One Last Thought on Cuba

When I was in Cuba a few weeks ago, I heard a statement that I hadn’t heard before in my whole life!  A Cuban pastor told me, “All the churches in Cuba are growing!”

I’m quite certain I’ve never heard this phrase before about any other nation, not even about a group of churches in any nation.  My face probably looked shocked or surprised at the least, because the pastor went on to say, “Yes, there is this one region alone that has 75 churches and we’re planting 100 new ones!”

That astounded me!  I couldn’t help but wonder out loud how they do this in a country where they receive no financial support from the outside.   He informed me that they start the churches in little house churches. And that’s just one region of Cuba.

But it’s not just the churches that are thriving, the Christians are thriving, too! I had the opportunity to speak at a gathering. During the worship, there was a tremendous time of celebration. Half the church members came to the front of the room and they were dancing and celebrating and worshipping.

There was so much joy in the faces of these people, and as I told you in my last blog, these dear people live in the midst of horrible economic oppression—and yet their hearts and faith are thriving, and their churches are growing.

We can find similar signs of joyous revival again and again in the persecuted church, in China, for example.  It also happened in the Early Church. Persecution brings about sincere love for Jesus, a passion for God, and as a result, the churches grow.

As I think back on what I saw in Cuba, I can’t help but think about how many American pastors struggle and wish their church would grow… they wish their church would catch on fire for Jesus… they wish their young people would turn to Jesus and serve Him, but they’re not.

It makes you think. Who are the people with real wealth? Who is the rich man, the pastor whose church and people are thriving, or the pastor who has all kinds of money, but whose people are spiritually poor and empty.

Given this comparison, I can completely understand why the Cuban pastor visiting America would say, “I’ve got to get back to Cuba. I’m going where the ‘real riches’ are.”

My friends, the church in Cuba has something that we desperately need in American churches.

Here in America, we don’t know which direction our country is going. It may be that we are on the path to becoming a communist country where Christians, more and more, are alienated and persecuted. There are some terrible things happening to Christians and churches even now in America, things that are allowed within the legal system.

Please pray for revival in America, that the church and its people here at home will rise from its complacency. Sometimes in the past God has used difficult times to awaken the soul of our nation, to start waves of revival that caused many to grow spiritually and have a more resilient faith.  Almost every single recorded time when there’s persecution in the church, there is an outbreak of revival. God certainly stirred the hearts of His people when 9/11 happened.

Persecution separates the sheep from the goats, the boys from the men, and people who are serious about serving Christ from the Sunday “whatever” Christians.

Please pray for Cuba, for the pastors who are serving the Body of Christ in that nation. And pray that America would experience the “true riches” of faith, the virtue of sacrifice and of laying our lives down for the glory of the Lord. Pray that we won’t be sidetracked by the things that look like blessings, but that distract us from truly following Jesus.

May we truly experience the joy that I witnessed in the lives of the young and old alike in Cuba as the gospel is preached in America.

 

P.S.

Next week, I’m going to be sharing with you from my new book,  RESILIENT! I want to show you how you can have the kind of faith that can stand up to life’s most challenging situations! 

My Recent Trip to Cuba

I love this simple little verse, Proverbs 24:32 - “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” Isn’t that a good word?

Sometimes, with so much going on around us, it can be very easy to just blast through life and never process what we are seeing around us. That’s why the writer of Proverbs exhorts us to be observant and to learn. Important things are happening all around us. We just have to keep our eyes open and let God speak to us about what we are seeing and hearing.

As you might imagine, in my ministry travels, I’ve been blessed with many such opportunities to see and to learn, and I want to share with you some observations from a trip I made just a couple of weeks ago to Cuba.

This happened to be my second trip to this island nation; the first trip was 20-plus years ago when the ministry was still located in Tulsa. I have to tell you, Cuba still looked much the same. In fact, if you’ve seen photos of Cuba, it looks much the way it did 60 years or 70 years. It’s fascinating. The cars you see are all 1940s and 1950s cars. They are everywhere, hundreds, thousands of them, as well as Russian cars in shapes and sizes you’ve never seen before, and they are all old.

The first observation I want to share is about the economy. Nearly everyone works for the government- between 95-98% of the population. Cuba is a communist country and every business is owned by the government. Every hotel is owned by the government. Everything is owned by the government. So if you have a job, you work for the government. What you will immediately understand is that the government pays badly and people are very poor.

Public transportation is virtually nonexistent. The most popular public transportation is hitchhiking. One of the pastors told me that he hitchhikes everywhere. He doesn’t own a car. If he’s traveling a short distance he rides a bike, but if he’s going far he hitchhikes—and so does everyone else. Taxis, by the way, are horse-drawn carriages. You will see horse-drawn carriages carrying eight people at a time to work.

In such a culture, hardship and misery abound. Naturally, there is no air conditioning. People stand outside their homes seeking respite from the tropical island heat. But there’s nowhere to cool off, there’s nothing to do, there’s no escape from the misery.

Now let me share with you some of the processing I did—and what God showed me.

