Follow along with Worship Pastor Chris Bridges and the North Carolina Baptist Singers & Orchestra as they are on a mission trip in Cuba. The daily updates below are provided by a member of the mission team. Scroll down to catch up from Day 1 of their trip.
FRIDAY MORNING, APRIL 13 (11:30 AM)
All of the team have made it through security and are awaiting our departing flight. USA, here we come!
THURSDAY, APRIL 12
Today we were able to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of God's handiwork as the team got some much needed rest. We head out to the airport at 9:30 in the morning. Saying goodbye to this exceptional Cuban team will be difficult. Returning to the complacency of so many of our churches will be a struggle.
We greatly look forward to reuniting with our families.
Again, we are thankful for your prayers.
EARLY WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11 (1 AM)
We arrived back at Holguin really late. Another great day. Will write more later.
Thanks for your prayers. God is at work here!
TUESDAY, APRIL 10
This morning, we returned to the retirement home to give a concert to the resident and workers there. Our group distributed gift bags to each resident, and the director of the home told us about each resident and where they had served before retiring. It was like the Hall of Fame of Cuban pastors. We had a great time with them, then enjoyed another wonderful Cuban meal at the home.
Afterwards, some of us met with the 50 seminary students for 2.5 hours while others worked on various jobs at the retirement home.
The time with the seminary students was so enlightening for us in learning the tremendous sacrifice these students make in following the call to preach. They leave their spouse and kids behind 5 days a week, many traveling a long ways to attend the M-F classes. On Saturday and Sunday they have to serve on the mission field. Four years of life are mostly away from the family. After completing seminary, they have to serve three years as a church planter in some difficult areas of Cuba.
We served the students a very nice dinner tonight--serving their tables and waiting on them throughout the meal. We also presented each student with a monetary donation and a small gift bag to help with some of their needs.
In the evening, we presented a concert at the gymnasium/stadium. Several hundred people trucked in for the concert, joining the seminary students. At the end of the concert, the hundreds of people prayed passionately for our team and NC Baptist churches. It was a moving time.
Each day brings new surprises from God. I am thankful for this team that shows love and compassion as they minister each day.
Tomorrow will be our last ministry day. We meet in the afternoon with the team of leaders directing the work of music schools and other Baptist Convention work in eastern Cuba. The evening will be a concert at second Baptist Church of Santiago de Cuba.
Thank you for your continuing prayers.
MONDAY, APRIL 9
Today we had a later start than usual, and getting extra sleep was welcomed by all.
We visited the retirement home for pastors that NC Baptists built. It was beyond expectations! We were so proud to be NC Baptists. They fed us a delicious lunch and we were on our way to Palma for afternoon classes and an evening concert.
The classes were well attended and the participants were enthusiastic about their learning.
The evening concert was similar in format to the others. The place was packed out with people standing in the lobby and just outside the sanctuary. The worship was once again so passionate.
We made a donation of the drum set to the church this evening and they were overwhelmed by God's provision and the generosity of NC Baptists. The evening was quite a celebration. Four adults and one child made decisions for Christ at the end of the service.
Tomorrow we present a concert to the staff and residents of the retirement home, teach afternoon sessions of the sermon and have a concert at the seminary for local churches to come attend along with the seminary students.
We will be hosting a special meal for the seminary students as well.
We are so thankful for the continuing blessings of God this week.
SUNDAY, APRIL 8
Just when you think you won't be able to top your experience from the previous day, you have a day like this one!
Our group divided into two groups this morning. I was with the first group, so I will focus on our experience.
The church we met in was in Bijaru, a very small village. A church from another small village some distance away boarded a truck (Cuba mass transit) and came to join the service for this special occasion. We packed into a small concrete building with many people standing outside the windows (open air). We brought a keyboard, drums, trombone, trumpet, and clarinet with us. We even had one of our team standing outside playing his trombone through the window. A highlight of the morning was the worship time led by the churches' worship teams. The worship was so passionate and engaging. You could sense the people were totally in love with Jesus and nothing was going to keep them from praising Him this morning. Three of the four songs were unfamiliar to our team, but we could sense what they were singing about.
