In Cuba, I sat down with Oleda to learn the spiritual history of Cuba. She was chosen to speak with me because the government wouldn’t arrest her. She was 80 years old and almost done with her race, so she could convey to me the amazing but dangerous story of the Church’s rise in Cuba.
The first thing she said to me was, “My body wants to die and I feel like dying, but I am holding on to still do ministry.”
I’ve spoken with thousands of Christians around the world, but Oleda stands out as one of those really special conversations.
She was just a girl when Fidel Castro rose to power and began to crush the Church. As a young adult, she went to Bible college, but within two years, the communists began their open persecution of the Church and many Christians were arrested.
Oleda’s response? She and her husband began pastoring a church, which they led faithfully for the next 25 years. It was the greatest period of her life.
After 28 years of intense persecution and desperate prayers, something began to stir in Cuba’s Church.
A revival came that transformed the Cuban Church. The whole country was interested in finding God and thousands upon thousands of people from all marks of society lined up to enter into the little house churches across Cuba. Thousands of people were healed of every kind of sickness and deformity.
As she told me of these days, her face lit up.
“We began to sleep at the church,” Oleda recalled. The moment they opened the doors in the morning, the church would be filled – so many people that the pews began to break. One man even came from California asking for prayer for his little boy who had terrible asthma.
“We prayed over a picture of his son,” Oleda said. “We found out later that the boy was healed the moment we prayed for him many thousands of miles away.”
For years, the Cuban secret police beat, tortured, imprisoned, and murdered pastors. Like all the dictators and despots before them, they hadn’t learned the simple but hidden law of the Kingdom.
Where there is persecution, there is a harvest.
The communists’ decades of evil work to kill off the Church had worked in reverse. All they did was refine, build, and polish the very thing they worked so diligently to strangle and kill.
At the beginning of this revival, Oleda’s denomination in Cuba had 12-15,000 people. Seventeen years later, as a result of this revival, her denomination had more than 350,000 people when I visited!
“God came in a rain of miracles,” she told me, smiling from ear to ear.
There is a lesson for your life and mine in this. In our lives, intense pain and struggle are inevitable. It’s easy to then think that God is against you. The truth is that you have put on a uniform and joined a war. That means, in addition to all the normal pain of life, that you will be targeted for being on the right side of a war.
But remember, no matter if Satan, Castro, or whoever else wants to destroy you, they can’t. The hairs on your head are numbered and, just like in Cuba, God longs to use your pain and struggle to bring you more life.