New to Refiner’s Fire? I encourage you to read the FORWARD.
Did I misunderstand Joe?
(Joe, with a big smile!) “Wanda, you and I are invited to be members of a Bible delivery team to Havana, Cuba. We leave in one month. Isn’t that exciting?
“By the way, travel arrangements must be finalized by early next week. Team leaders must know whether you and I will take part.” (Little did we know, because of his new role, Joe would be team leader on this important trip.)
As much as I wanted to go, my head was spinning. How can I do this? It was clearly out of my safe zone. Adding to my stress: Because of the time required, my decision had to be made the very next day! And how might my husband look if I decided not to make what might be a once-in –a-lifetime opportunity.
“Father, I need you! Please be with me… now. My mind needs your strength.”
For someone who lives with 24/7 terror, how could my team members trust me?
We would be in Cuba for only one week. What about our children? Our family lived over a thousand miles away, hardly convenient on such short notice. Only God could work this out. Before we knew it, people in our new church were told about our trip to Cuba and the need for care of our three children (ages 8, 10, and 11). God had worked it out; grandparents of our children’s friends volunteered.
Our trip was scheduled during the short period while the travel ban was lifted by the U.S. State Department. Americans could travel round-trip from Miami to Havana. Not knowing how long the ban would last, the decision to act as soon as possible was made by international ministry leaders.
During our flight, in an old two-engine bi-plane, I peered out the small window at the ocean below talking to God, “Father, Cuba? There is no turning around. Please be with me!” Even though I was there, I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Me who lived in constant terror was about to land in Cuba.
The plane landed. With only 100 yards to go, the plane ran over two sets of train tracks. (Train tracks?!) We couldn’t believe it!
We claimed our luggage (two bags for each of us; besides Bibles, Cuban believers also requested clothing). To keep smuggled items safe, we had packed them in the bottom of our four large suitcases.
We discovered a room filled with confusion. All custom forms were still in Spanish, adding to the confusion of what next-steps we had yet to take.
“I will gladly help you fill out your customs forms,”
a friendly English voice called out to us.
With this lady’s practical help, we were the first of the group to complete the forms. Mistakenly, we relaxed, but only for a few moments.
With smiles on our faces, we clearly heard the same lady’s voice say, “Follow me, I’ll check you through.” (What that meant to us, we would be the first team to clear customs. In our minds, we were the initial “guinea pigs” to experience this scary task.)
Terror ran through my body. What if she found the Bibles?
As she walked behind the customs counter, her demeanor changed. And suddenly, in an unexpected stern voice, she ordered Joe, “Put your suitcase on the counter.”
Joe lifted the first of our nearly crippling suitcases for inspection. I prayed.
“OPEN IT!” came the severe order.
He unzipped the suitcase, lifting the cover. In clear sight, all the Bibles came into immediate view. Each one, as we just realized, having shifted to the top in our four suitcases.
In instances like that, the mind goes crazy, “Oh No! What do we do?” In the same moment I heard a scream from the back of the counter.
“CLOSE THAT SUITCASE!” I looked at the “nice” lady as she threw one of her arms over her eyes. At that moment, we knew God was with us. It was as though a bright light was shining in the lady’s eyes.
She then looked at me shouting angrily, “Show me your suitcase!”
“I don’t know which suitcase is mine.” I responded truthfully.
“Just get out of here. Get out of here!” she shouted. Without looking in the three remaining bags, each filled with God’s Word, she waved her hand pointing to the exit door.
We walked out to the bus, amazed at what had just happened. We were the first ones on the bus, wondering how the rest of our team had done. Praise God – everyone got through. Not one Bible was taken.
The days to come were filled with eye opening experiences. Stories I had heard became reality. As God showed me the actual terror that others live through, He kept my internal terror at bay.
God provided all the strength I needed. It doesn’t mean the internal terror was gone.
In 1983, Joe returned to Cuba, but all his Bibles were taken. He was told he could pick them up when he left the country. He chose to leave them there, keeping the claim tag with government confiscated Bibles clearly marked as having been kept. Hopefully those Bibles got into the hands of deserving Christians.
My CHALLENGE to you —
Grab a cup of coffee … imagining you and I are chatting.
How does someone who lives with internal terror walk into a situation of greater sure-fire fear?
Believe me, it isn’t something I would have ever chosen to do. This was something I really believed God had called me to do.
I take no credit. The only way I was able to take the trip to Cuba was because the Triune God gave me the strength to do so.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Is God asking you to do something, but you don’t believe you can do it?
He calls us to experiences that seem impossible. Our response shows us how much trust we have in the Triune God.
- Don’t throw in the towel.
- Ask the Triune God for a greater measure of faith.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with a renewed trust like you have never experienced before.
- Cry out to the Father – asking for strength.
- Be vulnerable. Ask others to pray for you.
- You may not feel God’s strength until you are in the midst of the experience.
I’m Alone, Yet Not Alone with lyrics by Joni Eareckson Tada
If you want to do further study, read Numbers 13 and Deuteronomy 1, the story of the Israelites rebellion when they didn’t trust God to give them the land of Canaan. Deuteronomy 1 gives details you don’t get in Numbers 13, convicting reminders of what happens when we don’t trust God enough to go where He calls us.
Next Page: I”ll Always Remember CUBA!