In Memory of Rafael Columbié

When I awoke on the morning of December 23rd, I didn’t have much on my mind besides Christmas and Christmas shopping. That changed the instant I opened my email. Three of my closest colleagues in Cuba had written me to pass along the sad news that our mutual friend Rafael Columbié (affectionately known as Fello) had passed away of a massive heart attack.

My mind raced to make sense of it all. Could I have misunderstood the Spanish? But the last line of one of the emails took away any glint of hope: “Fello will be buried tomorrow at 4:00.”

Without warning, without any time to say goodbye, Fello passed into the presence of the Lord he loves. Perhaps God needed him in Heaven in time for Christmas.

For sixteen years Rafael Columbié was the President of the Christian Pentecostal Church of Cuba. He was also a professor at the Elim Bible Institute, an ardent supporter of interdenominational ministries and projects, and for many years was a board member of the Cuban Bible Commission.

When I met him ten years ago I was only 33 and a brand new missionary, but he always treated me with great respect. As our friendship and partnership grew, Fello was considered by the Cuban government as the official representative of ACTION’s ministries on the island. In fact, as I made my “rookie mistakes” he was called on many times to defend my ministry to the Cuban government so that ACTION could continue working in the country.

He was a true colleague in the work of the kingdom. I would have been kicked out of Cuba long ago if it had not been for his efforts on my behalf.

Celia and I had the great pleasure of hosting Fello and his wife in our home last year. I remember how much he enjoyed visiting Mount Rainier with us; he said he had never seen trees so big.

Fello and I exchanged emails quite often. His spelling was awful but his love and sense of humor were great.

As president of his denomination he was given the privilege of owning a vehicle. It was a white Toyota van that was constantly breaking down and leaving him stranded. It’s hard to believe that his “lemon” of a car has now outlived its owner. On his visit last year, I took him out in our family van and it broke down and Fello had to help me push it to the side of the road. He thought that kind of thing only happened in Cuba so he got a big kick out of that and never let me live it down.

The last time I spoke to him was at the end of November, by cell phone. I was in Cuba and he was in the USA. He had been selected to be part of a delegation of church leaders to visit New York and Washington, DC, and he told me over the phone that they had toured the White House and also met with some members of Congress.

Upon returning to Cuba in early December, he was able to visit his family in Baracoa. He returned to his home in Caimito on the afternoon of the 22nd and within 12 hours he departed for his heavenly home.

Fello was 61 and is survived by his wife, Noelia, and their four children.

Life and ministry will go on without him, though I’m not sure how. It will never be quite the same.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

10 thoughts on “In Memory of Rafael Columbié

  1. Brian,
    Thank you for this living testimony of such a great man and the legacy of ministry he left behind. He was a leader, a father, and a true friend to so many. I totally agree with you… how does ministry continue with such a void? But somehow through the grace of God, we get up and go on. Thank you my friend for the time and effort put into this project. Let us unite and resolve to work even harder for the Church of Cuban, and the precious memory of Rafael “Fello” Columbié.
    In Christ,
    Benjamin Faircloth
    WOMI/Victory Life Center

  2. Brian,
    I appreciate your tribute to this humble and kind man. I am so glad that, despite our exhaustion the last day in Cuba, you persuaded me to join you in spending time with him and his family.
    Your brother,
    Craig

  3. Pastor Raphael was a friend, a brother, and a leader whose presence and wisdom will be sorely missed. May God raise up more men of his stature who faithfully proclaim the Word, disciple and show the presence of Christ. Our loss has become heaven’s gain. He impacted a generation for God and will always be remembered.
    Harold Sala / Guidelines International

  4. Señor: Gracias por la vida de hombres de tu Reino como el pastor Fello, que siempre estuvieron dispuestos a dar de sí por los demás, no sólo en cuba, sino personalmente estoy agradecido porque aunque el tiempo que pasamos juntos en el 2005 fué corto, marcó un cambio en mi vida y ministerio hasta la actualidad, gracias pastor Fello siempre lo recuerdo y seguiré recordando. “Las personas mueren cuando nosotros las olvidamos”. El tiempo recibir lo que sembraste ha llegado. Señor gracias porque su familia está en tus manos. Fil. 4:19

  5. Thanks for this glimpse into our brother Brian. What a marvelous gift of the King of Kings to let you two be friends across the miles and now across eternity. May you know Jesus through your missing him and may the fruit you two have cultivated in hearts continue to grow and multiply until you meet again. I look forward to meeting Hermana Noelia.

  6. Thank you for this posting and the comments you have shared as they have allowed his son, Azarias Rafael Columbie, a beautiful memory of this father, Rafael Columbie, “Fello”.

    Anyone who has additional posting, pictures and especially recordings (in any quality) of Fello’s ministry, please forward to the address below and they will become fond memories:

    danette@danettelovato.com
    216 Broadway Boulevard SE
    Albuquerque, NM 87102
    (505) 242-8355
    Danette Lovato

    Azarias Rafael Columbie may be reached directly at (505) 435-6836 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (505) 435-6836

  7. Dear Brian,

    Your tribute was beautiful and so well done, Fello would have been proud of your words on his and the Lord’s behalf.

    We were so sorry to hear this shocking news and the sadness for your heart, especially at Christmas. Because we know you mourn (not as the world) but nonetheless, mourn in empathy for his wife and family and for all those who he was such a man of God for them and the ministry and work of such a country as Cuba. May the mantle go to someone there that can carry on. We know that God has used you greatly in that country and with the pastors that Fello affected and that you contributed much to his ministry. You brought him much encouragement and joy we know.

    In His care and love, Jerry and Candis

  8. En muchas ocasiones,he tratado de encontrar informacion sobre unos amigos de mi juventud en la internet, pero ha sido en vano. Hasta esta noche que se me ocurrio poner en la busqueda “Columbie family”.Todo lo que recuerdo de ellos es que la muchacha se llamaba Rosa Maria y estuvo en el Colegio Teresiano y en el Instituto del Vedado. Tenia un hermano menor llamado Alfredo. Su mama era viuda y una persona encantadora.La chica me dijo que su familia era originalmente de Baracoa y que eran de origen frances.Siempre he guardado un hermoso recuerdo de esas personas. Ellos esperaban cuando salieran de Cuba ir a vivir con familiares en Tampa. Sucedio que yo sali primero y en la confusion perdi contacto con ellos. Pero aun despues de tantos anos los recuerdo mucho y me encantaria saber si es posible ponernos en comunicacion. Dios los bendiga.

    • Bueno, yo sé que el Reverendo Rafael Columbié era de Baracoa, pero desconozco si en su familia haya alguien con esos nombres que usted meciona. De todas formas, usted puede escribirle al hermano de Rafael. Su nombre es Alcibiades Columbié, es pastor de la Iglesia Cristiana Pentecostal de Cuba y usted le puede contactar directamente por email: icpcgr@enet.cu

  9. Sr. Stewart:

    Gracias por su contestacion. Creo que me ha tomado mucho tiempo regresar a este sitio. Tratare de comunicarme con el senor Alcibiades.Le deseo a usted mucha salud y bendiciones en este nuevo 2012.

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