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BCF Press Release



June 20, 2016

Press Photo

BCF Mission Team in Cuba.

Press Photo

“Written in stone” the lasting memorial to the relationships established between The Baptist College of Florida (BCF), the Florida Baptist Convention and the Cuban Baptist Convention.

The winds of change are indeed blowing in Cuba, but it’s more like a gentle stirring than a wind. There are more tour buses carrying more tourists to Havana, the capitol city of the island nation once dubbed the “crown jewel of the Caribbean.” But the pace of life in the interior is still slow, and the spiritual climate is cautious. Those were the general impressions of the twelve member mission team from The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) that recently returned from a week of religious work there.

Most BCF mission trips focus on evangelism and church planting, but in Cuba the objective is one of encouragement. According to BCF Mission Team Leader and Theology Division Chair Rich Elligson, the church is strong there, but often feels isolated. “A week with these college students is like a breath of fresh air,” commented one Cuban church member. “They remind us that the Kingdom of God is made of all kinds of believers from all over the world. We may be separated, but we are not forgotten. We are one big family working together.”

The “family members” or mission team members from BCF included a wide variety of students and recent graduates. Some were missions majors, while others are pursuing degrees in psychology, business leadership, or ministry studies. Some were older, some younger; some were first-timers and others had been to Cuba before. But all worked side by side with their Cuban brothers and sisters doing Kingdom work.

The latest product of an ongoing partnership between BCF, the Florida Baptist Convention, and the Cuban Baptist Convention, consisted of church construction during the day followed by Vacation Bible School for children and a Bible conference each evening for adults.

The construction part of the project included mixing and pouring concrete for the building foundation, and laying the first blocks. This was a wearying task undertaken each morning before the scorching tropical sun got too high. When recent BCF graduate Jim Womble was asked to describe the work, his characteristic one word answer summed it up, “Hot.”

Following the typical late afternoon rain, the children arrived for fun and games and Bible stories and crafts. The VBS was organized and directed by BCF Leadership and Christian Education Junior Casey Ranalli, with all the team members involved. “Once we got there, my part was easy,” stated Ranalli. “God brought all the right people together and everyone did a phenomenal job with the kids. I am just happy to have been a part of what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do ministry in Cuba.”

The final aspect of the work on the island was an evening Bible conference. This year, Cuban Baptist churches had been asked to emphasize “the family” during the weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. So the host pastor requested a teaching series on the topic and Elligson spoke accordingly. “It’s interesting to see the common challenges all families face, regardless of where we live. But it’s encouraging to know that God’s Word still offers the solutions, and the folks here received the Word warmly,” Elligson said.

Other events and opportunities that presented themselves included a Bible study time for the ladies of the church, and a delightful time of fellowship and recreation for the senior adults. These informal gatherings allowed the team to share testimonies, music, and devotional messages from God’s Word. And as always, there was an abundance of fun and fellowship between Cuban church members and the BCF mission team. This unity among believers was noticed by Maria Wetzel, the Florida Baptist coordinator who traveled with the team. “I was so impressed with the students from BCF,” Wetzel reported. “They were so well prepared, and so willing to jump in and work among the Cuban people. There weren’t cultural conflicts or an ‘us versus them’ kind of mentality. It was a true partnership. In fact, I believe the BCF group was just as enriched...or more so...than the Cubans they came to help!”

Elligson stated that the encouragement the Americans brought is guaranteed to last much longer than might be expected. In fact, one might say it is “written in stone.” After smoothing out one stretch of concrete running along the side of the new building, the pastor invited team members to sign their names in the wet surface as a lasting memorial to the relationships that were built. “And be sure to add BCF’s name,” the pastor declared, before adding, “We want to remember you, just as we pray you will continue to remember us.”