RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--When Osvier Acosta Ferrero, 72, and Ricardo Tadeo Soria Perez, 58, pedal down dirt roads on their bicycles, they're not out for exercise. They're praying for Cubans who need Christ.
These Baptist men sing hymns as they cycle for miles, traveling to rural communities to lead Bible studies. "If someday God sends us to another country, we'll go," Osvier says. "We have the joy of evangelization, always asking God for wisdom, a love for people and the joy of proclaiming His Word."
Their zeal is typical among Christians in Cuba who are seeing one of the most rapid rates of church growth in the world.
How vast is that growth? Cuban Baptist churches numbered 210 in 1960. Over the next 30 years, that total increased to just 238. In the 1990s, a church-planting movement began sweeping the island nation; today, there aren't enough churches to hold all the believers. The number of Cuban Baptist traditional churches, missions and house churches exceeds 6,200. Some 5,600 of these congregations worship in houses, garages, yards or on rooftops.
This remarkable growth has created a huge need for more church leaders. To help meet that need, a team of International Mission Board missionaries travels periodically to the island to help Cuban Baptists train leaders. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Cooperative Program support this ministry.
"This is God's time for Cuba," one of the IMB missionaries says. "Pray God will raise up church leaders for the harvest. Pray a sufficient number of leaders will be trained."
God already is answering in remarkable ways. One is through music and the training of worship leaders.
An estimated one of every five people in Cuba is involved in music in some way. When the Holy Spirit sparked the church-planting movement in Cuba, many musicians began accepting Christ. In response, Cuban Baptists and IMB missionaries developed several schools to teach musicians to grow as disciples and to use their skills in leading worship. Today, there are more than 50 of these schools. They train about 1,000 Cuban Baptists each year. Some of these musicians even organize music mission trips across Cuba.
The schools also spurred a renewal of corporate worship, which God is using to draw more people to Christ. A special addition to that worship is the first Cuban Baptist hymnal -- "Alabanza Cubana" -- published in 2005 with the help of several IMB missionaries.
God also is at work among professional musicians. Many are committing their lives to Christ and, in turn, finding creative ways to share their faith with colleagues.
"It's incredible what God is doing," says an IMB missionary working with musicians. "There's no telling where He's going to go with all of this."
Released through the communications office of the International Mission Board. Join in praying for Cuba through "50 Days of Prayer for Cuba," a seven-week prayer guide featuring stories, photos and prayer requests. Available in English or Spanish. Go to http://imbresources.org/index.cfm/fa/store.prod/ProdID/2445.cfm.
To listen to some new hymns and praise songs composed by Christians in Cuba, go to http://alabanzacubana.com. Visitors to this site also may order CDs and songbooks featuring about 40 Cuban selections found in the new Cuban Baptist hymnal.
Learn more about Week of Prayer here: http://www.imb.org/main/pray/page.asp?StoryID=5624&LanguageID=1709.
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