Earlier in this year I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba to preach a 10 night evangelistic series. Here are some lessons I learned in the process.
1. Be prepared for anything
Normally, when preparing for an evangelistic series, the host pastor is in communication with the guest evangelist through emails or phone calls. In Cuba, I found that this would provide some unique challenges as access to the internet is very difficult for most people. The only thing I knew going in is that I was to speak ten times evangelistically.
So how did I prepare?
I brought my laptop loaded with resources on a variety of subjects.
I also brought my iPad with all my Kindle books so I could study while there, but also so that I could write sermons on the fly and sync them to my iPad. I found this to be extremely. In the US, if you’re preparing for a message, you can access the internet and do research and print out whatever you need. While preparing my messages in Cuba, I didn’t have any access to the internet. I had whatever resources I had brought with me. I wrote my messages, synced them to my iPad, and then brought my iPad up to the pulpit.
2. Be ready to speak at any time
Ideally, an evangelist comes into town at least a day or two before a series is to begin. That gives the pastor and the evangelist an opportunity to go through final details and to make sure that expectations are clear.
I was to speak in the city of Holguin, which is on the eastern side of Cuba. It was a fourteen hour bus ride from Havana, which we split into two days. I was scheduled to speak in a church called La German. Due to the schedule for the day, I was only able to arrive at my church 30 minutes before I was to begin speaking. I thought that perhaps I could sneak into a back pew or side room to review my notes. Not so. I arrived and the pastor quickly ushered me to a room where leaders of the church laid hands on me and prayed for me. After the season of prayer, the church had a brief song service, and I was invited to come up around 15 minutes later.
There was no time to prepare or review anything.
Thankfully, I was ready for opening night.
The next morning I arrived at the church at 9:30am. The pastor had told me that I would be speaking at 11:30am, so I thought to myself, “Great! I can come a little early and review my notes for my message that would come later.” However, no sooner had I stepped out of the car, than I was invited to take the pulpit to speak to the church. I literally walked from the car, to the entrance of the church, and then right down the central aisle to the front to begin speaking. This can be kind of a scary endeavor if you’re not expecting it. I didn’t expect to speak so soon, but thankfully God helped me deliver the message.
3. Be flexible and willing to adapt to local methods
After the opening night, I had my first opportunity to debrief with the local pastor. I had come with a very “western” evidence-based approach for the series. Because the government of Cuba is Socialist and religion is restricted, I figured that I first needed to build a case for why the Bible can be trusted. My approach was very apologetic in nature. After meeting with the pastor, he said I could dispense with that angle. He said, “People believe in the Bible. They need hope. Encouragement. Just preach!”
As I looked around at the church, I realized he was right. After all, in cut out letters, was a sign across the top of the platform that read Confiando en Jesus (Trusting in Jesus). This was no western approach. They assumed that everyone already trusted in Jesus.
So how did I have to adapt?
After hearing what the pastor shared, I decided to change the approach for the rest of my sermons. This meant, that I would be writing new sermons every day.
Also, the pastor told me that an evangelistic series never begins on a friday night in Cuba, like they normally do in the U.S. Instead, they usually begin on Saturday night. Taking that into account, I adjusted my topics accordingly.
When you come to a new country, then, don’t assume you know how everything should work. Be humble. Be willing to adapt. The locals know what works and what doesn’t work among the people. Trust in your local pastor. and leaders.
4. Bring your own gifts for giveaways
Because Cuba is a rather poor country, most churches do not have many resources or gifts for guests that attend. The church I preached in had around 5 Bibles that they could give away and that was it. Thankfully, I had been advised to bring gifts and we found it to be very useful. We had very simple items to give away, but they were received with much interest and excitement: things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons, tennis balls, and even chewing gum.
5. Illustrations that mention life in America are well received
I can’t remember who told me this one, but I certainly found it to be true. For example, if you say, “In the US, such and such happens,” you will notice every head in the church pop up. They’re fascinated by western culture. They’re interested to hear about the differences between their life and our life.
I had a great experience speaking in Cuba. You can read more about my experience here.
Question: So what lessons would you add when speaking in Cuba or other country?