Mario Lleonart, 22 June 2015 — Cuban Christians are grateful to Christian Solidarity Worldwide for the constant monitoring of violations of religious freedom in our country. I’d like to thank the Washington Postfor giving this message a voice as other organizations like the Anajure in Brazil have done. I’d like to especially thank you for mentioning the theft of the lot belonging to our Baptist church in Yaguajay where our baptist college was held from in those times when we were also able to contribute to education.
Right about now, on this Father’s Day, Raúl Borges Álvarez is surely living something similar to what he has been suffering for 17 years, petitioning the prison where one of his two sons is held which will not even concede the possibility of letting him out on parole, to which he is entitled by law — all because of blasted politics!
At Havana’s Santa Rita Church — as at various other churches across the country — mothers, sisters, daughters and friends of many other political prisoners penalized for political differences attempt to gather each Sunday to attend Mass and later march, each holding a gladiolus. According to the latest statistics from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), there are around 71 prisoners on the known list. The women who march for them are known as the Ladies in White. continue reading
Other equally brave women known as the “Women Citizens for Democracy” do this at other locations. But Raúl Borges, like other fathers, brothers and friends, will not stand by inert before the valor of these women, and intends to join them in demonstrating his indignation, too.
The last 11 Sundays have been like a battle, with entire brigades sent to counterract these civil and peaceful forces, attacking them as if they were common criminals who must be suppressed. It has not been easy for Raúl. Besides being in his seventies, barely a few years ago he underwent two complicated operations — open-heart surgery on 31 August 2010, and a procedure for a peripheral cerebral infarction, in March 2012.
But none of this is more grave for him than the unjust imprisonment of his son, for which–besides everything else he does all the time–Raúl will do everything possible to join those hundreds of other persons who, all over the country, will demand the freedom of prisoners like his son, Ernesto Borges Pérez.
Neither his age nor physical condition will keep Raúl from trying to break through the lines of guards that start to form as of Thursday or Friday, and later, if he succeeds, he will not be ashamed to be thrown, like so many others, in the back of a truck or a bus headed for jail cells or to a remote and isolated spot where he would be put out to find his own way home, nor to be shackled and beaten, with no care as to whether the chosen target for the punch is his scarred chest–as it was four Sundays ago.
But a father’s love is not to be disdained next to that of a mother, for all the insistence by some that anyone can be a father, but a mother can only be one. Raúl is the refutation of this erroneous suggestion. And in the love of a father determined to do whatever it takes to gain the freedom of a son who is considered to be unjustly imprisoned, those who try to subdue civilian forces through violence will find an irresistible force, no matter how aggravated the confrontation may be.
None other than a Cuban State Security agent admitted as much to César, Raúl’s other son, when he warned him that he could not be responsible for the life of César’s stubborn father. “But,” the agent acknowledged, “were I in his place, I would do the same.”
Mario Lleonart, 5 June 2015 — Beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Havana have been in the news for eight consecutive Sundays. In one of the first rounds, the son of the labor leader Jesús Menéndez was dragged for several yards along the ground with no concern for his advanced age.
On the seventh Sunday, between beatings and more beatings, it was obvious that another attempt was made to kill Raúl Borges Alvarez, this time with a sure blow to the chest–no matter (or, actually, because of) his having undergone heart surgery. continue reading
Even so, with respect to Raúl, officials from State Security warned his son, Ernesto, in prison, and his other son, Cesar, on the street, about the the possibility of Raúl’s imminent demise from his additional ailment of “chronic pancreatitis”–the same condition that killed Juan Wilfredo Soto García on 8 May 2011, following a beating by police three days earlier–because of course death can be a natural consequence of a beating, especially if one has prior health problems, and it is well known that the area of the pancreas is another preferred target of the attackers.
Some of us had hoped, following the announcement about normalizing relations between the US and Cuba, that there would be a stop to–or at least a lessening of–the beatings, but we now know that what is happening is precisely the opposite.
It would seem that the beast is feeling mightier and able to strike with impunity. This is borne out by the 641 arrests in May, the highest number of detentions of dissidents in the last 10 months, and which always, in some fashion, involve violence.
