I have never approached the Cuba ministry as spiritual warfare, nor my trips as attacks on enemy-held territory. Perhaps my outlook has been simplistic, but I simply want to help my friends do the ministry God has called them to do.
Eliseo is my friend, and though he and the ten other professors at the Elim Bible Institute are doing the best they can for their 90 students, they are eager for teachers of greater knowledge and experience to come alongside them.
Alexeis is my friend, and he directs a ministry of over 5,000 Christian college students nationwide, on virtually no budget. He says 60% of their members do not have their own copy of the Scriptures.
Ernesto is my friend, and he led one of our work brigades that repaired homes for free after Hurricane Sandy hit Santiago in 2012. (Thanks again to all of you who donated to make those brigades possible!) Money ran out before he could build a home for a single mother and her two sons. Ernesto tells me that although he is Cuban and has seen squalor, he cannot believe the conditions they live in.
Lester is my friend, and he is responsible for leadership training for the 20,000 young adults in his denomination. His budget is just about zero, so he must ask his friends outside Cuba for help with conferences, teaching material, and books.
But there are invisible enemies who regard our little ministry as an attack, and they counter-attack on all fronts.
Travel: Pastor Mike Jackson left his home in Louisiana on a Monday afternoon. Due to severe storms in Dallas, his flight was cancelled and he missed our Tuesday morning flight to Cuba. Arriving in Miami on Tuesday night, he had to wait until Friday for a flight into eastern Cuba. During that time a close friend of his was hospitalized. (We are so glad Mike waited and eventually caught up to our team!)
Gospel proclamation: One hour before our team was to depart for our ministry to the children in the cancer ward of the provincial hospital, we were advised by the director that a national audit team had shown up and that all non-family visits had been cancelled for the rest of the week. (God later granted us a private meeting with the director, though, in which we delivered our medical supplies, discussed the Gospel, and prayed for him. We have his invitation to return in July.)
Home front: While I am in Cuba, my family knows that weird, bad things usually happen at home. We have 14 years of examples and during this trip, in addition to unexpected urgent expenses, our parked car was damaged (hit and run) and a creepy man stalked our daughter in a parking lot.
This has been a particularly hard year for us in many ways, but truthfully these things are not uncommon to any of my ACTION colleagues on any of our mission fields. Though we may simply see ourselves as helpers and servants of the national churches in many lands, the enemy sees us as advancing soldiers. So, thank you for choosing to stand by the Stewarts and the Cuba ministry, that we may gain from you much of the strength we need to press forward and help our friends.