A Clayton pastor recently traveled to Cuba with N.C. Baptists on Mission.
The Rev. David With made the trip to learn about plans for a seminary in Santa Clara, in eastern Cuba. The area has more churches than pastors, creating the need for a seminary.
In 2002, the Baptist World Alliance helped N.C. Baptists on Mission identify work to be done in Cuba. At the time, Cuba was starting to allow mission groups to work in the country. The first big project was construction of a retirement home for pastors in Santiago. Now, North Carolina Baptists are ready to tackle a seminary .
Paul Langston and Tom Beam led the delegation that included With. In addition to a seminary, N.C. Baptists on Mission plans to do the following in Cuba this year and next:
▪ Construct a two-story house for nurses, a pharmacy and residence hall.
▪ Expand a current dining hall and kitchen to accommodate a larger number of people.
▪ Take part in evangelism and other community ministries alongside Cuban believers.
“We wanted to do what it would take to bring students here quickly,” Beam said. “We anticipate six teams to finish the first building.”
Each team will contribute $3,000, with N.C. Baptists on Mission – formerly N.C. Baptist Men – sending another $2,000. Additionally, the projects will employ Cubans who will continue the work after teams leave, Beam said.
With is associate pastor and director of youth and missions at First Baptist Church in Clayton. He was most recently with Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh.
With, 34, is studying for his doctorate in ministry from Boston University. He and his wife, Sara, have a daughter, Olivia, who’s almost 1. This was his third trip to Cuba and his 18th mission trip. This past summer, he led a mission trip to Cuba for First Baptist’s youth members.
“It was a good way for our youth to share in the healing relationship between our two countries, by sharing God’s love and our faith,” With said.
When With last visited Cuba in 2013, the country had no cellphones, he said. Cubans are much more connected now. “We can be in touch with our Christian brothers and sisters,” he said.
Despite their isolation, he said, Cubans are well educated.
Traveling to a Communist country, Beam said, is not easy. “There are some challenges we face in Cuba that we don’t have in other places,” he said. “But we do try, within the parameters we are given, to offer a ministry in Cuba.”
Beam added: “Sometimes Americans say, ‘There’s a better way.’ Not in Cuba. You do it the Cuban way. We’re not gonna push the envelope. That will close the door on religious visas.”
Despite the challenges, Beam said, he returns to Cuba, “because people come to know the Lord.”
“If I reacted to frustrating moments, I would have been done in Cuba a longtime ago,” he said. “People are being discipled and truly living for the Lord, and that makes a difference.
“In Cuba, you can see the fruits of your labor.”