March, 2010
Dear Partners with Cuban Youth Leaders,
FernandoA gang member at fifteen, Fernando threw tomatoes at the church across the street from his house. Later, he promised his mom that if she would get him out of his school he would go to church. She did. At his first church service, he realized his need for Jesus and became a believer. Pastor Alejandro took Fernando under his wing and discipled him. In time, Fernando became the youth pastor at Liga Evangélica -- a church with over 200 church plants across Cuba. I met Fernando in 2003 at a Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry Forum in Havana. Warm and personable, yet restless, always busy and distracted, the Forum training did not seem to register with him.
Fast forward to 2010. Eric Ball, our International Director, John and Luke Crawford and I returned from there last week. Fernando had invited us to conduct another Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry Forum for 20 of his youth leaders from across Cuba. We accepted. This time Fernando embraced Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry, but still in a hurry and overly busy, he seemed agitated that it took so long to implement. "All of our leaders need this. Why can't we train them all now?" Our response: You cannot teach people to do something that you are not doing yourself.
We invited Fernando to attend our Eagle Leaders Experience the next day, two hours from Havana. From our Eagle Leaders we heard many amazing stories of God's miracles. But the needs they expressed were overwhelming. Transparency filled the room. Our team listened as they spoke of:
  • abandonment by an alcoholic father as a teenager now resulting in marital struggles
  • deaths of babies from miscarriages, a teen at a summer camp, and a father
  • wounds from people in the church
  • 15 days in jail
  • burnout from ministry demands
  • the daily "fight" of all Cubans to survive on $20 per month
  • an 80% divorce rate in Cuba
Then I told them my story of "going under the waterline" a couple years ago.  I explained how the Lord broke into my unresponsive emotions putting me in touch with hidden childhood memories. God revealed how I had created a false self driven by achievement, performance and control. He freed me from having to "make it happen" and showed me that He wants me, as His beloved son, to relax in Him and to live "in His presence in the present," more fully aware of Jesus' closeness to me, my own emotions, and the needs of people around me.
My story hit a nerve. We talked through how God was speaking to each of them. The Lord gave us many breakthroughs, not the least of which was Fernando!  He told me, "After our meeting the other day I kept saying, 'Barry does not understand me.' But now I know that more than anyone, you understand me. Like you, I need to go under the waterline in my life and discover what drives my need for achievement. Everyone, including my wife, has confronted me. Deep inside I know that the pain of my parent's divorce and my dad's absence drive me. I will pursue it until a breakthrough comes." Fernando made a 180 degree turn in 72 hours!
Fernando's story, like mine, is often repeated among leaders in Cuba. Driven by emotional pain and ministry demands, they lose intimacy with Jesus, their families, and themselves. Yet because of the significant spiritual and emotional breakthroughs with our Eagle Leaders last week, hundreds of youth leaders will be positively affected in the coming year.

Jesus is on the move in Cuba! Teenagers are encountering Christ and being discipled. Youth leaders are being trained across the island. Many more want training, but the 2010 schedule is full. They need more of our resources in Spanish. Most importantly, we have humble, gifted, intelligent, open-hearted, visionary leaders who encourage and train other youth leaders like Fernando. 

Your prayers
for Elio, Leydes, Alexi, Lourdes, David, Jaime, Pancho, Randy, Giesel, Lazero, Adrian, and our other Eagle Leaders will bring more breakthroughs. Your gifts will expand our capacity to invest in them.
Jesus is Lord,
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