I recently spent a week in Cuba, training young leaders. The training was exciting, the weather was hot, and the people were amazing. Beyond that, it was impossible to ignore the challenging conditions Cubans must contend with on a daily basis. Imagine having to live on the equivalent of fifty us dollars a month. Try to picture limited freedoms and a constant shortage of basic goods and services. Add to that the occasional visit of fierce Atlantic hurricanes from time to time – this year there were two of them. It doesn’t get much harder than that. Contrary to what one would thinK, the Church is alive and well, spreading the Gospel and serving those in need with a tremendous passion. I was inspired by their resiliency, and came away with some powerful leadership lessons.
The leaders who hosted us for the week are true heroes of the faith. Spending time with them taught me four lessons on servant leadership, especially in the face of obstacles. Here is what I took from my week-long Cuban experience.
Overcome obstacles by making creative use of every situation. For many years, it was illegal to plant new churches and build worship centers, but it has never been illegal to host people in one’s home. So, pastors turned their own homes into meeting places called “casas de culto.” Today, there are thousands of them spread throughout the country. I worshiped with almost 200 believers in one pastor’s [very small] backyard.
Let nothing go to waste. Cuba is famous for old cars – 1950s American beauties that are kept running by Cuban’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. At our conference, lunches were served in reused electric meter boxes that were hauled in using reused shipping boxes. In Cuba, everything is repurposed and used over and over again.
When faced with limited resources, use what you have creatively. There is not much by way of public transportation. People get around in truck beds turned buses, horse carriages, and “bicitaxis,” regular bicycles transformed in two-passenger tricycles.
No matter how little you have, you can always give to serve others. Churches all over Cuba have responded to the need of communities affected by hurricanes with their own resources by sending teams to feed and help those affected. They are being the hands of Jesus to those in greater need.
My week in Cuba has inspired me greatly. Even amid such difficulties, I have seen plenty of leaders who have vision, set goals, mobilize people, and overcome obstacles in order to reach their nation with the Gospel.