SHARED ENCOURAGEMENT: Team enjoys spirit of community during visit with Cuban pastors

0
1172

Local pastor Brett Crump visited this church, shown during the closing song of the service, during a recent trip to Cuba.

The table covering was a labor of love, a hand-stitched work, completed a few stitches here and there at a time over many hours over six months.

It could have generated some extra income at the local market. But the young woman in Cuba wanted the Crump family to have it.

“It’s beautiful,” Brett Crump said. “It made me tear up.”

Crump, senior pastor of New Palestine Bible Church, traveled to Cuba in February with a small group that included a member of the New Palestine church and another friend. During their time there, they met several pastors in the area and spent time with them, offering encouragement and, at their invitation, sharing testimony with their congregations.

‘SOME BREATHING ROOM’

Crump met Larry Frisby in 2021, when The Nail Benders brought teams of volunteers to New Palestine for five weeks from late May to early July that year. They built an addition to the New Palestine Bible Church building at County Roads 600 West and 300 South. Frisby had pastored a church in Kentucky for whom The Nail Benders had built a building. By then retired, he and his wife were among the volunteers who came to New Palestine to work on the church.

Through Nail Benders work, Frisby met people who had traveled to Cuba. After that interaction, he befriended some pastors in Cuba and began to connect them with American churches willing to offer monthly financial support.

The average income in Cuba is $30-$40 a month. Pastors often live on a smaller income that their churches can afford. Partnering churches who offer $70 monthly see all of it go to a Cuban congregation — $50 for the pastor and his family, and $20 toward expenses such as an electronic keyboard or a portable sound system.

“It keeps them from having to figure out ways to feed their family,” Frisby said. “It gives them some breathing room to do the ministry God’s called them to do.”

Crump saw Frisby invest in his congregation’s building and heard Frisby’s passion for helping Cuban pastors. Crump hoped that someday, when the church could offer added mission support, it would help Frisby’s initiative. The New Palestine church later began supporting two pastors in Cuba.

“They said our support was like oxygen to them — it was lifegiving and helped sustain them,” Crump said.

Later, Frisby talked about an upcoming trip to Cuba and invited Crump to come along and meet the two pastors. When a couple at the New Palestine church heard Frisby mention the trip one Sunday when he was guest speaker, they pulled Crump aside and told him he was going — that they would pay for it.

SHARING HIS STORY

Bill Brook is not a pastor by trade. He works in maintenance for a healthcare company. But he has compassion for people and volunteered to go on the trip with Crump. During this trip, Brook would help get a toilet working again, and he would share the story of his spiritual journey with people in several churches.

Brook referred to a Bible story about a invalid man, whom Jesus asks if he wants to be made well, as he told his own story of ways he once used drugs, alcohol and sex to deal with life.

“Sharing my testimony with the interpreter, it lasted about 15 minutes,” he said. “I condensed about 20 years of my past life.”

Yet after one service, “A couple of gentlemen just gave me a bear hug and said they appreciated my testimony,” he said. He felt perhaps they could relate to his story; “I think they had the same kind of … sin in their life that they were released from.”

‘ATMOSPHERE OF JOY’

For four nights of the trip, the small group split into four even smaller ones. Speaker-interpreter teams traveled to a different congregation each night, visiting 16 churches total over those four nights, and a 17th that Sunday.

Each church had a Friend Day event. People of the congregation would invited friends and family to the event, where an American would be the guest speaker sharing a testimony and everyone would eat together afterward. Group members estimate more than 160 people total made spiritual commitments over these few days.

“Their friends get to hear that message from somebody else from a different country confirming the reality of salvation…,” Frisby said. “It helps the church grow exponentially, and it creates an atmosphere of joy and fellowship with the food and everything.”

‘TO TRY TO ENCOURAGE’

Thayne Maguire was another speaker sharing testimony at the Friend Days. He was the electrician for New Palestine Bible Church’s building project, and when someone else couldn’t go on the trip, he was interested in going. He plays the guitar and sings, so for the trip he learned to sing the hymn “Jesus Paid It All” in Spanish.

Maguire said he struggled when he was younger, trying to kill himself a few times as a teen. He wanted to share his story with the people, including the hope he had found.

“The God who made everything made me. The same is true (for them),” he said. “… It was cool to just be able to try to encourage them … and also, they were a big encouragement to me,” he said. “… It was cool to hear how God had worked in their lives…

“They were pretty receptive to that message of hope.”

He said he will also remember the warm welcome of the pastors and the visit he had with one pastor and his family.

“You could tell they really cared about their neighbors and those around them,” he said. “Their graciousness and their joy — that was a real blessing to be around them.”

‘RICHER IN COMMUNITY’

Crump would joke to audiences that, even though he’d had two years of Spanish in high school and would offer brief greetings in the language, that his Spanish is very little and very bad. And they would laugh.

Still, as he talked to people in settings that seated 50-60 or 200-300, as he gave away clothes and items people of his church had sent with him, and as he talked with and encouraged pastors, he felt the warmth of shared fellowship.

“They have so much less, materially, than we do. That’s humbling,” he said. “But I think they’re richer in community in general.”

He hopes to return and perhaps to bring a group with him in the future.

“They’re people I want to see again,” he said. “Part of my heart is back there.”

FIND OUT MORE

Learn more about sponsoring a pastor, or about future trips, at freedomchurch.us. Select “Great Commission Min.” from the options across the top.