Throughout our part of the service, the people were so involved and attentive. As I reflected on the two congregations, I thought of how they had very little material possessions by American standards, but they found everything they needed in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Worship here is exponentially more passionate than what I experience in most churches I have visited. Perhaps we tend to put our trust in other things other than the Lord, and worship is not nearly so precious to us.
The other team was in a much larger city church. They had a great time of worship and were able to witness a baby dedication.
The night was so memorable. The church worship team led a few songs before we were introduced. Once again, the congregational songs led by us and a Cuban worship team were powerful times of heavenly unified worship. The most amazing thing happened when the choir sang Standing on the Promises - a rhythmic arrangement of the old hymn. The congregation joined in singing, standing to their feet and praising God. The church guitar players joined in and the music flowing out of that sanctuary onto the streets of downtown Santiago de Cuba (large numbers of people walking through this area) was almost deafeningly loud. Musically, we weren't at the top of our game at that moment--but no one cared. God was in the house and He was being praised with no inhibitions. You don't see things like that happen in America very often.
We are tired from a full day and much traveling on some very bad roads. We have moved our base of operations to a hotel in Santiago de Cuba. We have the morning off to rest after several very late nights.
We head to First Baptist Church Palmas tomorrow to teach afternoon classes, prayer walk and do a concert.
God is great and worthy to be praised. I can hardly wait to see how He will surprise us tomorrow.
Please continue to lift us up in prayers.
SATURDAY NIGHT, APRIL 7
First Baptist Holguin was packed out tonight with people standing. We were treated with hearing the Cuba Baptist instrumental group, made up of mostly very talented young people, playing a couple of very difficult songs excellently. They played with enthusiasm and great joy. It was a wonderful way to start the service.
They were followed by two worship teams that led congregational songs that unfortunately we did not know.
The congregation once again came alive on the two congregational songs that we led along with Cuban vocalists.
A 16-year-old Cuban young man played trumpet on all our music tonight. He was sight reading difficult charts beautifully. What a joy to have him join us. We also had three young ladies that attended the choral class this afternoon join our choir for two songs that have Spanish lyrics.
Overall, the night was a great display of the unity we find in Jesus Christ. The whole service lasted over two hours. Several members of the professional choir we visited yesterday were in attendance to hear the powerful message through songs, testimony and other spoken words.
We should all get more than 5 hours of sleep tonight!
Thank you for your continuing prayers.
SATURDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON, APRIL 7
The morning was beyond imagination. Nearly 140 children were TRUCKED in for the kids camp along with a number of parents. For three hours our team taught these impressionable children about the love of Christ through story, music, crafts, activities and more. The classrooms were hot and crowded, but our team always seemed so cool and calm. God was certainly at work in these classrooms. At the end, all of the children came together to sing the songs they had learned throughout the day. The children gave us a big thank you, and a child prayed for us so eloquently and hear felt. I just think God may have big plans for that young child.
We also had a packed out guitar class and an audio class running at the same time.
We presented the church with lots of children's supplies, a Bluetooth speaker, and an acoustic electric guitar. Lots of joy and tears were present. LaCount Anderson was surprised with a huge, beautiful chocolate cake big enough for 50 people to enjoy. We had it after the bountiful and delicious Cuban meal cooked by the church cooks.
This afternoon, two of the classes that were originally scheduled for the morning were held. A class for deacons and a choral class. Those that were not involved in those two classes returned to the hotel for rest or partaking in the assembly of the drum set we brought to Cuba. Now that was a fun activity assembling and then having the master Nikao finely tune the kit. Then we had a full volume demonstration in my little hotel room. I am hoping my neighbor was not trying to take a nap! We will take the drum set to one of the churches we serve in tomorrow morning.
