Cuba is a lot of things. Cuba is a Caribbean island. Cuba is a producer of some of the world’s most prized cigars. Cuba is a protest country; a Communist regime floating 90 miles from it’s Capitalist neighbor to the North with a firm, if not self-destructive, resolve to shake it’s clenched fist. Cuba is a reminder that the Cold War has not completely thawed. But mostly, Cuba is a mystery.
Our team of four Tulsa pastors traveled to Cuba to lead a Bible conference, train house church pastors, and work with the National Council of Churches to pave the way for a Reformed Church in Cuba. Why? Because God loves Cuba. We believe it is God’s mission to bless the nations through Jesus his Son. And his Kingdom is coming.
Once we arrived in Havana, it took about 90 seconds to realize we were in a totalitarian state. We walked across the tarmac and into the airport with some trepidation. We had been coached to avoid any questions about politics and to speak as little as possible to custom agents. But when we walked in, we were informed that we had no visas. We were forced to sit on a bench for half an hour—the only people left from our flight—while the customs agents looked us over and possibly searched our bags. My mind went to the 40 some odd Bibles we were smuggling in our bags. Then we were suddenly told that we had visas after all and we could come through.
On the other side of customs, we walked through the doors of the airport and into Habana. This was Cuba! 1940s American cars coughing black exhaust down pot-holed roads while the fervent face of Che Guevara watched over them all from billboards, graffiti-ed public buildings, and schools. The voice of the state propaganda machine was omnipresent: Socialismo o Muerte, La Revolucion es Invincible Buen Ejemplos de Humanidad*
I quickly realized that there are two Havanas, and you can see it reflected in the architecture. There’s the romantic cobble-stoned streets and colonial Spanish facades of Old Havana. This is of course the tourist neighborhood with state-owned restaurants and Afro-Cubano Jazz drifting through open-aired plazas and bars. Its sole purpose is to feed, entertain, and amuse tourists. And it does. Though crumbling with neglect, it is a beautiful city. But it has the feel of a Hollywood set—it looks great on the outside, but you wonder what’s behind the walls.
And then there’s the rest of Havana—post-revolutionary Brutalist architecture, pre-fabbed Soviet buildings and deconstructing stadiums, none of which are painted anything but concrete gray. They seemed to project power, resolve, conformity—and secrecy.
The mystery of Cuba would not easily unravel.
More to come.
*Socialism or Death, The Revolution is Invincible, and Great Examples of Humanity, accompanied by the faces of Castro, Guevara, and the late Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez.
Posted on March 15, 2016
by Joshua Burdette filed under