During the beatings and acts of repudiation against the Ladies in White, the political authorities have not hesitated to shamelessly transport the tormentors on buses that were brought to Cuba by the “Pastors for Peace” Caravan–an unintended purpose for these vehicles, we assume.
Experiences such as the recent Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama show that the regime that is an expert in beatings is willing to export this modality of intolerance to whichever location in the world will receive it. The international community can confirm that the system which, for survival’s sake, accedes to dialogue with its historical enemy, with the world power, with the “empire,” is not ready to do the same with its own people–and even less so if the issue is about accepting differences of opinion. It’s through strikes and blows that it tends to resolve any matter with its citizens.
The worst part is that many in the population have assimilated this modus operandi learned from Papa State, and it is thus that they prefer to resolve any problem, with or without reason: by hitting.
Any male or female citizen in Cuba, however peaceful he or she may be, is exposed to the blows that come directly from the State, or from any of its many Frankensteins, its “New Men” as evoked by Guevara, who prefer to use their neighbors as punching bags before resolving differences through dialogue.
Blows abound when words–and especially reasons–are scarce.
Juan Wilfredo Soto García, “The Student,” October 13, 2010
May 5th was the fourth anniversary of the brutal beating of activist Juan Wilfredo Soto García, which resulted in his death two days later. It was followed bythe deaths of noted leaders Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, in which many also acknowledge the presence of the criminal hand. The effectiveness of extrajudicial execution, verified in the case of Juan Wilfredo Soto and amply proven by other governments, is also beyond doubt in Cuba.
The regime that began with firing squads no longer needs them. The moratorium on the death penalty since 2003 is possible because those in power have perfected their method of eliminating political opponents, paying for it at the lowest possible price. North Korea, which “judicially” exterminates without ceremony, as demonstrated again a few days ago, should take lessons from its more sophisticated Cuban allies, the best students of Machiavelli. continue reading
The common denominator in the three cases cited above is the lack of impartial investigations, which would most benefit murder suspects who were truly innocent. Four years after his death, what has happened in Juan Wilfredo’s case?
– His closest relatives, his two children, well aware of the criminality of the regime, opted for safety and emigrated through the Refugee Program of the United States.
– The impartial investigation requested of the Attorney General’s Office has not provided any conclusion.
– Not a single witness from the list that I gave to the Provincial Prosecutor of Villa Clara was called to testify. When I recently went to Prosecutor Osmel Fleites Cárdenas seeking information, he listened to my statement, reviewed the file, and confirmed that there is sufficient evidence to open a case, but then explained to me that he “no longer has anything to do with the matter because the investigation has been handed over to the Military Prosecutor.”
– It has been impossible to contact the family of Alexis Herrera Rodriguez, then a neighbor at 204 5th Street in the Camacho subdivision of Santa Clara. He was one of the three soldiers who participated in the fatal beating of Soto, the investigation of which was handled with total security by officers of the Political Police. Several witnesses placed him at the scene of the beating that fatal morning. He committed suicide by gunshot on Sunday May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day (the day we buried Soto), but survived some five days and was ultimately buried with a ceremony surrounded by heavy security on Friday May 13.
– It has also proved impossible to locate the other two police officers who participated in the beating—a man and a woman, twenty-year-olds, like Alexis—although it is rumored that both are now out of the military, at least from outward appearances, and that one is probably interned in a psychiatric hospital.
We live our lives aware of the dangers we face in denouncing the reality that extra-judicial executions are carried out with impunity in Cuba. We are supported in this every day in different ways, but we have no alternative if we truly want to represent the God of Justice whom we say we serve and to whose protection we entrust ourselves.
And in the case of Juan Wilfredo, having exhausted the meager options of the rigged Cuba legal system, we have no recourse but to appeal to the established international mechanisms, for which we have the support of the Commission on Human Rights, headed by Elizardo Sanchez, and of the beleaguered organization Cubalex.
Although today [15 January] is a holiday only in the USA, I also in my own way celebrate it in Cuba. Why not join in the celebration of the birth of the Baptist pastor and fighter for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.? His life is inspirational for many of us, including me, who every day seek freedom and equality for human beings, all creatures of God.
