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Cuba, 2014, Part Four

December 4, 2014

Today is a day the team will learn a little of the history of the Nazarene Church in Cuba. In the 1940’s as the Nazarene church started to grow there were 18 churches in Cuba. This is the story of one of those churches.

We all got on the bus and started a journey to a remote part of Cuba to visit the Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene. The name in English means “deep stream” and is derived because there is a river which has carved a deep ravine behind the church property.

We travel beyond to the El Cafetal Church were we were working the day before and proceeded down several dirt roads to a very remote part of Cuba where we found the location of the Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene. The church is now a historic site with a long and interesting story.

Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene

Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene

A house Church where the living space is now a chapel

A house Church where the living space is now a chapel

The following is the story of Pedro Morejon as I have heard it from various people. I have done my best to follow the facts as I have heard them. If there are errors or misrepresentation of the story is completely my fault and I accept full responsibility for its content.

In the 1940’s the Morejon family lived in this very remote part of south-west Cuba outside of the town of Pinar Del Rio. One of the five sons of the Morejon family was named Pedro. Pedro came down with a serious case of tuberculosis and became very ill. The family took him to a hospital in Havana where he was admitted but was given little or no hope of survival. The family was unable to stay in Havana so they went back to their remote farm in the country, mourning the inevitable fate of their son.

Pedro remained very ill and close to death for several months. Lay Nazarenes were doing hospital ministry and met Pedro. They developed a friendship with Pedro and led him into a relationship with Christ. Missionaries from the Nazarene church, Lyle and Grace Prescott, were introduced to Pedro and began visiting him on a regular basis.

After some time the missionaries asked Pedro if he trusted the Lord. His answer was yes. Then he was asked if he would trust God to heal him. His answer was yes, so they prayed for healing. Soon his health began to improve and he continued with his Bible studies for many months. When he was released from the Hospital he began attending the Nazarene church in Havana.

All of this time his family thought he had died and had moved on with their lives. When Pedro was finally strong enough he began his journey home. As he was walking down the long country road to his home some of the family spotted him and wondered who was coming down the road to their farm. Someone said it looked like Pedro, but was told it couldn’t be Pedro because Pedro was dead.

As he came closer they recognized him and ran to welcome him home. Pedro told the story of his healing and the story of the Lord Jesus Christ. Soon his entire family became Christians. Pedro filled with the Holy Spirit went around to the neighboring farms spreading the word. Soon they build a small Church where they could worship on Sundays. Because it was next to a deep ravine with a stream running through it was named the Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene. This is one of the first 18 Nazarene churches established in Cuba before the revolution in 1959.

Then came the revolution and Cuba officially became an Atheist country. About half of the Nazarene churches and preaching points were closed, leaving them with only 18 church properties for the next 26 years.

In 1960 the situation was not conducive for the missionaries to remain in Cuba so the mantle of leadership in the Nazarene Church fell to Pedro (Hildo) Morejon, a layman, who had studied in the Nazarene Bible School.  Determined that his church would not have its light extinguished he stood tall in the face of terrible adversity.  Jailed for two years at one point, he remained faithful to the gospel.  Persecuted and harassed he preached the gospel and led the Nazarene work in Cuba.  On one occasion, being a tall man in stature, he was forced into the trunk of his own car and taken for a long ride.  He thought his life might be over.  Questioned and released he found out the next day they had made copies of his car keys and returned to take the car away from him.

In one of his journal entries he wrote:

“I could not walk with ease or rest.  I was always watched.  I lived scared by the pressure, the inspections, the fines given to me and the constant threats made against me…”

During this time the Nazarene Church dwindled to only 250 members until the mid 1980’s when Cuban president Fidel Castro took a trip to Brazil. He met with Brazilian leaders who showed him how the government in Brazil was working with the churches to help improve communities through social and economic programs. Castro was so impressed in a news conference he stated that he wished this could happen in Cuba. Many church leaders then requested to be part of a program in Cuba to restore the Churches to help improve the lifestyle of people in Cuba. As a result the Cuban government relaxed some of its restrictions and authorized religious meetings in private homes for up to 15 people. They also gave the Nazarene Church some property to rebuild their seminary that had been taken over by the government.

After that the Nazarene Church began to grow in Cuba from its low point of a few hundred to over ten thousand members today in 111 churches.

Pedro continued to preach in the Arroyo Hondo church even though people were moving to the city in order to find work and attendance kept shrinking. In the 1990’s there was a hurricane in Cuba and the church was destroyed. Pedro turned their home into a house church, converting the living area into a chapel with just a bedroom and kitchen as a living area.

After that the Church made many requests to the Cuban Government to rebuild the Arroyo Hondo church but were never granted permission to rebuild. The Church continued after Pedro’s death with other pastors even though the attendance was very small because it was so far from a populated area.

Eventually the house church closed but they continued to request permission from the Cuban government to rebuild on the church property. One day the government officials came to the Nazarene church leadership and asked why they wanted to rebuild in such a remote area. It was because the church owned the land and had no other place to build. The government then offered to trade a much larger plot of land in the city of Pinar del Rio for the country property and give them a permit to build a new church and parsonage.

The Nazarene Church is now in the process of building a new and larger church to serve the people of Pinar del Rio. The church will be named the Arroyo Hondo Church of the Nazarene after the original church started by Pedro. In 2nd. Thessalonians (NIV) Paul writes “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” This certainly reflects the perseverance and faith demonstrated by the Nazarenes in Cuba.

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