an interview with pastor cristobal tan — iglesia buenas nuevas, sancti spiritus, cuba
Just a few days ago I returned from Cuba, where my visit coincided with the start of historic diplomatic meetings with the United States. In Sancti Spiritus, where my parents Paul and Vera started their work in 1953, Pastor Tan shared his perspective on what this development could mean for believers in Cuba.
How do you view the possibility of better relations between Cuba and the United States?
“There are at least two ways to look at this. One is the social and the other from the point of view of the church. There’s great expectation for economic development and the human hope for something better. But as a pastor I must also look at this from a spiritual point of view. Today we have only one option and that’s God. Tomorrow we might be able to choose.
We have to prepare the people of God to know how to choose. I think Deuteronomy chapter 11 really clarifies this choice. The author is calling us to a deeper commitment as he is speaking here to the fathers who did go through the desert. Those are the ones who went through a very hard time. We are about to possess a new way of living here in Cuba and we know that the eyes of God are on Cuba, but there is a condition that the church has to bear in mind. Verse 13 says, “So if you carefully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul—” then we see God’s promise for his provision. But there’s also a warning. “Be careful that you are not enticed to turn aside, to worship and bow down to other gods.” So what could be a blessing might become a problem. What’s the solution, then, for the church? What is it that could keep us from choosing the wrong road? Verse 18 has the answer: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads”. We have to embrace, believe and live that teaching. So that generation that went through the desert here is the generation that is going to teach the new generation. We believe things are in motion. But the question is not WHERE I’m living; it’s HOW I’m living.”
The church in Cuba is earnestly focused on God’s word with few distractions, in contrast to what we typically see in wealthier countries like the U.S. Is that an accurate picture?
“When our quality of life improves, we need to avoid the distractions. We are working to plant a solid structure of the Word. That’s the only way the church can be sustained. Riches can tie you up and confuse you.”
Pastor Tan was interviewed by Nat Belz, a friend of GRM, who joined me on this trip.
Thank you for making the work of Gospel Relief Missions possible. Your prayers and financial support are vital to encouraging the church in Cuba.
Dios te bendiga—God bless you!
All photos ©2015 John Northrup