A few weeks ago a group of 19 folks from First Baptist Church in Columbus went to Cuba on a missions trip. What often happens…you go to be a blessing and come back having received the greater blessing. This trip was no different. It’s the focus of this week’s News 3 Neighbors story.
The home base for the Columbus delegation was the town of Alamar, about fifteen minutes east of Havana. The group traveled there on January 24th and returned on February first.
In describing those who hosted them, Howie Hooper, the missions director for First Baptist, says, “The Cuban people are just full of joy, very friendly, very happy, and so they welcomed us into their country and into their homes.”
Hooper saw first hand the powerful role the home plays in Cuba. “When the people and religion is oppressed, it flourishes,” says Hooper. “And that’s what has happened in Cuba. They have actually come up with over 100,000 house churches throughout the country because they were not allowed to meet in churches. Through these home churches they were able to share and spread the gospel throughout the country.”
This was Linda Hyles’ second trip to Cuba. She helped out with the medical team which saw over 300 patients during their visit. But what really gripped Linda’s heart was working with the little ones. She says, “The children, they’re the same everywhere. And they just want to be loved and they want to be talked to and they want to be played with and they want a piece of candy. They’re just like my grandkids.”
It was Mike Helms’ first journey to Cuba. He helped train their church leaders using his unique style of teaching. “When you encourage people to learn and you encourage people to learn a different way and see the light come on in their eyes and in their hearts…wow, we’ve never seen it that way before…when you see the excitement in them, that encourages you as well,” said Helms.
Pastor Jimmy Elder conducted a baptismal service in the Carribean to cap off the missions trip. For Howie, the trip was also a chance to learn something from the Cubans. “It was impressive to see how they depend on the Lord so much,” says Howie. “And so often we don’t do that. We don’t have to depend on the Lord. But these folks truly depend on the Lord and that was a beautiful thing to see.”