Whenever Pastor Arnaldo leaves his home, he prays for purity and holiness to clothe him like a suit. As part of the growing house church movement in Cienfuegos, Cuba, Arnaldo walks expectantly to the Life Principles Conference hosted by In Touch Ministries. The training’s purpose is to equip local pastors with much-needed resources for their ministries.
As Arnaldo makes his way down cobblestone roads shared by horse-drawn carts and vintage cars, he passes an elaborate Santeria shrine set up in the open door of someone’s house. With Cuban tourism on the rise, Santeria displays are celebrated for their cultural appeal to foreigners. For local believers, however, they are a source of lamentation. “It makes me want to cry,” Arnaldo says.
There among the concrete buildings plastered with photos of national heroes and political catchphrases, Arnaldo finally reaches the entrance to one of the oldest Baptist churches in the city. Built in the early 1900s, its tall brown doors display a single inscription: Adoramos solo a Dios—we worship God only. Inside, In Touch instructors take turns speaking to the 20 pastors in attendance, ranging in age from their early 20s to late 50s. The Life Pricinples Conference is offered to both men and women, but here in Cienfuegos it’s only men today. Each of the sessions explores a different Life Principle topic of Dr. Stanley—including Intimacy with God, Prayer, and Adversity. For each talking point, the instructors unpack the rich meaning of relevant scripture passages while Arnaldo and the other pastors listen intently, leaning forward in their wooden pews.
At the end of the training, Arnaldo stands in line with the rest of his brothers in ministry to receive a certificate of completion. Their parting gift, courtesy of In Touch’s donating partners, is a backpack containing a Life Principles Bible, a Messenger and SD card, as well as an electronic tablet filled with discipleship tools for personal study and sermon preparation. In an area where the internet is limited and books are expensive, these are the first Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and encyclopedias some of these men have ever possessed. “We were like children with new toys,” Arnaldo said with a smile.
In an area where the internet is limited and books are expensive, these are the first Bible commentaries, dictionaries, and encyclopedias some of these men have ever possessed.
Beyond the physical ministry materials they received, the conference itself left a mark on these men. When the host pastor opened up the floor for individual testimonies, Pastor Arnaldo stood almost immediately. Making his way to the podium, he explained that one of the great desires he has is to become a man of high spiritual caliber. This training, he shared, has given him the biblical reference points he needs to apply to his own life, as well as convey to others. “Before, I believed,” says Arnaldo, “now, I know.” With more religious tolerance in Cuba than in years past, he hopes that Christians will not fall into complacency due to increased freedom. Instead, he prays that they will become even more bold in sharing the gospel. “I believe that this is the moment to win Cuba for Christ.”