By the time we got to Santa Clara, it was several hours later than our original plan. But then again, our “original plan” had changed a few times. Let me explain. We were told a week or two before that the Assembly of God church had a conflict and we would not be ministering to that group. At the same time, the worship band from the Baptist church in town had been invited to minister at Lakewood in Houston and Baylor University in Waco. While they were in the states, we had the privilege of them performing at Abundant Life in Grand Prairie one week earlier for our HYPE youth service. The connection with the band is Carlitos, who plays the bass. He is the individual who has done the bulk of the translation work on the Today With God project. When they were at the church, I spoke with many in the band who had actually played the characters of different people in the project. However, most had never seen the completed videos. I was able to show them the videos there in the metroplex and share some of the vision with them. The pastor in the group, Asbel, showed excitement and indicated that when we go down to Cuba, he would love to set up a time for our group to minister to his church there in Santa Clara. Oh the irony. The flute player in the band happened to come from the Assembly of God church which was partially how we found out that our original ministry plan in Santa Clara had changed.
After the ministry concert and time of fellowship in the states, pastor Asbel had begun communicating with another pastor back in Santa Clara from his home church. Pastor Digmar, whom I had the privilege of ministering with on my 2012 Journey to Cuba, was excited at the possibility of hosting the team.
With all of that, when we finally arrived in Cuba and I talked through things with Miguel, he said he had just spoken with the Assembly of God church and both churches were on board to learn about the ministry.
So when we finally arrived in Santa Clara, we went straight to the Assembly of God church where a dinner was waiting for us. A few pastors from the Baptist church and a few pastors from the Assembly of God church had prepared to visit with us at the same time (to capitalize on our short time frame) and hear about what we were presenting. After dinner, I had a unique opportunity to play a few minutes of video footage of the Cuban band ministering at Abundant Life the week before. This served to further draw our groups together because we all shared this in common. It was a perfect segway into me sharing about another ministry opportunity that all Believers can join together on; regardless of their denominational ties.
I laid out the Today With God project for the group that was there and shared the vision of how it can serve to aid them in reaching their communities for Christ. There was a clear and visible excitement for the project. Even though we had planned to leave in the morning for Cespedes, the pastor asked me if there was a way that we could present this to their churches. Given our time crunch, this would be difficult. However, we talked through things and decided that half of our American group would stay behind in Santa Clara to further share the project with the churches. Then, to our surprise, the two different denominational churches decided that they would have both of their congregations come together at one of the churches to make it possible for our group to share with both of them at once. This was just one more example of denominational walls crumbling down as Believers united under the common goal of reaching the lost for Christ.
While we were working through the ministry details for the next 12 hours, Ben and Miguel were working through our lodging details. Even though we had arranged for the hotel in advance, nothing was solidified until we got there. And since we were hours later than we anticipated, there was no room at the inn. Ben, an experienced missions trip planner and traveler, is the type of person who plans out bathroom stops on a 4-hour trip. I’m a guy who has actually never planned a traditional missions trip. I’m also the guy that pretty much lets just about anything bounce on my shoulder and roll right off. The fact that we needed 10 or 11 rooms and now had none may or may not have helped my older brother to pass me up on the race to a full head of grey hair (let’s not argue the semantics of a “full head”). Nevertheless, he and Miguel were able to arrange all the rooms necessary for the team through bed and breakfast homes. I didn’t check the next day but I am pretty sure you could find a pile of ashes outside of Ben’s room where he attempted to burn me in effigy of this whole situation.
When the dinner and presentation time were done, the group made their way to the various bed and breakfast locations. Of course, when I went to go gather everyone up, I found that pastor Everette and my father were at the front of the sanctuary on the microphone of the service that was taking place. Needless to say, this was not a planned thing. I finally got reconnected with the rest of the group after those two were done speaking. Nancy and I were shuffled over to our bed and breakfast but before we left, I told Miguel and the drivers that they had to come back to where I was after they got everyone situation because I had to pull out all the duplication tools so that I could create DVD’s for the ministry work that would take place the next day.
About 30-45 minutes later, the two vans and the car pulled up outside our small home and we unloaded the 11-bay duplication tower along with the DVD’s, labels, sleeves, and labelers. It was then that I found out there were not enough rooms for the drivers and translators and they had insisted they would simply sleep at the church. This was not going to sit well with me. We offered our room (there were 3 different beds in there for some reason). They clearly felt very uncomfortable with this so we spoke with the lady who had graciously worked to find the rooms we already had. She said she would take them back to her place to make some more calls and try to find them a place.
After they left, I got all the things set up and ready to get back to work. I plugged the tower in and turned it on only to have it pop, smoke, and knock out all the power for the small home we were staying in. At the same time as the lights went out, you could also see my heart melt to the floor like a cube of ice on the black asphalt in the August heat of Texas. I had worked so hard, sweated so much, and had my faith built in many ways as a result of that tower. To think that I was this far and just blew it up made me sick to my stomach. The power supply said it could do 110-240 but there is a tiny switch that needed to get moved in order for this to work. I sunk my head and did what I could to pull it together and not let it prohibit me from continuing.
Nancy and I got up, got ready, and started walking the quiet streets of the quaint Santa Clara town to find the home of the lady that was helping Miguel and the others find a room. If we could reach them before they found something, we could get the second tower out and be able to still get DVD’s made for the ministry that would take place the next day.
Sure enough, we found them and shared our story. At least there was positive news that they were able to find places to stay. We got a ride back to our home and unloaded the second 9-bay tower. With fingers crossed I plugged it in and all was well, sort of. It had clearly had seen better days. Travelling in a suitcase, on airplanes, in vans and from hotel to hotel is never a typical itinerary for these machines. I spent the next 8 hours of my night loading DVD’s into the tower, laying down for 5-10 minutes at a time, and then getting back up to unload, reload, or troubleshoot why it was failing. By the time breakfast came around, I had successfully copied about 100 DVD’s.
It was a long day with many obstacles. We had issues with space, the car we had added to our rental had broke down and needed to get swapped out, the ministry plans were completely altered, the lodging was a disaster, and I blew up one of the most important things we brought with us. However, there was still no question God was at work and completely aware of each and every hurdle.