First, the conditions in Cuba are the fruit of godless ideology. Before the revolution, Cuba was basically a Catholic country, and though they tried they couldn’t wipe out all of the “God influence.” Most of the cities are named after something in the Bible. They couldn’t change the whole identity of the country, but this godless ideology destroys the worth of human beings. It destroys the human spirit all the while saying, “Humans are the most important things on earth; we don’t need God.”

Second, in the midst of the misery, there is joy. I saw parents walking with their children, holding their hands on the way to school, or carrying them to school. There are things you simply can’t take away from people—such as the love of a parent for a child. I watched a couple who were either married or romantically involved walking hand-in-hand, whispering sweet nothings as they walked through the midst of misery. They still had a sense of joy.

I couldn’t help but think about how easily distracted we can be with the challenges of our lives here at home. We all know people facing hardships. Families and friends have financial issues. There can be ministry challenges. But really, friends, compared to our brothers and sisters in Cuba, we have NO PROBLEMS! Even in Cuba the people have found ways to have joy. It reminds me of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….”

My third and final observation for now: God has a plan for Cuba. I met a number of pastors in Cuba. I had met our host pastor before and he’s been to the states a couple of times. Some pastors get a special kind of visa where they can come to the states and preach, and then they have to go back. Not surprisingly, many of these pastors have been offered pastorates here in the U.S. because they are great preachers; they are full of life and passion.

This particular pastor told us that he had been offered churches in America of 1,000-2,000 people, but that he refused them because he knows that God has a plan for his nation and he wants to be there when God’s plan unfolds. Isn’t that amazing? I love that!

Just think-this man lives in a small house he built with his own hands and with the help of a few members of his church. It has a little kitchen area, a little front room area, and they built a little upstairs area for their kids. They have no car, because even a used beat up old car costs about $30,000 U.S. dollars! And he’s willingly chosen—like so many other Cuban pastors— to stay there!

This makes me think of Mother Theresa who said: “It’s impossible to love without sacrifice.” As followers of Christ, we are called to choose to sacrifice.

I hope you’ll take time to meditate on these words as you observe your world. If you let Him, God will teach you priceless lessons to live by!

Thank You Letter from Alumnus

Just recently, the following letter showed up in my mailbox.  What a wonderful surprise!  Sherry, a Teen Mania Alumnus from the 1990’s took the time to write and share the impact Teen Mania had and continues to have on her life, marriage, teenage children going on Global Expedition trips, call to the mission field and the beginning of orphanages in Nepal and the Philippines.  It blesses my heart to know God is continuing to change nations from the vision birthed in our hearts nearly 3 decades ago.

As we continue to do all we can to spark teens to live their lives for Christ and change the world, I am even more resolved to do my small part and let Him do the rest!!!  Read more about Sherry and her family’s life on the mission field below.  You will be encouraged by God’s faithfulness.

Dear Ron Luce,

This is actually the second letter I have written to you. I wrote a letter to you 17 years ago, asking you to send a Teen Mania team to Nepal, where my husband and I were serving as missionaries with YWAM, and someone from Teen Mania wrote me back and the first team from Teen Mania to Nepal was sent out to work with us the following year. My oldest daughter had just been born in Nepal a month before the team arrived. She is now 16 years old, and just left today to go to Haiti with Global Expeditions. My 13-year old daughter left yesterday to go to Peru with Global Expeditions.

I went with Teen Mania twice, when I was 20 and 21 years old, and served as a Missionary Adviser. After graduating from CFNI, I joined YWAM and have been serving with them for over 18 years – 1 year in the US, 8 years in Nepal and 9 years in the Philippines.  I met my husband on the mission field in Nepal and he is a Filipino. We now have 3 beautiful daughters who love Jesus. We were able to start an orphanage in Nepal and also in the Philippines. I am currently the director of Destiny’s Promise Home for Children and we have rescued over 65 children in the last 3 1/2 years and finished building a 3-story orphanage (in the Philippines). My husband runs the SEED Project Asia, a ministry that has trained thousands of church planters throughout Asia over the last 14 years in livelihood projects that help sustain their ministries and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel in unreached people groups throughout Asia.

I wanted to write to thank you for the impact that you and your organization had on my life when I was a youth. It was because of Teen Mania that I am on the mission field. It was during my first trip with Teen Mania that I learned about unreached people groups and knew the Lord was calling me to reach those who have never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel. It was also because of Teen Mania that I ended up marrying the man I did.  It was on my first missions trip with Teen Mania that I heard a teaching about not dating, but “waiting” on God to let Him lead me to the right person to marry. I made a commitment that summer to stop dating and just wait for the Lord to speak to me when the right person came along. Two years later, the Lord spoke to the man who would become my husband and I on the same morning during our quiet times that we were going to marry and we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary this week.

