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Cuban seminarians, pastors learn from BWA educator team

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Baptist World Alliance team of English- and Spanish-speaking Baptist educators from North and Latin America and the Caribbean taught more than 200 Cuban Baptist seminarians and professors in Havana and Santiago de Cuba at two theological conferences April 21-25.
The educators reported seminaries full of committed, eager students, in spite of scarce resources.
“The two seminaries of the Southern Baptist-related Western Convention and the American Baptist Eastern Convention are thriving with young men and women already in the work,” said Justice Anderson, professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Anderson described the theological education he saw as “theological education on the road and not from the balcony,” a practical emphasis “that will undergird the robust Baptist advance in Cuba.”
“I was impressed with the earnestness, enthusiasm and quality of the students,” said Tony Cupit, BWA director of evangelism and education who assembled the team.
But Cupit noted Cuban Baptist leaders face great needs, one of which is a critical shortage of pastors.
In the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba, for example, there are only 63 pastors for 143 churches and 167 missions, which baptized 1,419 people last year. There are 38 pastoral students at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Havana and 300 people being trained for lay ministry.
The visit of the BWA educators team was one attempt to bring theological educators from a wide spectrum to meet seminary students who normally would not have such a learning opportunity.
In Havana, most of the participants came from the Western Baptist Convention seminary there, along with pastors and students from the Free Baptist Convention. In Santiago, they came from the Theological Seminary of the Eastern Baptist Convention.
Among the topics covered during the theological conferences was “Teaching Theology with Scant Resources,” taught by Daniel Carro, BWA regional secretary for Latin America and dean of the Baptist Theological Seminary, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Clifford Anderson, emeritus director and professor of Christian education at the Baptist General Conference Bethel Seminary West, San Diego, taught on “The Purpose of Theological Education” and Wallace Charles Smith, pastor of the Progressive National Baptist- and American Baptist-related Shiloh Baptist Church, Washington, taught on “Teaching the New Testament” and “Pastoral Theology.”
In a special emphasis on contextualizing the gospel, Burchell Taylor, lecturer at the United Theological College, Kingston, Jamaica, and pastor of Bethel Baptist Church there, taught on “Theological Education in the Caribbean.”
Two Cuban Southern Baptist leaders in the United States, Segundo Mir of Laurel, Md., and Eduardo Docampo of Orlando, Fla., spoke on “Mission and Evangelism.”
In addition to theology, the Cuban students were very interested in learning more about such groups as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons and some aspects of Pentecostalism beginning to influence Cuban Christianity, Cupit said.
All of the team members participated in evangelistic services and reported continued deep interest in spiritual matters by Cuban people everywhere.
“While we did not count numbers, the accumulated responses to the gospel preaching by the team in over nine days of ministry was in the hundreds,” Cupit said, adding that each team member witnessed many first-time responses to Christ during the evangelistic services.
“There is no doubt that there is revival in Cuba,” said Docampo. “Many people are being won to the Lord and some who had fallen away in the past are returning.”
Alan Stanford, pastor of Leesburg (Va.) Baptist Church, agreed that “a true revival seems to be sweeping the country.”
“As people struggle with the physical necessities of life, they also seem to be struggling to find the truth,” Stanford said. He also noted that although “Cubans have so little, they are an extremely generous people.”
Douglas Inglis, BWA director of promotion and development, described his experience of preaching in the churches as both “humbling and uplifting, humbling to see God’s people striving against the odds with such resilience and uplifting to see how the Lord is blessing them.”

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  • Wendy Ryan