Reprinted with permission from The Canadian Gideon (spring 2021).
It’s been more than a year since the world went into lockdown. A year later, every country is in a different stage of trying to normalize and move on. Each nation has different challenges on different levels they need to overcome. But at the end of it, we know our goal is the same – a world where the fear of Covid-19 no longer haunts us.
It’s the same with the ministry of ShareWord Global/The Gideons International in Canada. Each country we work in has their own unique challenges in terms of politics, economics and culture. And these determine the different approaches we take in each nation. Even as we learn how to tackle the multiple challenges, we know the purpose is the same – a world where everyone gets to know the love of Jesus.
And while in some countries the doors are closed or difficult to walk through, there are two countries in Latin America where we're experiencing the exact opposite. Instead of restrictions, we're witnessing an increased openness toward the gospel – and it’s all glory to God..
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In Nicaragua and Cuba, God is opening unimaginable doors to us and bringing new opportunities to fulfil His plan for these two nations. As a result, we’ve prayerfully planned and launched a 10-year mission for these two nations: to ignite the churches in evangelism and help them reach every single person with a copy of God’s Word.
This is the largest project we’ve ever embarked on, and we want to share how you can be a part of it.
How did we get here? Well, in Nicaragua we began work in 2015 after an invitation from Edu Deo Ministries to distribute 20,000 Scriptures in schools. This helped us to establish strong ties with local pastors, who were eager to receive Esperanza
Over the next couple of years, we continued to partner with the churches on GO Trips and build relationships with pastors. Even in 2018, during the national violence and unrest, churches continued to share the gospel in their communities.
Then, in 2019, we found ourselves blessed with the opening of multiple doors and invitations from several government officials to distribute Scriptures in various communities and schools.
And God opened the biggest door of all – an invitation from the minister of education to distribute Scripture magazines to every school-aged child in Nicaragua!
“God needs you to go out there and tell others and disciple others. I want to encourage you guys to continue moving this magazine into Nicaragua. This has been an amazing thing.” — Vince, a translator from Nicaragua
“We know the students are interacting with the Word of God through the Spark
magazine. They’re sharing the magazine with their families and friends and we know this will change our society,” shared Dionisio, our representative in Nicaragua. “In more than 10 schools, the principals and teachers have told us that the students are having a significant change in behaviour as teachers are using the magazine to teach the Word of God.”
Dionisio has been working along with Juan Carlos, our Latin American regional manager, to continue sharing the Word of God in Nicaragua, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. During the last quarter, more than 200 pastors received training on how to share the Good News with their communities and children. In addition, we’ve received six letters from major denominations asking us to partner with them.
At present, in Nicaragua, we have the highest number of pastors with whom we’ve been able to establish a local church partnership compared to all other regions we work in.
Secondly, in Cuba, we’ve witnessed unexpected doors opening by the grace of God, but it has required patience in His timing. It took us four years to build partnerships in Cuba – from initiating a conversation for partnership in 2016 to signing the memorandum of understanding with the Cuban Council of Churches in 2020. The MoU grants us permission to work with pastors of 23 denominations, provide them evangelism training, and supply them with 2.5 million Scripture magazines and other resources.
This is an unprecedented opportunity. A communist nation has given the green light to share the Word of God with its people. A nation that banned religious practices in 1959 and closed churches and religious schools for nearly three decades is opening its doors to the gospel.
For Cubans, receiving a copy of Scripture holds huge significance because many of them may never owned a Bible or Scripture magazine before. Our board chair, Garnet Wheaton, first visited Cuba in January 2016 and saw the desperate need for Scripture materials in the country. “It was overwhelming,” Garnet describes. “I felt God leading us as a ministry to get Scriptures into Cuba.”
And in July 2016, we did our first-ever Scripture magazine distribution in Cuba. “People in Cuba have not seen glossy magazines since back in 1990. They would give anything to have those materials to use in their evangelism outreach,” says Garnet.
Doing ministry in Cuba has never been easy – we’ve faced challenges one after the other. But these hardships didn’t stop us because we knew there were people waiting for years to hear the Word of God, to own a Bible.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
While the latest challenge in Cuba came in the form of the pandemic, we hope we can begin our work as soon as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.
Drugs, corruption, conflicts and political regulations define daily life in Nicaragua and Cuba. But God is using us to write a new chapter for the two countries.
He has given us this massive opportunity to work together with local churches and pastors, ignite them in the gospel, equip them with training and Scripture resources, come alongside them with GO Trips, give an opportunity for the unevangelized to hear the Good News of Jesus, and help the church grow through new believers.
God has called us on this mission to transform the two countries for generations to come. Praise God for miraculously opening these doors. Please keep these projects in prayer as we embark on this journey.
Adapted with permission from an article in The Canadian Gideon (spring 2021). Do you know of an EFC affiliate organization with a story we can share on our website? Please contact us.
Author: Sara Cheriyan