My 2 teenage daughters and I love to watch the ATF videos online in the Philippines. I just wanted to let you know the impact you have had on my life and thank you for everything that you do. I was married in a church in Michigan called Jackson Church of God, and they just got a new pastor a few months ago named Jim Morrison. He said that he helped to start Teen Mania with you back in the 80′s after he graduated from CFNI. I don’t know if you remember him or not since it was almost 30 years ago, but I thought it was so amazing to meet him and share with him the impact that Teen Mania had on my life.

I look forward to meeting you and your wife one day, whether on earth or in heaven, to personally thank you, as well as all of those who work at Teen Mania, for their hard work and let them know that there are so many people out there that you have impacted like myself that you may not even be aware of who have taken the lessons you have taught and live out every day and allowed those lessons to change their lives and impact the nations for Christ.

God Bless you and all those who are working with Teen Mania Ministries!!! I have put links below to our websites and videos if you would like to know more about who we are and what we are doing in Asia. If you find time to watch the videos (they are between 1-3 minutes in length), please keep in mind that it is because of you and Teen Mania that these ministries are existing today. So thank you again!!!!

Blessings,

Sherry Asprec

TY Letter Alumni Sherry Asprec

www.destinyspromise.org

www.asiaseedproject.org

Destiny’s Promise: https://vimeo.com/96753626

Agaton’s Story: https://vimeo.com/95441984

Kimberly’s Story: https://vimeo.com/95441985

SEED: https://vimeo.com/96251279

 

It is a blessing to receive testimonies from those who have been impacted by Teen Mania Ministries.  After 28 years in ministry, we are fortunate to be positively influencing two generations of World Changers! Do you have a story of how your life has been impacted by Teen Mania? If so, we would love to hear it!

Email: development@teenmania.org.

Ron Luce Goes to Guatemala After 25 Years!

Did you know that Teen Mania’s Global Expeditions actually began in Guatemala?
In 1987 my wife Katie and I led our very first group of teenagers onto the mission field of Guatemala, believing their eyes would be opened to the deep need for God’s Word to be shared in other cultures the same way we had witnessed on our own 6-month trip all around the world just a short time before that.
We could never have guessed that this first trip with 60 teenagers would be the starting point for Global Expeditions and that after 25 years we would see over 67,000 missionaries make a difference in more than 69 different countries.
Guatemala is special to me because it’s where this all really started.  Global Expeditions has sent other leaders and other missionaries to Guatemala since that first trip, but Katie and I have not had the opportunity to return…until now.
This summer, we are excited to lead another trip to the birthplace of Global Expeditions and we’d like to extend you a personal invitation to come with us.

Baby Steps of Change

It’s been said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, I know this to be false. As a matter of fact, this mindset does nothing but keep you imprisoned. It saps your desire to pursue permanent change in your life in Christ. We basically say that our problems are too big.

Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com

Global Expeditions: Village Campaign – Update!

Global Expeditions: Village Campaign – Click To See the Update!
We want to thank you for what has been given so far! Your heart for leaving a legacy for our future missionaries is overwhelming. Click to see an update of our progress so far from Emmie Harper, Director of Global Expeditions.

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Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com

Global Expeditions: Village Campaign – Update!

Global Expeditions: Village Campaign – Click To See the Update!
We want to thank you for what has been given so far! Your heart for leaving a legacy for our future missionaries is overwhelming. Click to see an update of our progress so far from Emmie Harper, Director of Global Expeditions.

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Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com

Camping in Africa – Africa:Hope

AFRICA:HOPE – CLICK TO WATCH HOW G.E. WILL REMEMBER AFRICA IN APRIL
Can we go camping?
A fairly simple question, yet how serious and divisive it became at my house growing up.  The mere mention of the word “camping” would evoke an icy look of pure horror from my mother as she contemplated days in the wilderness—days spent entirely without electricity in its various forms (hot water, ovens, hairdryers, etc.) and accompanied by insects of indeterminable size and number (that was undoubtedly the worst part).

Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com

Camping in Africa – Africa:Hope

AFRICA:HOPE – CLICK TO WATCH HOW G.E. WILL REMEMBER AFRICA IN APRIL
Can we go camping?
A fairly simple question, yet how serious and divisive it became at my house growing up.  The mere mention of the word “camping” would evoke an icy look of pure horror from my mother as she contemplated days in the wilderness—days spent entirely without electricity in its various forms (hot water, ovens, hairdryers, etc.) and accompanied by insects of indeterminable size and number (that was undoubtedly the worst part).

Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com

I’d like a venti iced skinny no-whip pumpkin spice latte with…

I’ve never quite caught on to the whole Starbucks thing—perhaps because my self-control (or lack thereof) is such that any drink which tastes like liquid candy is gone so rapidly that the price seems higher than I can justify.
But it does make me think.  Have you noticed that holding a Starbucks cup (especially the clear ones with a green straw attached) has become almost an article of clothing?  It’s like we get up in the morning, put on our clothes, add whatever accessories we want, and then pick up the Starbucks cup as the final touch.  And from the point of picking it up, it does not leave our hands for the remainder of the day.
Personally, my beverage of choice is Diet Coke.

Read the rest of this post on GlobalExpeditions.com