His existence is one of my answers to those who in Cuba who question why I combine theology with social activism. I have not invented anything new. It is the most natural thing to combine ideas and actions, and this was what happened in the life of the Reverend King. His sermons, his philosophy, his methodology, his strategy of nonviolent struggle, his life and his martyrdom are an example to follow in any dark corner of the world, and also in the illuminated places, to prevent anyone ever to darken them.
The last time that I mentioned his name to those who are responsible for repressing me in Cuba was on October 26, when I arrived from Poland, two agents from State security awaited me at the airport for questioning about my statements in the land of Lech Walesa and my subsequent activities and position in Cuba.
According to them my pastoral ministry should be confined to the four walls of a church to which they would gladly cloister me. My answer was that in addition to the unsurpassed example of Jesus Christ, I admired and tried to imitate, except for the distances, transcendental beings such as the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszco and the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr.
To which one of them, with the obvious threat that the same thing could happen to me, he riposted: What a coincidence, that all of them are martyrs!
Hopefully just like in August 1963, when he achieved that historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in Cuba soon we will be able to realize something similar of our own in Havana, which, as the successful artist Tania Bruguera demonstrated in the recent events on December 30, so far remains forbidden to the people.
In the midst of our Cuban reality of continual violations civil rights, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our luminaries.
The delegation from Instituto Patmos, invited by United for Human Rights to the celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
During all of 2014 this blog, Cubano Confesante, I examined the best part of the thirty questions that doubt the supposed religious liberties in Cuba, which were launched in September of 2013 during the trip we took to Washington, invited by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
These analyses were the object of discussion in forums and workshops convened by the Instituto Patmos in various sites in Cuba, and at times also some of those posts were the fruit of these. This contributed to sharing these contents in an island where access to internet is difficult. continue reading
Arriving precisely at the end of the year we arrived in the said review at the middle of those questions, the fifteenth, having realized that the majority of them, lamentably, far from being no longer applicable, had maintained or had increased. Only in the case of two can we breathe more easily:
Why the failure to account for the wave of repression that took place during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI during which hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained or threatened, and of whom still remain in prison and threatened with severe penalties Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz*?
It continues still without giving account about the repressive wave, not the regime in Cuba that triggered it, nor the Vatican that tolerated it, have given explanations in this regard. But at least Sonia Garro and Alejandro Ramón were let out of prison on December 9 to be prisoners in their own homes as a home detainment. We will continue arguing this question until there is accountability concerning the repression which attracted representatives of civil society in Cuba in the March 2012 visit of Benedicto XVI. And until Sonia and Ramon have the freedom they deserve.
Why not free the United States citizen Alan Gross, who was left a prisoner in Cuba for supporting with technology the Jewish Cuban community and who serves as a warning to anyone else who decides to be supportive with any other existing religious communities?
Fortunately since December 17, Alan Gross is free. It ended an outrage that lasted five years and which clearly was a kidnapping that the regime in Cuba used in order to pressure the Government of the United States to release their five spies discovered as part of the Red Avispa network, which was operating in its territory.
Throughout the year we were publishing, among others, a series of posts dedicated to reviewing the thirty questions whose validity is unfortunately preserved almost in its entirety. [Note to English readers: as not all these posts were translated the list is not reproduced here.]
*Translator’s note: Since this post was written they have been released.
In June of 2013 I travelled for the first time to Poland and made an inevitable visit to the tomb of the Polish martyr Jerzy Popieluszko. All the way from distant Cuba, Popieluszko for me embodied the logical challenge of faith in the face of a totalitarian system that is an enemy of God.
If in life Popieluszko more than fulfilled his pastoral duty of defending his fold against the wolf, in death he showed the world the utter impotence of a regime capable of resorting to assassination to silence a prophet, and clearly put in contrast the borders between good and evil in the Poland of 1984.
My return to Poland in October 2014 coincided with the 30th anniversary of the crime agains Popieluszko, and constituted a theological lesson on the implications of the martyrdom of the saints – in particular, the eschatological truth of the Resurrection and the Christian hope that celebrates as ever-living those exceptional beings such as Popieluszko, even though their remains still rest in their tombs.
