HAVANA, Cuba (EP) – The evangelical church in Cuba is alive but is “waiting for a revival,” according to Rodrigo Zapata, an expert on the Latin American church and a missionary with Heralding Christ Jesus’ Blessings (HCJB) World Radio. Zapata visited the communist-controlled country June 24-July 4.
“The Cuban church is in a period of transition,” he said. “It’s not dead; it’s alive. But it’s waiting for a revival. Some believers are fearful of the future.” Zapata preached in churches and led Bible studies for more than 60 Cuban pastors representing about 30,000 believers in the country, about 0.3 percent of the population.
There is no organized persecution of the evangelical church by the Cuban government, but resistance can come in more subtle forms, especially for those outspoken about their faith. For example, it is difficult for an active Christian to secure and to hold a job, according to Zapata, who said it is “not impossible, but difficult. The Christian has to be quiet so he won’t be betrayed by someone else who wants to obtain his job.”
In spite of the pressure, there are young, Christian professionals who are spearheading future growth of the evangelical church in Cuba, according to Zapata. “The new generation of Christians is a generation of university students and professionals, doctors and scientists, cultured people who are very well prepared and who have a greater impact on society.”
A number of Christian radio stations broadcast into Cuba: Family Radio from Florida, Trans World Radio from Bonaire, and HCJB can be heard clearly throughout the island nation. When he asked the 500-member congregation of First Baptist Church in Santiago which of them listened to HCJB, said Zapata, nearly everyone raised their hands. He also reported hearing of a church in the mountains founded by people when they came to faith through the radio programs of HCJB ten years ago. “Today it’s a strong church and has a pastor,” said Zapata.
Even though religious freedoms in Cuba are restricted, Zapata claims that the evangelical church has a favored position because of the country’s leader, Fidel Castro. Christians who fought with Castro during the 1953 revolution left an impression of the communist leader who “respects their prayers, their reading of the Word and their Christian virtues,” said Zapata, who added, “They are national heroes.”
But most of the atheist officials in the communist regime don’t hold this view. “In my opinion, if Castro were to be replaced, the evangelical church would suffer more persecution,” Zapata claimed.