I am now posting the text on my blog as an open letter, in hopes that at least some readers will have a greater understanding of how politics can negatively influence the work of the Lord overseas.
I have the greatest respect for General Powell and do not wish to embarrass him in any way. I do believe, as my letter states, that as Secretary of State he issued a Cuba transition report that continues to harm the work of American missionaries to Cuba like myself.
Ultimately I would like to see the US Government retract its 2004 Cuba transition report.
Here is my letter:
Dear Mr. Powell,
I would like to bring to your attention a matter in which a decision by you in 2004 endangered — and continues to endanger — the Christian endeavors that I direct on behalf of Action International Ministries on the island of Cuba.
The consequences of your actions as Secretary of State had very immediate and personal repercussions in my life and ministry starting in June, 2004, but I have delayed writing to you out of my tremendous respect for you as a person and a national leader. In fact, my admiration for you was (and still is) so strong that for many years I hoped that you would give me the opportunity to vote for you for President.
Nonetheless, I continue to be dumbfounded by your decision to publish within your May, 2004, “Report to the President: Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba” numerous statements indicating that evangelical churches would be willing partners (perhaps even a US-funded tool) in changing the political landscape of Cuba. (Please read the enclosed article of mine for a reminder of some of the statements that are in your report.)
In June, 2004, I led a team of five to Cuba for a series of Bible conferences. Since 2000 I had ministered in Cuba without any government interference. However, at the conclusion of this trip I was pulled out of line at the Santiago de Cuba airport and led into a back room and subject to questioning by agents of the Cuban Interior Ministry. Their first question was, “You receive money from the US government, don’t you?”
As I calmly answered their questions and watched as they poured through every scrap of paper in my briefcase, the reason for their treatment was suddenly blurted out, “You are aware that your government just posted a document online indicating that they are using Cuban churches for their political goals?” I was not at that time, but of course read the report as soon as I returned.
There is a natural antagonism between the Christian faith and the Marxist-Leninist atheism that is the basis of the Cuban Communist Party ideology. There is also a general air of suspicion on all Americans who travel to the island for non-touristic purposes due to the political tensions between the two countries. So, being a US-based missionary to Cuba is extremely difficult.
What I find unfathomable is that the US government would publish, under your signature, a document that made a direct link between Cuban churches and a political transition. Did you not consider that such a stated plan would bring intense scrutiny on Cuban churches and also damage the work of American religious organizations ministering on the island? Did it not seem to you that both Cubans and Americans who work strenuously to carry out a spiritual ministry of evangelism and discipleship should be considered to have a “higher calling” than the impression given in the document?
This report continues to have negative consequences for all of us who regularly travel to Cuba for pastors’ conferences and spiritual retreats. Although the report was written seven years and one president ago, it is fresh in the minds of the Cuban leaders. On August 1, 2011, Raul Castro said in a speech, “If anyone doubts this [these plans of the enemy], we remind them to read the Bush Plan for the transition in Cuba, which as far as we know has not been abolished, and the role they propose to give to all the religious organizations in their subversive strategy against our country.” [my translation]
By God’s grace Action International Ministries has been able to clear itself of the suspicion that our missionaries are political operatives, through the strong testimony of our Christ-centered ministry as well as a few meetings with the Office of Religious Affairs of the Communist Party.
Nonetheless, Mr. Powell, from one man of faith to another, your report damaged the cause of Christ in Cuba and placed US government interests over those of the Lord. It was a real mistake on your part to include Cuban churches as part of that document.
If you feel any twinge of remorse, please take that to the Lord in prayer.
If after praying you feel led to take action, I encourage you to send a statement to President Obama and Secretary Clinton as an encouragement to them to keep both Cuban and American religious organizations out of any Cuba transition plans.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Warmest Christmas wishes to you and your family.
Sincerely in Christ,
Associate Director, USA Office
Director, Cuba Ministry