This time my pilgrimage was not in solitude in search of a site of mystical quietude, as in 2013. It was more like a grain of sand among compact multitudes who were expressing our admiration and remembrance of the good pastor who did not flee when he saw the wolf approaching. At the same time, we were celebrating the fruit of his sacrifice: democracy and liberty in today’s Poland.
Among the first changes evident after 1989, perhaps imperceptible among many enormous and transcendent transformations, was the inclusion (a happy initiative of Lech Walesa’s) of a chapel in no less than the symbolic Presidential Palace – which would have been inconceivable during the period of totalitarian misrule.
Expression of liberties gained constitutes proof that the physical death of the martyr Popieluszko, rather than rendering him invisible, immortalized him to his people and amplified the values and virtues that he preached and practiced in life.
A radiant sun on Sunday, October 19, provided an extraordinary setting — as if in respite from the harsh, quasi-wintry days of autumn — to thousands of Poles and hundreds of citizens from the world over gathered at the place that guards the remains of the martyr who awaits his resurrection.
It was the natural testimony of the celebration in heaven and on earth honoring the the life that Death did not cut short, an evangelical reaffirmation that there are some who kill physical bodies, but they cannot kill souls. Blessed Poland that has her Popieluszko as a sign that in her, the wolves could not — without pastoral resistance — attack the sheep, who in fact chased away the wolf that attacked their pastor.
Happy Poland for not accepting the lament (in other contexts a fitting one) in “Ring Them Bells” by Bob Dylan: “Oh the shepherd is asleep/ where the willows weep/ and the mountains are filled with lost sheep.” God willing that in any part of the world where, as in Cuba, wild beasts have their lair, there be pastors like Popieluszko capable of facing them down, true to their calling, even — were it necessary — unto the sacred privilege of martyrdom.
It was my Sunday of rest in the United States (July 20), on this voyage that I made, between July 9th and August 6th, leading a small delegation that included my wife and daughters, and four other brothers of our church in Cuba. It was my day to be seated to receive the Word.
The previous Sunday I preached in the Baptist church “Star of Bethlehem,” in Hialeah; and in the nearly two weeks of the journey that remained, they hoped that I would preach to at least four more congregations: “Jesus Worship Center (www.iglesiadoral.org)” of Doral; the “First Hispanic Presbyterian Church” of Tampa; the “Christian House: JWC” of Kissimee; and the “Hispanic Baptist Church” of Naples. It was very opportune that this Sunday was included, because I had done so much speaking in the previous day that I had ended up literally without a voice.
First Baptist Church of Coral Park is the congregation where brothers worship deeply and with great love for Cuba that today they wanted to dedicate to us their Sunday and their church. The same church in which pastored the well-remembered Rev. Jorge Comesañas whose name, unsurprisingly, was given to one of the neighboring streets, and especially to whom they arrived from their broken isle seeking healing for their wounds. continue reading
The congregation is composed largely of Cubans, as is its pastorate, as well, although its web page (coralpark.org) reports that its members come from twenty-five different nations. This very Sunday its current pastor, Carlos Tellez, who many remember as pastor in Santo Domingo and Madruga, in Cuba, completed his first year of ministry in this church, of the twenty-eight that he has completed as pastor.
Known locally as “the whale” due to its distinctive architectural form, the temple served as a synagogue from its completion until 1986. The church has respected one of the conditions stipulated in the sales contract: that the building’s Jewish symbols be retained.
That is why both inside and outside one can still see stained glass windows with unmistakable Stars of David. But in addition to its surface decoration, the whale retains something of a Jewish spirit.
I felt this when a group of visitors, including myself, were welcomed — in Hebrew no less — with verses to a well-known song: “Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom aleichem, Hevenu shalom, Shalom. Shalom aleichem” When prayers were later offered for peace in Jerusalem, I had no doubts.
In these days of clamoring for true peace for Jews and Palestinians that do so much harm to each other, and of condemning the terrorist organization Hamas, I rejoice in attending congregations such as these that remember so well the sequence of a historic Christianity that was born in the synagogues and that was moved to similar churches, and that are debtors of them.