This morning, I was also able to pass along most of our donations of guitars, microphones, speakers, guitar strings and many other items. It was another emotional time for the Cuban leaders and us. They said no group has other brought so much to help them meet their desperate needs. They were so moved by the generosity of the Americans.
I will report on tonight's concert later tonight.
Tomorrow we will be leaving early, checking out of our hotel, and going to two different locations. Our group has been divided into two parts for us to minister in these two places. Half of us will go to a small town called Bijaru. The rest will continue to Banes. Banes has a large church building. Bijaru is small and two congregations are meeting together. Our teams are preaching, singing, playing, and giving testimony in the morning services. We will then all gather at Banes for a meal and head for Santiago to check in our hotel and sing at First Baptist Church.
We are looking forward to our evening. Thank you for your prayers. I will update later.
FRIDAY, APRIL 6
As you can see, it is pretty late for us getting back to our hotel. We arrived back from Bayamo around 12:15.
It has been a great day. This morning, we visited with the Holguin professional choir. They were absolutely amazing. We were able to enjoy a mini-concert from them. Due to our religious visa limitations, we were not able to sing for them, however, that may have worked to our favor because many of them plan to come to our concert Saturday night at First Baptist Church in Holguin. This is a group that the church continues to reach out to and this will perhaps be another opportunity to impact them with the gospel.
After our visit, we walked around Holguin a bit in the hot, Cuban sun, explored a couple of flea markets and sat down to a delicious Cuban meal in a local restaurant. The meal took over two hours but was enjoyed by all. We returned to the hotel for an hour of rest, then traveled 90 minutes to our destination for the night's concert at First Baptist Church in Bayamo. A torrential rain bringing flooded streets forbade the foot traffic crowd from showing up in good numbers tonight, but that did not dampen our spirits (no pun intended). The choir, soloists, quartets, instrumentalists, testimonies--everything was marked by passion and enthusiasm as if the most important thing in the world was to share the love of Jesus with the crowd tonight. Everything was so well received.
A highlight for me was leading two congregational songs - How Great Is Our God and This Is Amazing Grace (chosen by the Cuban leaders). I asked the church worship team to sing with us, so we co-led in English and Spanish. It was a little taste of heaven as the two languages mingled full of the love of Christ and the love for our brothers and sisters of a different culture.
Tomorrow will be a taxing day but we know God will provide all we need. We leave for Second Baptist in Holguin at 8:00 a.m. Where we will offer a kids camp for probably 150 children, a guitar class, a drum class, and audio system class, a choral class, and a class for deacons. After lunch we will probably prepare a number of donations to be taken to some churches on Sunday. We will have a little rest time, then head for First Baptist Church in Holguin where we will have our second concert.
All of the team seems to be doing great and are exemplary ambassadors of their Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. It is a joy to serve with this team.
Thank you for your prayers. Please lift up our work tomorrow with the impressionable children, adult leaders, and worship service in the evening. Pray for the choir members of the professional choir that we hope will be in attendance.
To God be the glory!!!
THURSDAY NIGHT, APRIL 5
It has been a tiring day of travel, but we have had a great day of
preparation for the work ahead of us. Tonight, after a delicious Cuban
buffet dinner, we had choir rehearsal in the hotel discotheque. Once the
moving colored lights were cut, we were able to move forward with a
devotional and choir rehearsal. Elio, the worship/music leader for the
Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba spoke briefly as well. He is a great
leader and we are enjoying getting to know him better.
Friday morning, we will be spending time with a local professional choir
that the church continues to reach out to. Later, we will travel to Bayamo
to have our first concert.
Our concerts are made up of instrumental pieces, solos, men's and ladies's
quartets, congregational songs, testimonies and more.
We are looking forward to getting these opportunities to reach out and
provide a night of worship. We look forward to what God will do in our lives
as we work beside these amazing people in joining God in His work here in
Thank you for your prayers.