Cuba a Testimony of God's Sovereign Power
Interview with Hector Hunter
He remained in Cuba at 17 years old when his family left, because he believed God had called him to remain, despite hardships. Now after 28 years of leadership to the church in Cuba, Hector Hunter serves as the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God of Cuba.
With 325 established places of worship and nearly 2,000 house churches, the Assemblies of God of Cuba is the largest congregation on the island and is helping to lead the spiritual movement there.
Rick Johnson, area director for the Caribbean and the West Indies for the Assemblies of God Division of Foreign Missions, talked with Hector Hunter about the wonderful move of God and open doors of ministry in Cuba.
YOU'VE HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO LEAVE. WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN TO REMAIN IN CUBA?
Hunter: It's not because of wisdom or bravery; it's just the Lord's direction. When I was about 17, my family left Cuba to go to the United States. My sister and my youngest brother left with my mother. My mother wanted me to go, but I told her I would like to serve the Lord here in Cuba. She reminded me that I was planning to be a pastor and Cuba was an atheistic or Communist country. I told her that in spite of the problems, I was staying because I knew that God wanted me in Cuba.
This decision was very hard for her, but that was the inspiration I received from God. I stayed and for 22 years we never saw each other. It was a hard and long time. Meanwhile, the Lord was training me. I never knew the Lord's purpose, and at that time I didn't think about being a pastor. I was just trying to help in the local church as a leader, the president of the youth department, and as an evangelist in the city from the local church. I wasn't thinking of being a minister. But the Lord called me to the Bible school, and here I am today.
SHARE THE EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE LEADING TO YOUR BEING SELECTED AS GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT.
Hunter: I have been at the leadership of the church in Cuba for 27 years. I have pastored four churches, and I've been a member of the executive presbytery. I was a national leader of the Christ's Ambassadorsthe national youth departmentand now the general superintendent.
I had concerns about being general superintendent because I had been under a very strong limitation from the government. I was prohibited from traveling out of the country for 2 years, and I was under surveillance. My family was also under heavy pressure, so the executive presbytery prayed concerning my election and thought I should consider moving to the United States. I had served for a long time and some other pastors had gone through these difficulties and had left Cuba. So the men of God in Cuba thought it would be good for me to leave my position.
On the other hand, the Lord was blessing the church I pastored. When I became pastor, 120 people were attending. The church had grown to 800 members and more were comingsometimes 1,200 people would come to the midweek and Sunday services. I was deeply in love with that congregation. I had plans of building a new church. My heart was into all of this. When it came time to elect a new superintendent, I thought that maybe it was not the will of God for my life. But now I see it has been the Lord's guidance every day, every step.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT?
Hunter: The most important is the spiritual life of the pastors and the churches in Cuba. I am asking the Lord for guidance to direct the people's hearts toward God. That is why we have opened the School of Prayer. Another challenge is to expand the church and gain as many people for God as we can.
I had concerns about being general superintendent because I had been under a very strong limitation from the government.
We are living in a nation of 11 million inhabitants, and the total membership of all the evangelical churches is over 100,000 members. We have to win Cuba for Christ.
We are also trying to feed the poor and give attention to the needy, both Christians and nonbelievers. Another challenge is to keep the unity in the church.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CHURCHES IN CUBA?
Hunter: Presently, we have a spiritual church that is missionary-minded. Most of the pastors are young6570 percent are under 35 years. Even though they are young, they are ready to serve the Lord with all their heart. Some of the pastors are highly educated. We have a very united and enthusiastic church today.
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH THE SPIRITUAL CLIMATE AND THE LEVEL OF COMMITMENT IN THE PENTECOSTAL CHURCH IN CUBA?
Hunter: We are happy to say that the Assemblies of God is helping to lead the spiritual movement in Cuba. We are also the largest congregation on the island. There are other Pentecostal churches in Cuba helping to lead the spiritual movement. Even traditional churches are having revival. We have some churches that are deep into the moving of the Spirit of God. The Assemblies of God is trying to go for God.
