Espiritu Santo Ven (Come, Holy Spirit)

Mission to Cuba offers glimpse of revival

Natasha Murray-Norman

Natasha Murray-Norman

By Natasha Murray-Norman
Special Contributor

The word revival conjures different thoughts, emotions and mental images in different people. It is a word with its own traditions that mean so much to so many. Revival is a buzzword for evangelical and religious folks, but it can be hard to grasp or live out.

As a Conference, we have been challenged to experience revival in our congregations and to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us through that journey. But what does that truly mean?

This past October in Holguin, Cuba, I experienced, dare I say, revival in a way that transformed my understanding it. No longer put off by the buzzword, I am in search of reclaiming revival as a lifestyle and spiritual discipline.

During my mission journey to Holguin, I witnessed what many of us here in the United States long for. I witnessed a church that had once died experience the meaning of resurrection. The Methodist Church in Cuba is vital! From worship to discipleship, the message of Jesus Christ is transforming lives and allowing people to experience the Good News.

I wish I could explain all that I experienced, but I cannot. My experience left me feeling renewed and revived. Was it the worship? Partly. Was it the testimonies? I suppose. Was it the fellowship in the house churches? Maybe. Honestly, I believe it was all of that and more. Here are a few things that I think changed my perspective of living a life that is seeking renewal and revival:

Commitment to collective prayer: It would seem obvious that prayer would be at the center of everything we all do. However, according to The Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Americans spend part of their day in prayer. That may seem like a large number, but how often do we encourage prayer as a vital part of the life and functionality of the church? Not just individual prayers that we pray in our own private devotion time, but the collective prayers we pray together as a body?

Each day that we spent with our team in Holguin began in prayer and devotion. We witnessed so many people in the church spending their time in prayer before they began their work. Prayer was the pep rally that helped people do the work that they were committed to doing. I am pretty sure some church folk who read this will challenge me and say, “We pray all the time!” But how often are we calling our members to come and pray at the church?

Commitment to discipleship: We witnessed a lot of professions of faith. We also witnessed that those who had professed their faith then went through a discipleship class. In order to be baptized and to minister to people, all new converts were required to attend a study and complete all three phases of that discipleship course.

Commitment to worship: I think worship that is done with passion is attractive. Worship should not look and feel like a production; it should be about leading people to where they feel connected to God.

I ask those of you who are pastors: In preparing for worship each week, what do you want the people to experience? If it is all about your sermon, then think again. Worship should appeal to all senses and have a purpose. Worship is not about what you can get done in an hour. It is about setting aside time to be in the presence of God.

Commitment to God’s work: My experience in Cuba helped me realize that perhaps at times I am not fully committed to doing the work of God. I’m committed to work, but does my work reflect the will of God? Most importantly, is my work a reflection of God?

The women and men in Holguin were committed to doing the will of God and carrying it out so that all would know God. Because of their commitment to doing the will of God, they were eager to express their love of God and share how God had transformed them. How committed are we to sharing the gospel, knowing that there are risks involved? Our sisters and brothers in Cuba face so many obstacles and are in danger of facing persecution because of who they believe in. How committed are we? But mostly, what are we committed to?

I believe that revival can come to the United Methodist Church of Arkansas. I believe that all of God’s people can experience revival. I believe that if we are truly open to God’s Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves immersed in prayer and committed to carrying out the mission that God has given us.

The Rev. Murray-Norman serves as associate pastor of First UMC Pine Bluff.

To learn about opportunities for mission with Cuban Methodists later this year and next year, including Vacation Bible School, a youth conference and an upcoming visit to Arkansas by a Cuban pastor, contact Nechi Fullerton, nefullerton@yahoo.com.