February 6, 2017
I’ll bet I know where you were – and, what you were doing – at/about 6:30pm yesterday (EST). The world was noshing on nachos – or, crunching fresh veggies w/hummus – getting ready for kick-off; I was open-roading between a distant church and a demanding night flight out of LAX when my phone rang. It was Dave Waters: Senior Pastor in the DC Beltway, Master’s Grad… and the Quarterback calling the plays to get The Master’s Program launched in Latin America. He had preached his Super Bowl Sunday morning in Alexandria… but the real action, for him, was last week, in Cuba, where he frequently trains church leaders. I asked him to write the story…
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It was both an exciting and challenging week. We had 30 leaders on Wednesday for a Session #1 of El Plan Maestro (The Master’s Program, in Español) in Bayamo, with plans on Thursday and Friday – Sessions #1 and #2 – in Holguin, with 30 Christian leaders coming from all over the city.
The exit surveys from Session #1 in Bayamo were excellent. In Holguin – at the end of the first day/Session #1 – a lawyer in his early 60s came to me after the session and said to me “I leave here very moved. I must go home and re-think much of my life.” That’s the disruption that TMP creates, in any language! It was a great day for the Kingdom; the surveys confirmed it.
Then, the Enemy struck. On Thursday after the session, while resting in my rented room, I received an unexpected visit from the provincial Director of Immigration. After a brief conversation, he took my passport and ordered me to meet with Immigration officials and Justice Department representatives at their office at 8:00am the next day.
I arrived early. The questioning lasted for at least 80 minutes. I was informed that this was an “official interview.” The content of the questioning was tense and they were both suspicious of me, asking if I had any profession other than pastor. They were curious to learn what The Master’s Program was really all about. I assured them that the focus of TMP was Christian Leadership, and we had no political ambitions or intentions. We were not there for insurrection; we were there because of the Resurrection…
The official charge: I had violated the terms of my visa by holding a TMP session at a private restaurant instead of at a recognized church, or at a state owned restaurant or hotel. Based on the questions asked, the location of the TMP session appeared to be the least of their worries.
Thankfully, I had two copies of Session #1 curriculum binders with me and was able to put their minds at ease with our clearly apolitical content.
The bad news: I was instructed to cancel Friday’s session or “I would have problems.” That’s Cuban code for being arrested or deported, or both. I did as I was instructed and cancelled Day #2 in Holguin, hoping to “live to fight another day.” We plan to return for our next sessions in May/June.
The steaks we planned to serve the leaders on Friday were already being marinated by the owner of the restaurant – and the rest of the food was already purchased – so we invited the 30 leaders to come on Friday and enjoy lunch on us: the rare chance for a medium-rare steak among faith friends!
Please join me in praying that I will be able to return to Cuba in May/June if they agree to issue another religious workers’ visa to me. Pray that this won’t cause problems for the denomination or leader who sponsored my visa. We will attempt to schedule our next sessions in a church or in a state-owned hotel or restaurant. We will also pre-submit the contents of Session #2 to the authorities.
I believe that the message of TMP is powerful and transformational in the life of a Christian Leader who gets it, and applies it! I’m excited – but not surprised – that it translates so well into other cultures, as evidenced by transformed lives already, in places like Nicaragua, Argentina and now Cuba! I’m privileged to be TMP’s pioneer in Latin America.
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The challenges of the Super Bowl are no match for the struggles waged against darkness, in the spiritual battle that wages 24/7/365, across the globe. Pray for the effort Dave is leading – in Cuba, and across Latin America! – as TMP finds its way to new Kingdom leaders in the 21st Century!