The new year has just begun but we are already gearing up for this year’s scheduled events and find ourselves once again at a place of need, for both prayers and donations. Lord willing I will be back in Cuba in February for a regional pastors’ conference, along with pastor David Waters and ACTION missionary Gama Canul. This will be a three-day event in Camaguey for about 225 pastors and leaders, costing about $4400, or only about $20 per person.
The “hidden” part of our budget that I usually don’t mention in these letters is two-fold: 1) the conference speakers cover their own expenses to travel and minister in Cuba, which is a tremendous gift, and 2) many authors I work with donate to have their books printed in Cuba, so each pastor at the conference can take home a set of 5 to 7 books, books they could never afford if they had to pay for them.
Working together, then, we are actually making an investment of over $9,000 in order to provide these admirable servants of God with theological and ministerial training through three days of teaching and the book set.
The impact of these conferences cannot solely be measured in attendance and expenses, of course. Just like there is a hidden part of the budget I don’t often mention, there is also a “hidden impact” that goes far beyond the training and the books.
These conferences you pray for and help sponsor are very interdenominational and bring pastors in contact with other church leaders they would never otherwise spend time with, thereby strengthening the unity of the body of Christ. There’s something special about Baptists and Pentecostals and Lutherans and Methods learning together and eating together.
And, speaking of meals, what we provide at the event is quite a bit better than what a Cuban would be able to eat at home, so the attendees feel it is a real treat. Another important treat is the book set, which cost us $12 to $21 each. Since the average Cuban pastor makes only $18 per month, these books would be out of their reach, even if we just charged them the exact printing cost.
So, the “hidden impact” of every event is: unity and encouragement. Recharge the pastors’ batteries (these admirable colleagues work so hard and have so little!) and help them get to know pastors, for networking, support and prayer. I do not underestimate what it means to a pastor to have three days “off” where he can come to a conference and be fed good food (both spiritually and literally!) and return to his church, books under his arm, feeling like he is valued, appreciated, and important. Some of the pastors attend with their wives, and associate pastor or youth pastor, so the impact is even greater.
Here comes another conference, February 19-21, so “brace for impact!”