And although this Sunday I rested from preaching the message with which I came this time to the US: “From the end of the earth to Jerusalem,” after, of course, having proclaimed it first in Cuba; I continued in the same spirit and each time more convinced of the word of the apostle Paul when he cited Isaiah and Jeremiah in Romans 11:26b-11:27: “As it is written: there will come out of Zion a Savior, that will take away the impiety of Jacob. And this will be my pact with them, when I forgive their sins.”
And it is the most admirable, and Jewish of the synagogue-church of Coral Park, that it proclaims the only one capable of giving peace both to the Jews as well as to the Palestinians: Jesus the Messiah, who gave his live on the cross for ALL.
On Friday, November 22, we made another stop on our U.S. itinerary that we will never forget. At the invitation of the Fellowship of Hispanic Churches, we participated in a tribute paid to retired pastors. Honor to whom honor is due, or as the Scripture says in Hebrews 13:7: ̈ Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you; Consider the result of their conduct, and imitate their faith.”
This special occasion took place in Gethsemane Baptist Church in Miami at 5298 NW 7th St. The meeting was full of fond feelings. The pastor of the local church Felipe Rodriguez, moderator of the radio program “Building Lives,” which airs daily from 7 – 8 p.m, on 1450 AM, who was in an evangelistic campaign in our church in Taguayabon in 1993 while serving as pastor in Regla, blessed everyone with a few inspired words from Galatians 1:6 – 2:5 from which he set out seven truths he learned from the honorable elders: the one called by God preaches the true gospel (1:6-7); is radical (1.8-10); has a divine message ( 1:11-12); is set apart by God’s grace (1:15); is prepared by God (1:17-18); preaches with his testimony (1:24); and identifies the false brethren and does not submit to them even for a moment (2:4-5).
My wife Yoaxis and I had the blessing of greeting such worthy elders. To share the table with Dr. Marcos Antonio Ramos, who prefers to be known as “Tony” the son of “Cheo”, showed us that even if they are retired they have by no means gone away. Some of them we knew from Cuba, as in the case of those who were our pastors in my early childhood: Isabel and Esteban Estrada, as well as Dora and Leoncio Veguilla, who for years occupied the highest offices of our Association in Cuba.
I was moved to find there the widow of former Taguayabon pastor Obed Guzman, the moderator for many years of the “Baptist Hour” program in Miami that we listened to from Cuba. It was also very moving for us to to be embraced by the widow of the great Jorge Comezañas. One of the most beautiful moments was the wedding sendoff of Rafael Melian (Felo) and Miriam Sánchez Parodi, who will move to Jacksonville in January.
As a continuation of Friday, on Sunday morning I attended the first service of Northside Baptist Church Pastor Adalberto Cuellar, also retired, who baptized my parents and many other relatives in Cuba because he was pastor at our church in Taguayabon in the hardest times, just as they got up the nerve to put a stamp on our door between November 1963 and December 1964. In our area, the work of this man of God, who remained unwavering in difficult times, still survives.
Leaders like Pablo Miret, Andrés Olivares, Luis Estevez, and Nathaniel Vicens struggled and performed a work of genuine servants “washing the feet” of so many heroes and reaching the goal. I embrace them for the gracious invitation and thank them for the master’s class that was given to me that day, fantastic for my ministry in the midst of an aging country, in the most-aged province, and with the fate of lacking an entire generation of senior pastors who, like most of those present that day, had to leave Cuba in a choice that I do not judge, as a result of one of the greatest persecutions that we believers have suffered in the entire continent.
If the only benefit of my recent trip to the United States had been to find and bring back to Cuba with me the biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, it would have been worth it. As I’ve always declared, that martyr of the German church is an inspiration for my life, and thus for this “Confessing Cuban” blog.
During the recent days of detention and house arrest accompanying the shameful repressive crackdown (as we should always characterize it when mentioning the Second CELAC Summit in Havana), the work of Metaxas was my bedside book. A text like this, regardless of my circumstances, reaffirms my faith and my convictions of social justice emanating from the Bible.
In my recent reading (since several more are required) of chapter seven, “Bonhoeffer in America,” recounting the pastor’s nearly yearlong stay (1930-31) in that great country, I identified strongly because of my similar experience during the four months I just lived through. continue reading
Coincidentally we arrived in the States on almost the same day of the same month (he on the 12th, I on the 11th of September), but he ended his journey in New York on June 17 (my birthday) to return three days later to Germany. During that time the place Bonhoeffer chose to spend Christmas was not in the icy north but in our tropical Havana, where he jumped at the chance to preach to a German congregation, from the text that narrates the death of Moses on Mount Nebo.
