ parents’ home. It is marvelous and it is this kind of work, understanding what the government will allow, that will allow us to complete the vision.
Jorge Silva-Gonzales is the Pastor’s son. He has served for 18 months in the military and has earned his certificate to teach school. His salary as a school teacher working full time is 15 US Dollars per month … He has recently stepped down for his position there to work full time at the church making double that.
Fatima — a lovely young lady from Angola tells me that she is here getting her degree in Tele communications. She has been in Cuba for five years. Angola is paying Cuba for her to be trained and she is not allowed to return home until she is fully trained, with a degree and certified. When she returns home, she will have to work for next to nothing to pay the government for this education. She has to do so for five years. So you see…free education isn’t free.
The roads are falling apart. The electricity goes out regularly. People travel on foot, on bicycles, on horseback and the cars that are on the road are old … Cab drivers make more money than doctors.
Still, the country is beautiful and the people worship with high energy and great faithfulness. It is my honor that you would partner with us at Faith Exchange to send us here and we are making a major difference.
We are beginning discussions with business leaders that have navigated the system here for decades. We are planning to send supplies by containers, being strategic and making sure that the government is fully aware of our plans and in full support, which means that they will be getting something out of each shipment. Simple things like chicken wire and paper products would go a long way here.
I will write more while I am here. Please continue to pray for us. Please consider partnering with us in this work.
Pastor Dan Stratton.