SALEM, Ore.—Three ministry leaders from Bethany Baptist Church traveled to San Andres, Cuba, a small farming community in the western part of the country, to teach Old Testament Survey Nov. 10–14. The course was part of Corban University’s Pastor Training Program, which Bethany Baptist has partnered with for two years. Teaching the course were Pastor Tim Baker, former pastor Donn Mogford, and missionary Rick Bruggeman, from Bethany Baptist Church; Pastor Curt Bidwell of Temple Baptist Church, Tacoma, Washington; and Clare Jewell, director of Regular Baptist Builders Club and national church planting coordinator for Regular Baptist Churches.
“One of the great needs in Cuba is formal Bible training for church leaders,” Tim says. “While a number of denominations offer seminaries in Cuba, few citizens can afford the costs, and those who can receive a basic one-year Bible institute level of training.”
Tim learned of the need for Bible teaching in Cuba in February 2017, when the baseball team from Corban University met with Corban’s board to trustees to report the team’s recent trip to Cuba. Two years earlier, Corban’s team was the first college baseball program to visit Cuba following the changes in US-Cuba relations that came out of meetings between President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, president of Cuba at that time.
Tim is a member of Corban’s board of trustees. As the team talked about its trip, a pastor friend of his said, “Tim, why don’t we visit Cuba and see what God is doing there?”
That question “led to a survey trip in April 2017 for a group of leaders from two churches,” Tim says. “On that visit, we were introduced to God’s great church planting movement taking place on the island. God’s church is growing in this Communist country, largely through an expansive house church movement.” Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, churches have not been permitted to construct church buildings. Instead, a congregation meets in its pastor’s home or in a larger meeting room that the members have built in the back of his house.
Through that survey trip, Tim learned that “the church is alive and well in Cuba” but that the need for pastoral training is great.
For the past two years Bethany Baptist has partnered with another church to teach pastors in Cuba through Corban University’s Pastor Training Program. “This training involves six separate weeklong courses, culminating in a Corban certificate,” Tim explains. Last Easter Bethany Baptist also collected an offering totaling $10,000, which covered the costs of two weeklong classes.
During the November trip, Tim and the four other ministry leaders, with the help of two translators, taught about 30 pastors and missionaries “in an outdoor church facility—a pole barn type structure with open walls, a roof, and rows of rustic wooden benches,” Tim says.
“In four days we taught the entire Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, emphasizing the unity of the Biblical narrative. Throughout the week we showed how Christ is found throughout the Old Testament. The class ended with a number of testimonies from students who expressed their deep appreciation for the practical, heartfelt applications of the Old Testament to the leaders’ lives and ministries and the realization that Jesus can be found throughout the Bible, even in the Old Testament.”
Old Testament Survey is the second of six courses the Cuban leaders take in the Pastor Training Program. They will graduate in April 2021. “The commitment of these Cuban church leaders is to reach their entire region with the gospel,” Tim says. He and his church, he says, are privileged to help strengthen the church leaders of this region.