A tall muscular Cuban pastor was sitting in front of me telling his story. He had been my student in three different ISUM seminars and was ready to graduate.
I had a size 46 sport coat that some dear friends had given us to donate to a needy pastor. I thought it might fit our ISUM chaplain. He tried it on. It was too large. He suggested another one of our students, Roberto. He said “You should see where he lives. He is so poor. I know he can use it. This past June I took a group of people from my church to do an evangelism event in his town. We took food and things to give away and did children’s ministry. And we held a campaign.
He got out his camera and started to show me the clowns, the church, and the little shack Roberto lived in. “Look where his wife has to cook” he said. It was just a wooden lean-to. The sky could be seen through the boards.
Later that afternoon after our ISUM classes I found Roberto. The sport coat fit him perfectly! He was just beaming. I told him it was from a dear friend, Jack Allen, a former deacon in our home church who was a real intercessor. Jack recently passed away and his son sent us a box of his clothes to give to our Cuban pastors.
“This is like the mantle of Elijah for me,” Roberto said. “I can feel the blessing and prayers when I wear it.” I had opportunity to sit and talk with him during one of the mealtimes we share with the students. Rice and beans and a hard boiled egg, but they were thrilled to have three meals a day.
Roberto lives at the eastern end of the island of Cuba, past Holguin on a very bad road leading to Bayamo. Once he gets off the public transportation (usually a tractor pulling a work wagon filled with people exposed to the elements) he has to walk an hour and a half to the village atop a cliff to the church he pastors. This unsung hero of the ministry said “ISUM has helped me so much. Each time I come it is such a sacrifice. But my wife pushes me to do it. She stays and preaches and takes care of the church while I’m gone.” When I get back I teach her everything I have learned, then I teach my congregation.”
“It was such a challenge to do my monografia. Mike gave us a USB flash drive. I wrote everything by hand then walked an hour and a half to the road. From there I caught a ride to a town where I found someone with a computer that I could dictate my paper to. They saved it on my USB and when we had a conference for pastors I gave it to Abraham Molina (our Cuba ISUM Rep).”
“Hermana MonaRe, if I can do it…anybody can!”
I wanted to cry. Roberto told me that this last seminar he had just enough money for the bus ticket, but nothing to leave his wife and two little girls for the almost three weeks he would be gone. “You go. God will provide. Don’t worry” she said. Roberto’s wife was key in encouraging him to take the step of faith and come for his last seminar and then graduate. “This degree I am getting is as much hers as mine. When I got back last year there was food in the house! I asked her where she got it and she said the Lord provided! People had dropped by with a little rice and some beans and daily there was enough for them to get by for the three weeks.”
I told Roberto I had seen such a growth in him in the past four years. He was not the best student, obviously not much of a reader or scholar. But over time his grades improved and he got a 96 on my last test. His self confidence grew. He learned how to organize. He said “ I have learned how to learn.” WOW!!
When Roberto started in his little village he says the church had about 50 people. “Now we have over 150. It’s because of what I learned in ISUM!” he told me proudly. “Now I want to learn how to use a computer. It is so important.”
What a privilege to graduate him. His wife made the LONG walk and then bus trip to come for the graduation. Our hearts swelled with pride on the verge of tears when he walked off the platform and handed his degree to his smiling wife.
Once again the Lord reminded me of what it’s all about. Changing lives ONE AT A TIME.
If Roberto can do it…anyone can do it.