New to Refiner’s Fire? I encourage you to read the FORWARD.
The view from our hotel was stunning.
I remember walking out to the protective wall and looking at the beauty of God’s creation. Then I turned and looked back toward the city and felt the oppression.
I remembered Joe telling me after returning from Eastern Europe that there was a sense of oppression that lifted as they crossed the border back into Western Europe.
In the coming days, we would hear personal stories of oppression. We were on an organized tour which included strangers as part of our group. I especially remember a couple from Europe. They had no connections in Cuba and they arrived with an exceedingly different picture of Cuba. They thought Cuba was splendid – in every way .
We traveled together on our “pre-arranged tour.” While visiting Castro’s elegant dining room, touring a mental hospital and walking city streets, the Christians we had met were heavy on our hearts. We were taken to a resort for an overnight visit. While I stood on the tennis court, I looked around and became curious about a road that seemed to wind closer to the sea.
“Joe, our “guard” isn’t around. Let’s walk down that road.” As we rounded the corner, I was amazed at the beautiful mansions being built right along the sea. The reality of Communism. Those in control live in opulence while the average person can barely make it.
One evening, after our tour ended for the day, we met a cab driver who asked, “Would anyone like to take another tour, but with me?” While it was risky, after praying about it, we believed God had brought us to Havana for a purpose and agreed this oppportunity was His doing.
A few of us jumped into his cab and listened as he shared stories about the real Cuba. He took us to an area where men stood on the corner drinking beer. “These men are ‘working’, or so the government wants us to believe. But there is no work for them or for thousands more! This is how regime leaders tell the world everyone works in Cuba.” We asked the cabbie whether he felt safe sharing what he told us. We also mentioned the couple on the tour with us. “We can tell who’s safe, and people like them who are not!”
I was amazed at the lines; everywhere we went, people stood in line.
NO ONE COMPLAINED. Why? It only brought trouble to their doors.
This is a picture I took of people standing in line to buy shoes. The line went down the street and around the corner.
I thought about being in the post office, about six blocks from our home, just the week before. People were there to purchase stamps for annual Christmas cards, grumbling as they stood in line. This became my “ah-ha” moment. If there is hope for change, we grumble. Where there is no hope, you stand in silence.
One afternoon as a friend and I waited for a bus in a park in downtown Havana, we began chatting with the woman who stood beside us. I knew enough Spanish to muddle through along with a lot of hand motions so we could talk.
I had this sudden strange sense that we were standing in a bubble, that no one outside our bubble were even aware we existed. This feeling emboldened me, so I said in my broken Spanish, “Would you like a Bible?”
“A Bible? A Bible in Cuba? There are no Bibles in Cuba. They came to our home at the beginning of revolution and took all of our Bibles.”
“My friend has a Spanish Bible in her purse,” I explained. “If you would like to have the Bible, we can give it to you.”
She began crying, “Yes, yes, I want Bible.”
We looked around and quickly transferred the Bible from one purse to the other.
God gave us a little comic relief in the midst of this. My friend had kleenex too and she gave the woman a kleenex to wipe the tears from her face. The woman accepted it, used it, and then looked strangely at us, “It smells? It smells good, but it smells.” A new experience for her.
I hope I see her at home with our Father one day.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to live where it is against the law to own a Bible.
My CHALLENGE to you —
Grab a cup of coffee … imagine you and I are chatting.
As God calls you to go out to minister to others when you feel so broken, so weak, so lost, don’t let the enemy fool you into thinking you can’t do it.
Heal us, Emmanuel, here we are, We long to feel Thy touch
Deep wounded souls, to Thee we fly, O Savior hear our cry
Our faith is feeble, we confess, We faintly trust Thy word; But will You pity us the less? Be that far from You Lord!
Remember him who once applied, With trembling for relief;
“Lord, I believe,” with tears he cried; “O help my unbelief!”
She, too, who touched you in the press And healing virtue stole, Was answered, “Daughter, go in peace; Thy faith has made thee whole.”
Like her, with hopes and fears we come To touch You if we may;
O send us not despairing home; Send none unhealed away.
A Song for the Weak and Broken sung by Indelible Grace
I urge you! Cry out to the Triune God for the desire, wisdom and strength to walk into the ministry He gives you in the midst of your pain.