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Pastor, daughter share Gospel in Cuba

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) — One Florida Baptist father is going to great lengths to make sure his children understand the importance of sharing the Gospel. In fact, he and his daughter went all the way to Cuba.

Brenda Harden, 11, can now say she got to bring the Good News to a third-world, communist country.

It’s not a claim many people can make, especially a child.

Howard Harden, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Homestead, Fla., and proud father of Brenda, said while it wasn’t his first trip to Cuba, it was his favorite.

“I’ve been to Cuba eight times, but it was more fun to go with my daughter and share the Gospel and translate for her,” he said.

In a trip that lasted 12 days and spanned the entire island nation, the young Harden shared Christ with nearly 200 people using the EvangeCube, a puzzle-like cube that helps explain the Gospel. As a result of her efforts, at least eight people made professions of faith.

Harden wrote some simplified talking points for his daughter to memorize, as well as the Bible verses to go along with the EvangeCube presentation, and then served as her translator.

Harden said having his daughter there opened up doors for them to share the Gospel and gave them opportunities that they might not have had otherwise.

This was especially true with the children of Cuba.

“The other kids wanted to know what the EvangeCube was all about and they asked me to [present it],” Brenda said. “A lot of kids got to hear about it.”

In Guantanamo, near the First Baptist Church, the Hardens noticed many children milling around in the street. Pastor Harden suggested they go over and start the EvangeCube presentation to see if some of the children would stop and listen. In no time, a crowd of 40 children and adults had gathered to hear the Gospel presentation.

“We were praying the police would not catch us,” Pastor Harden said. “Street preaching is illegal in Cuba.”

Brenda also met with a children’s evangelism club at the First Baptist Church of Santiago de Caney. Brenda and the Cuban students visited homes where unchurched children lived so that the children in the club could see someone their own age sharing the Gospel.

“The kids were surprised to hear an 11-year-old talking about God,” Brenda said.

Aside from sharing the Gospel door-to-door and at churches, the Hardens met up with the Strength Team, the traveling ministry group that displays feats of strength to share their faith, midway through their trip. When children showed up for the Strength Team’s presentation, Brenda was able to share the EvangeCube before the team performed.

Strength Team member Jon Andrickson said he was impressed with how Brenda handled herself. Andrickson noted he was most impressed with how naturally Brenda shared her faith and how diligent she was to get the presentation right.

“She puts it in words that kids her age can understand and she practiced it,” he said. “I saw her practicing.”

Andrickson said some of the churches they visited were house churches, because they had not been established before the communist regime came into power. Conditions were not always ideal, as the homes were hot and crowded.

“She did an amazing job and never complained about being hot or tired,” he said. “I was very proud and impressed with her.”

Brenda said she was concerned about a couple of aspects of the trip, like going through customs and the “bad water,” but for the most part she had faith in who was in charge.

“I knew God was with me, and He would guide me and I had nothing to worry about,” she said.

Pastor Harden said it was amazing to see God work in the lives of the Cuban adults as well as the children. He said many came to him and told him that if Brenda could present the Gospel at her young age, then they could do it too.

“I think the grown-ups were more touched than the children, to be honest,” he said.

Harden said he intentionally involves all four of his children in evangelism at home, so speaking to people and sharing her faith were not foreign concepts to Brenda.

“I didn’t really have to train her in terms of evangelism because we do prayer evangelism here,” he said. “She was simply doing abroad what she was already doing here.”

Harden believes all the practice she received sharing the Gospel in Cuba will serve her well at home.

“By the nature of this trip, it gave her the opportunity to grow in her ability to share the Gospel because she did it so much,” he said. “It will help her share the Gospel with classmates.”

Harden also hopes Brenda will not be the only one of his children who goes to Cuba.

“My prayer is that He would allow me to take each of my children on two mission trips before they are grown,” he said. “If we’re going to teach our kids to have a heart for missions, we need to take them on mission trips.”

Harden is very intentional about making sure his children understand the importance of missions.

“How can people say they can afford Disney, but they can’t afford a mission trip?” he asked. “Yes, you can afford it. Make it a priority. For us, it’s a priority.”

Andrickson said seeing Brenda on the mission field has motivated him to want to take his own daughter on a trip.

Harden thinks children who have been born again have a lot to offer and should be given the chance to use their spiritual gifts.

“Children are the church of today, not tomorrow,” he said. “Why would I put them on the shelf and not use them until they’re teenagers or adults?”