Home | BGAV Blog | Cuban Reflections

Cuban Reflections

The CenturyMen sing in a church in Cuba.

Posted: 5/12/16 at 8:00am. Article by Tom Ingram.

In preparing to travel to Cuba for a mission trip, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the reality was certainly a memorable and life-changing experience. As part of the CenturyMen, a nationally known, auditioned, male choral ensemble, I was privileged to share ten days with the Cuban people last month. In many ways, the trip was a study in time travel. Life in Cuba today resembles much of what I remember as a child in the 50s and 60s.

Tom Ingram (left) and friends in Cuba.
Tom Ingram (left) and friends in Cuba.

I expected to see vintage cars and was not disappointed. Chevys and Fords abounded, as well as Buicks and even a few Caddys. Many were lovingly cared for, and some were bandaged and bruised, but they still ran faithfully.

What I didn’t expect was the number of bicycles, motorcycles with sidecars, horses with carts, and trucks with extended beds crammed with travelers in every available space. There were reminders of the “Revolution” in many places throughout the country, complete with pictures or images of Che Guevara.

There was fast and furious work on the renovation of hotels and public buildings, especially in the larger cities. There were also many buildings seemingly abandoned in the midst of construction. Most homes in the countryside were about the size of my modest office, and seemed to be constructed with about two small rooms composed of concrete blocks covered with stucco. The cities were mainly composed of homes of similar size, arranged in varying sizes of apartment complexes, while still composed of the same concrete block and stucco.

A street scene in Cuba.
A street scene in Cuba.

The Cuban people are warm, open, and receptive to the Gospel. They are patient, very smart and very resourceful. One of the first things they told us was that they generally have to wait in line for virtually everything. They also like to talk and find out about those around them. We did a lot of talking. The average Cuban makes between $20 to $30 a month. The doctor traveling with us makes $58 per month.

Looking at a typical congregation is what I imagine much of the US will look like about 20 years…equal parts of white, Latino, and African heritages, plus additional mixtures of all kinds of faces and races. Several items, including meat, are strictly rationed. Our doctor said his family is able to have meat, at most, twice per week. Their churches are alive and well, and they sing and worship with power and exuberance.

We could learn much from them about evangelism and church planting. The typical music ministry consists of a guitar, a bass guitar, a makeshift drum set, and a keyboard with a generally poor sound system. We didn’t see a piano or an organ.

Vintage cars line the streets.
Vintage cars line the streets.

The Cuban churches were hoping that our men’s chorus would help to inspire the men in their churches to be more open and active. We were the first outside religious group to be allowed to sing in publically-owned and controlled theaters.

We were able to sing at one of the two Cuban seminaries and in two of those public concert halls. Since 1992, about 8,000 churches, missions and home churches have been established in all of Cuba. Younger people and children were everywhere.

Almost all of the churches in which we sang had large windows, which were open to the outside. Fans were fastened along the walls and kept the air moving and mostly cool, even with the temperature in the 80s. While we sang, people from off the street came in and were seated throughout our performance.

As the invitation to know and accept Christ was given, over 40 individuals stood and proclaimed their faith and asked for prayer and Bibles. Cuban Baptists are beginning a new emphasis on sending missionaries to Latin American countries. We might even see some of them in the United States!

The enthusiasm and graciousness of the Cuban people were overwhelming. Their leadership is dedicated, qualified and steadfast in their quest to share Christ with all around them. God is truly at work in that country, and the CenturyMen and I were indeed blessed and privileged to be a part of the Maker’s plan for this time and place.

Soli Deo gloria

Tom Ingram is Field Strategist, Capital Region and Worship and Church Music Specialist for the BGAV.