March 26, 2024

Cuba March 2024 Recap

Written by: Chad Hermiller, Gateway Church Member

It’s the same panicked and skeptical look I get everytime I tell someone new that I’m going to Cuba. The kind of look that should be paired with “are you crazy?” Fortunately, most people are polite and simply ask “is it safe?” or “why Cuba?” Both are valid questions considering the geopolitical history between the US and Cuba, but it’s the second question that is most intriguing. For me, we would have to go all the way back to 2018, when I first decided to go to Cuba on the trip in 2019. I’m not even sure I had a reason but something drew me to it, and 2024 marks the third trip I took to Cuba. So the question has become, “why do you go back to Cuba?” 

Each of my trips to Cuba were unique in some ways and yet similar in others. The first and most glaring uniqueness was the 22 people who went on this year’s trip, significantly larger than any other trip to Cuba. Of this group, only 5 had been to Cuba before and 3 of those were in the Heft family. The vast majority of the remaining team members had never been on a missions trip before and/or had never been outside the US. Oh, and did I forget to mention that half of the group were guys from Cedarville University? 

Our mission, however, was both familiar and unique. We were going to continue putting on leader workshops for the house church leaders since there are very limited resources available in Cuba. Our focus would be on the Old Testament leaders and how they displayed spiritual leadership in their time. The other mission, however, caught my attention when Matt first told me of this trip. We were to go out into new neighborhoods and help plant new house churches. Church buildings are hard to come by due to the limited resources and the bureaucratic hoops to jump through, so house churches are the norm and the reason for the continual need for developing new leaders. 

The Holy Spirit made quick work of convincing me to go on this trip once I had heard this. As we can clearly see now, God was orchestrating a brilliant plan to use this team in mighty ways. Indeed, the trip started well before we actually left. Between preparing sermons and leadership talks, collecting medical supplies, medication, clothing, and baking supplies, along with the many hours of prayer, there was much work to be done. However, for as hard as we were working, the Holy Spirit was working harder.

After arriving at the mission house in Cuba, we had to find a way to decide where our groups would go to preach on Sunday morning as well as which area our family groups would go to help plant the new house church. We had 7 people volunteer to preach on Sunday. I had the opportunity to go to the Regla area with Tucker and Luke. This church was unique because there were several young boys in attendance. The leaders of this church created a soccer team with these boys as long as they come to church each week. I find it interesting, because the biggest soccer fan on our team was selected to preach at the one church which had a soccer ministry. 

Later Sunday evening, when Matt said we'd just pick and choose areas where our family groups would go for the week, something inside me said to pick the first one. Normally my natural inclination is to wait until to be the last to choose or volunteer for something, so the first one up was Zone 24, and Equipo Veinticuatro (Team 24) was born. We spent the mornings walking around the neighborhood as the pastor of the new house church in Area 24 talked with several people. We invited people to bring their children to our evening children’s ministry, as well as the Wednesday evening adult service. With help from our translator, we were able to talk with some of these people and pray for them. One man even prayed to follow Christ. The following day, we got to follow up with him and give him a Bible. We met many people throughout the week and listened to their stories. They were all so open and transparent about the suffering and trials they were going through. My heart especially broke for the elderly woman, who was homebound to her second story apartment. She had recently lost her son, and her husband was in the hospital with cancer and didn’t have much time left. She would soon only have her other son left to take care of her. 

Our late afternoons were spent doing children’s ministry. When we arrived at the apartment of the new house church, we waited for the children to arrive. We all smiled and giggled at the early arrivals and at the little baby girl walking around. As we started the program, our host walked in from the back and I had to do a double take. Something was familiar about him, and our mutual side glances confirmed it. I approached him as we sent the children outside for some games and before I could say anything, he said in English - “Hey, I know you.” The hosts of this new house church was a young couple we had met in 2022 during our sports ministry, and the little baby walking around was the one they were expecting when we first met. If I had not volunteered our group for the first area, then I likely would not have gotten to see them.

Upon arriving back home in Findlay, the first sermon was from the book of Esther. Pastor Josh showed us “too many coincidences to be coincidental” in the book of Esther. These stories from Cuba are just a couple of our “coincidences” that we experienced in Cuba. Surely, we know better than to call them simple coincidences. If you want to hear more, you will just have to ask one of the team members. One thing I know is true, God is preparing a harvest in Cuba. The Holy Spirit is moving within the Cuban people. So why do I go back? The answer is simple, it’s because of Alex, Yuri, Marlen, Jorge, Armando, Jonathan, Sonya, Maritza, Thalia, Eduardo, etc. When people ask me what the best part of Cuba is, I give the same answer––the people. They are excellent examples of Gateway Church’s core value of family, between their hospitality and joy despite their circumstances, it makes leaving all the more difficult. 

In fact, this whole trip is a great example of how we exhibit our core value of family. Even though many new friendships were made on this trip, many memories were created as well. 

In closing, I encourage everyone to sign up for one of Gateway Church’s several missions trips. God could be preparing some “coincidences” for you too, but you’ll never get to experience it until you GO! 

To my brothers and sisters in Cuba, Cedarville, and at Gateway Church ¡El Dios te bendiga!