The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth stating, a “wide door for effective service” (1 Co.16:9 NAS) had opened to him. This phrase best describes my recent trip to Cuba which, I believe, makes the way for much fruitful ministry in the coming days.
I would not have guessed my first trip to Cuba would be full of surprises. The door for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba has been shut ever since the communist revolution in 1959. From that time Americans have received heavily propagandized news of life in Cuba under Fidel Castro. Diplomatic relations have only recently been restored making this visit possible.
My first surprise was how tranquil, safe and beautiful this island nation is. And the people are warm, friendly and wide open to the things of God in despite their desperate living conditions.
The next surprise was to learn Mr. Castro had a vision to train the finest medical doctors in the world. To this end the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) was started in 1999 at a converted naval academy just outside Havana City. The mission of the school is to receive students from the world’s most impoverished countries and train them to become competent physicians who will return to their home countries and communities to provide medical services. Nearly 10,000 medical students are enrolled in ELAM, each on a full scholarship; approximately 3,500 are resident at the main campus in the town of Baracoa; the others are dispersed at campuses around Cuba.
Now, here’s the sweetest part of the best surprise: ELAM is conveniently located just 2 kilometers from a very special church where I ministered for the past 3 days. The majority of the church congregation is comprised of ELAM students who have come to Christ while in Cuba or who came to the school as believers, now preparing to take the Gospel, and their medical competencies, back to their native communities. Pastor Garfield Deans (Jamaica) and I spoke to church leadership for 2 days: most of them ELAM students. I met student\leaders from at least a dozen African nations as well as from Central America and Caribbean island nations. (Presently ELAM has graduate doctors in 110 countries). This open door has the potential of influencing all nations of the world by sending these vocational Ambassadors for Christ.
God in His infinite wisdom has made Cuba, one of the most isolated nations in the Western Hemisphere, a place of convergence where young, aspiring medical doctors, male and female, come to be trained as physicians and also equipped with the Gospel, to return to their nations.
Special thanks to Pastor Mario and his precious wife, Angela for hosting our visit and receiving our ministry. Pastor Mario, who is 81 years young, is a special man with a huge heart for the mission of God in the world. He sees clearly the opportunity that is before him to impart to these sent ones. His passion and compassion is contagious. Thank you, Pastor, and thank you to all who prayed for my trip and help to send me. Consider how far you’re helping hand is reaching!