Of all the theology Bonhoeffer had contact with in the the United States, that which most influenced him was what he encountered through his friend Albert Franklin Fisher, an African-American raised in Alabama, with whom he attended the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where he was impressed on meeting the preacher Dr. Adam Clayton Powell.
According to Metaxas “Powell combined the fire of a revivalist preacher with great intellect and social vision. He actively fought racism and did not shrink from talking about the saving power of Jesus Christ … he believed that without both you had nothing, and with both, you had it all. When you combine the two, and only then, God was present in the equation and life flowed outward.”
Bonhoeffer returned to the United States on June 12, 1939, but was in New York for only twenty-six days, during which he debated whether to take refuge there or return to Germany to confront its harsh reality, finally settling on the latter. Chapter 21, “The Big Decision,” based on the events of his life in 1939, describes this episode.
Although this was a short trip short compared to the first, Bonhoeffer wrote, while in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on his return: “The visit has come to an end. I’m glad to have been here and I’m content to return home. I may have learned more in this month than in the entire year I spent here nine years ago; at least I gained some insight for all future decisions. It is likely that this visit has had a great effect on me.”
I agree with the Wall Street Journal review of this gem of a biography: “In Bonhoeffer, Mr. Metaxas reminds us that there are forms of religion—respectable, domesticated, timid—that may end up doing the devil’s work for him.” This statement brought to mind the recent words from the authoritative voice of Dr. Marcos Antonio Ramos, author of the largest volume ever written on Protestantism in Cuba, in an interview conducted by martinoticias.com, about the thirty questions I was going to raise during my trip to the United States. The historian stated that only the voices of individual pastors or priests have been raised to challenge the regime, but not a single organized religious denomination in Cuba has dared to do so.
To our historic regret, the words of Marcos Antonio combine with those of the Wall Street Journal on Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer, to indict us, the Cuban church in general. The Journal’s words seem to describe us literally. As one of the officers of the political police active in these days of repression said: “The church in Cuba does not interest me.” As if to say “It’s not a problem for us. It’s so full of competing interests. It’s a great useful idiot.”
Christianity Today also commented on Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer, which it described as solid and masterly, saying: “During a harrowing time when many churches adopted the Nazi ideology and others buckled under pressure from the government, Bonhoeffer remained firm, if sometimes alone.” Bonhoeffer’s life and also his practical theology constitute an example to any Christian in Cuba who decides to represent the values of the Kingdom in the midst of the carnage that reigns as a result of over fifty years of misrule.
The beginning and end of yesterday were inextricably linked.
I woke up to the publication on Facebook, by my brother Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo of the recently initiated campaign, and we’ll be waging it as along as the United Nations remains occupied by regimes tied to terrorist, or which are guilty of State Terrorism.
Independently of each of the faces on this poster, my soul is touched by all the martyrs, the victims of the feudal government that reigns in Cuba. The first of them, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, nicknamed “The Student,” moved me deeply, for being the face of a friend, whose story of life and death God involved me in during the last year of his life, the irrevocable proof of which is my tweet of May 5, 2011 at 11:55 a.m., a few minutes after the he was fatally beaten.
The death of “The Student” — nicknamed this for his early imprisonment when he was only sixteen — invalidates the bad government in Cuba, not only for a seat on the UN but also for the chair that it occupies there. The worst thing is that there are many more deaths, a multitude of faces far beyond those shown on the poster; and the worst of the worst is that 148 States have become accomplices.
When I was just a kid, discriminated against in Cuba for attending the Baptist Church of my town, I could not imagine that one day I would receive the special Prince of Peace honor that is granted by the Lutheran Church on 6375 West Flager in Miami.
Every Sunday before going to Sunday school, I would listen to the program “Ayer, hoy y siempre” (Yesterday, today and forever) on radio WQBA “La Cubanísima” on 1140 AM. And Good Friday was not truly Good Friday if I did not listen to the “Sermon of the Seven Words” presented by the pastor, Reverend Lenier Gallardo, on the same radio frequency.
