Santiago Street Scene
¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year! These are the signs you might see around during this season in Cuba.
In the U.S. there are weeks (or months) of decorations, and Christmas music wherever you go… although we can also point out the over-commercialization which misses the true meaning of Christmas. In Cuba there are few Christmas-related decorations to be found in public and definitely not music. You can buy some decorations (small trees usually and some ornaments) for your home, but usually these are not seen in public places. Christmas is a legal holiday here since 1998, after the Pope’s visit to Cuba, but its religious significance is little known. The music we hear is often popular dance music or the drums and singing in an all-night “bembé” (an Afro-Cuban spiritism ritual) since December has several dates that are special to spiritism.
It is often hard to “get into the Christmas spirit” here without some of the things I was used to having around. But it is even harder for those folks who have never heard of Jesus Christ coming as a baby to be Savior to a needy world.
Traditionally churches have celebrated their Christmas activities in their buildings. But Second Baptist Church in Santiago has a twist to their activities. On Christmas Day their music program will present the cantata “The Light Still Shines.” Afterwards they divide the congregation up into four separate groups, sending choir members with each group. These groups walk through different sections of the city singing (caroling, yes) in the streets. For us, this wouldn´t be so different, but in Cuba this is really innovative to take a Christian religious message to the public. The response last year was amazing: people came outside to listen to the singing and approached the church folks to thank them for the Christmas message. So the church has decided to make this a new tradition. Instead of “Go, telling it on the mountain,” they will be singing of God´s love on the streets.
Please pray for all the churches in Cuba, that this season we may be able to reach more people with this “old” Christmas story, making it something new for them. Thank you for your prayers and gifts which make my presence and ministry here possible.Ramón, Katy and I wish you all a blessed Christmas and happy New Year!