HOW MANY CHURCHES, HOUSE CHURCHES, AND PASTORS ARE THERE IN CUBA?
Hunter: In the past 710 years, we have multiplied our churches five times. We had about 90 churcheshouse churches10 years ago. Today we have 325 established places of worship. We also have the expansion program3,155 house churches or cell groups, or houses of prayer as we call them. Then there are another 2,000 places where plans are under way for the start of new churches. We also have 2,200 lay workers.
HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE TREMENDOUS GROWTH YOU ARE SEEING IN THE CHURCHES?
Hunter: Revival starts with repentance. Repent-ance comes because of conviction of sin or because the Lord shows us how far we are from Him.
The Lord used the affliction of these years in Cuba. We cried to the Lord, and the Lord answered. It's not because of us; it's because of God's mercy. I believe from the depths of my heart that there is revival in Cuba today because of the prayers of believers around the world.
The Lord sent miracles and wonders that cannot be contradicted, even by the leaders of Cuba. It is the hand of God moving in Cuba.
The steps are to repent and pray like it says in 1 Chronicles 7:14. It is the price we have to pay for revival.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD CHURCHES IN CUBA?
Hunter: Our vision is to establish a very strong church that sends missionaries to other countries. We have received a lesson from God about missions in a beautiful way. A Cuban soldier was fighting in Angola, Africa. When he returned to Cuba, he discovered all his family had been converted in a revival. They invited him to church. The power of God got ahold of him, and he was converted. Since his conversion he has been preaching and giving his testimony wherever he goes.
About 5 or 6 years after his conversion, he prayed that he could go back to Africa to preach the gospel. Finally, the ambassador of Angola, who knew a little about his story, invited him and his wifea doctorto come back to Angola. When they went to Angola, they evangelized for about 6 months. He was doing such a mighty work for God, the Assemblies of God in Angola sent letters asking us to please send him as a missionary. We are also looking forward to sending missionaries to Spain or wherever the Lord leads us.
ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF PERSECUTION IN REGARD TO THE GROWTH OF THE CHURCH?
Hunter: Where there is revival, there will be a reaction, regardless of the country. There have been some restrictions and intimidation in Cuba. Pastor Orson Vila's church brought the attention of the government. His church was experiencing tremendous growth and was so aggressive in the city that he was placed in prison for a time. There will always be a reaction when God is moving, both from nonbelievers and from the devil.
DISCUSS ANY FEARS OR THREATS THAT MIGHT BE FACING THE CHURCH.
Hunter: Evangelicals and pastors in Cuba know this has been a wonderful time of God's moving in the church. Never in all its history has the church grown and developed as much as it has these last 10 years. The change in the nationand whatever change will comewill continue to open doors for the gospel in Cuba, similar to what we are seeing in Eastern Europe. There will be all sorts of doctrines, religions of all kind, and that worries us deeply. All the denominations in Cubanot only the Assemblies of Godare concerned. We hope God will lead us whenever any of these things happen. We welcome change; at the same time we are also concerned with the results some of these changes might bring.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FEEDING PROGRAM.
Hunter: The church has always tried to help prisoners and their families. Also, with so many men going to the United States, families were being abandoned. The church stepped in to feed these people and help them. We opened a soup kitchen in our church and others churches were inspired to do the same. We have nearly 70 churches trying to open soup kitchens.
The children and the elderly have also been on my heart for many years. We help the elderly in the church by giving them some kind of assistance every month. This has been a blessing to those who had no one to help them.
HOW CAN CHURCHES IN THE UNITED STATES HELP THE CUBAN ASSEMBLIES OF GOD?
Hunter: One way is to pray for the church in Cuba. Another way is to help us establish the spiritual lives of the believer and strengthen the spiritual lives of the ministers. If pastors can come and visit, that would encourage them and the leadership in Cuba. Any finances that can be sent or equipment or whatever will make our ministry in Cuba easier.