I had the blessing of being present when the same medal was conferred to Reverend Marcos Antonio Ramos who honors the name of the Baptists among the Cubans in exile. He gave an extraordinary sermon about the “Day of the Protestant Reformation” and later the Reverend Lenier Gallardo put the meaningful medal on his neck. What I didn’t imagine was that the next Sunday the same scene was repeated for me. It had been years since the church had given its symbolic award.
To be so close to and shake hands with two men of God as the Rev. Lenier Gallardo and Dr. Marcos Antonio Ramos are for Cuba was already enough. But being feted with the Prince of Peace medal at the hands of the saint that is the Rev. Lenier Gallardo was more than I could dream of. Receiving the blessing and the affection from these spiritual leaders of the exile strengthens my commitment and responsibility to the Gospel of Christ for Cuba. Hopefully I can reach the level of the ministries that they have achieved.
Translated by Boston College CASA (Cuban American Association) Member: Elio Andres Oliva
US churches and ministeries plus the media and secular institutions are giving us a warm welcome.
Tomorrow at 9 am we will participate in the special service dedicated to the Protestant Reform Day that will be celebrated at 9 am in the Lutheran Church “Prince of Peace” (6375 West Flager Street, Miami, FL 33144). We were invited by its pastor Lenier Gallardo; we listened to him from Cuba for many years preaching a liberating gospel through the program “Yesterday, Today and Always” or through his famous sermons of seven words each Holy Friday, through WQBA. In this special service the sermon will be provided by the Baptist pastor, also a prolific writer, journalist and historian, Marcos Antonio Ramos, and with whom we already had the honor of sharing at Miami Dade College.
Then at 11 am we wiil have the responsibility of preaching in the New Jerusalem Baptist Church at 760 SE 8 St in Hialeah, invited by its pastor Luis Estevez. We already did it at Adonai and Mi Ebenezer, invited by its pastor Moises Robaina; at Estrella de Belen, invited by its pastor Javier Sotolongo; at Bethel, invited by its pastor Gerardo Garcia and at Nazaret, invited by its pastor Noel Perez.
We have also been invited to the Baptist program of Multicultural Radio (UNAVISION RADIO), to several programs of the services of “Onward” by 1450 AM; and to the program of Life (1080 AM) and Radio Luz by 1360 AM, this last can be heard perfectly in Cuba, and we had the unforgettable opportunity of being heard by our brothers there.
To top it off, pastor Javier Sotolongo gave us the opportunity to exercise a professorship in the Miami Bible College that he directs. The live transmission of his church services permitted us to reach with our preaching many around the world, including those who had the privileged and very exclusive possibility of accessing from Cuba.
We are receiving invitations to go share with churches and ministries in other cities and states like Tampa, Atlanta, Dallas, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and Indiana. We were already in Washington DC where one of our most important stops occurred: the visit to the headquarters of the World Baptist Alliance where we were received by the unforgettable brother Raimundo Barreto who directs the Commission of Justice and Liberty there; in Oklahoma where we met courageous brothers, typical inhabitants of the not coincidentally named Bible Belt of the United States. We thank God for offering us the excellent opportunity of also proclaiming his Word on this shore where we also have found so much of Cuba present.
Contrary to predictions since 9/11 my wife and I are in USA. It has been so intense that the time to write in my blog Cubano Confesante has been null. But now is the time, in the midst of a tight agenda I will attempt to stamp a few lines where we’ll provide testimony, at least the most important parts of our stay in the nation of our admired Billy Graham.
Text of the poster: Christian Cubans also have received all the divine means Martin Luther King had at his disposition to combat evil. God willing we make use of them.
This Wednesday, August 28 marks 50 years since the famous march on Washington lead by Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) demanding the recognition of rights of African-Americans. From Cuba, I follow the example of this hero of faith. To these oppressors who constantly threaten and stalk beneath the taboo that Christians should not get involved in politics today I return to give the example of the life, work and homily of this pastor baptised as I am. And I warn you; watch out for me if God gives me the opportunity, as he had, some day to participate, too, in a march on Havana where I will express that I also have a dream, similar to that of Reverend King, “With all and for all Cubans.”