Cuban Methodists visit Arkansas

By Amy Forbus
Editor

LITTLE ROCK—Two Methodists from Cuba spent time recently in Arkansas to build relationships with the United Methodist Church here.

Pastor Aramis Cosio Núñez, Pinar del Rio, Cuba Metodista Iglesia district superintendent and his wife, Pastora Yasmín Sandoval Heredia, traveled to the U.S. in late October and early November. Pastor Núñez serves as superintendent of 33 churches in Cuba’s largest district and pastors the 400-member San Pablo Metodista Iglesia. Heredia serves as his interpreter, and also writes praise music.

One of the stops on their journey was a visit to the Arkansas Conference offices for a meeting with the Center for Clergy and Laity Excellence in Leadership (CCLEL). The Rev. Dr. Kurt Boggan, director of the CCLEL, already had heard news of work in Cuba from a colleague in the Florida Conference, and appreciated the opportunity to learn more directly from Cuban pastors.

“The Methodist Church in Cuba is currently experiencing a great revival in making disciples of Jesus Christ that is changing the religious landscape of the country,” Boggan said after the meeting. “One unique feature is the intentional manner in which the Methodist Church is working with small groups.”

Núñez and Heredia shared an overview of how home gatherings are structured to emphasize growth in discipleship. In addition, they shared that seminary in Cuba is not seen as a resource only for pastors. While Havana is home to a seminary for clergy in training, there are seminaries in each of the country’s six districts to help educate the laity.

“All of the church in Cuba is emboldened for making leaders,” Núñez said.

He shared stories about the action of the Holy Spirit among the Methodists in Cuba. Three-day fasts are common among the committed Christians there, and churches are growing quickly. Núñez called Cuba “a factory of pastors”; the country has about 320 Methodist churches, and more than 600 missionaries waiting to become pastors of churches.

There are now more Methodists in Cuba than Roman Catholics, and in keeping with the legacy of John Wesley, this growth is fueled by class meetings. They follow a discipleship manual common to all Methodist churches in Cuba.

“Sheep have more sheep,” Núñez said, meaning that it’s up to disciples to make more disciples.

Bishop Gary Mueller also had the opportunity to meet Núñez and Heredia, and has heard additional stories from Arkansans who have traveled to Cuba, such as the Rev. Wes Hilliard of Heritage UMC Van Buren.

“God is at work in amazing ways in Cuba, including the bringing of revival!” Bishop Mueller said.

Nechi Fullerton, who accompanied Núñez and Heredia to the meeting with CCLEL staff, is leading an Arkansas Volunteers In Mission journey to Cuba in 2014 or early 2015. For information on this mission and how to apply to join the team, contact her at nefullerton@yahoo.com.