INTERNATIONAL SITUATION REPORTS
Cuba - Update on a Dire Situation
from Ron Pearce
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The economic and social situation in Cuba is worsening by the day. It appears that very little of this rapidly developing story is making the news, but in reality the conditions in Cuba are approaching the current state of the economy in Venezuela. Here is a brief summary of the latest, as forwarded to us by national church planting leadership in Cuba.
Current Economic Situation
Cuba is rationing food, cooking oil, and now fuel. The Cuban president acknowledged the disturbing situation in an elaborate and passionate statewide speech given on National Rebellion Day, July 26, 2019. But this growing crisis has been quite evident to everyone in the country for years. It has now, however, reached a breaking point.
- Food is increasingly in short supply, except in the resorts.
o Food is especially scarce in the cities. If available, prices are extremely high. One leading pastor told us: “They bring some chicken each week or even every two weeks, which is only available in a few stores in the city, and it is gone very quickly to people who live close to the store.”
o In the countryside, where most church planters live, they don’t even have this opportunity. Stores are not supplied with pork because people can’t afford it.
o It appears that resorts remain mostly unaffected by the food shortage, likely because these are Cuba’s last lifeline of foreign currency.
- The collapse of the transportation industry, especially in rural areas
o While food remains hard to come by, the transportation crisis is worse. Fuel is scarce and expensive. The transportation system is all but collapsing, especially in rural areas.
o Factories and businesses have no fuel for their trucks to transport their workers; employees have been told to stay home if they can.
o 50% or more of private trucks used for bus transportation are parked by the owners who say they cannot afford to operate them with the price of fuel so high. Hundreds of people wait at bus stops for a bus that arrives hours late or not at all, making them late for work or unable to get there.
o Lines snake for several blocks at gas stations where the people try to obtain a small amount of fuel. Police are keeping a close watch for any kind of disturbance. Most gas stations are only allowed to sell 20 liters of fuel per day per customer, while some stations have nothing at all to offer. Many who own vehicles have parked them indefinitely. They cannot afford the price of the fuel and what they can obtain will not take them far.
o Fuel restrictions have further exasperated the food shortage due to limited vehicles available to deliver food.
o The president issued a decree that Cubans must show solidarity during these “rough times,” and anyone with a vehicle on the road must stop and pick up other people who flag them down. Reports are circulating that police are stopping cars and trucks and forcing drivers to pick up strangers.
o All interprovincial buses have been taken out of service.
- Government enforced power blackouts
o The president announced the necessity of preserving electricity with scheduled outages that are forthcoming.
o Fuel that normally is used for transportation is being diverted to power generation systems. The government will give precedence to using this fuel to provide families with electricity to cook, as well as providing street lighting in an attempt to prevent looting and vandalism at night.
o Most families in Cuba cook with electricity. But due to the shortages, many have now converted over to wood for cooking, which includes government run bakeries.
Current Spiritual Situation
The good news in this ongoing saga is that the Church continues to grow rapidly! The national workers in the countryside, despite the hardships from food, transportation, and electricity are continually seeing people turn to Christ.
Another bright spot is the chaplaincy program that is running smoothly, despite the current economic difficulties. Our national partners continue to minister to prisoners and their families with significant positive effects. And they share testimonies, like these, of God’s power to transform lives:
“Malachi Dads” is a program designed to reconcile fathers who are in prison, with their estranged children. Inmates who had no relationship with their children or spouses prior to or during their incarceration, report that after completing the program they are in touch with their families and asking forgiveness. Families are visiting the jails for the first time in years. Mothers and children are attending church and thriving in their faith because of the change they see in their spouses behind bars. Currently, there are 35 inmates in Havana alone waiting to be baptized!
Such is the case with two brothers from Las Tunas province. Both of their families were restored by God’s love. Some female prisoners have also accepted the Lord and have been water baptized after finishing the program. They are now committed to living a life of faith in order to impact and influence their children, even from behind bars.
I was trying to find a way to close this report on an optimistic and hopeful note. On the surface, the situation appears to be rather bleak. My daughter Charis then reminded me of the passage in Matthew 6:25-26 (NASB) that refers to “Jesus’ Cure for Anxiety.”
“For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
This Scripture clearly reminds us as to how God will supply His children in Cuba—His little sparrows—with what they need to survive! But the reality also is that on many occasions, it is the Body of Christ outside of these areas of need, which He transforms into ‘bird feeders.’ In other words, those believers who live in areas of great blessing and supply are provided with the glorious opportunity of coming to the aid of other brothers and sisters in Christ in times of calamity.
Please pray for Cuba as a whole, and in particular this part of the Body that continues to suffer today.
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