Barry and I arrived in Cuba on January 21, 2020 on my 8th and Barry's 20th trip to Cuba. As we met to engage with a special group of key leaders, my mind immediately went back to April 7, 2015, when I first flew into Holguin and our team stood at "The Hill of the Cross."

Cuba in the Shadow of the Cross
In 1790 Friar Francisco Antonio de Alegria climbed with a cross on his back placing it there to overlook the city. I remember this overwhelming sense of standing in front of that cross with this sprawling city of 350,000 people stretched out behind it--inside of communist Cuba. In this city, miraculously, the cross still stands.

In Holguin I discovered the difference between historic churches and house churches. All of the house churches started because the government has allowed no construction of new, stand-alone churches since the 1959 revolution. Instead, house churches have sprung up all across the island, and continue to spread rapidly--still under the shadow of the Cross.
Then and Now
On that trip we met Ovi and Orleidis, a youth pastor and his wife training other youth pastors in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. They had recently started a church in their home. Their positive outlook and strong faith were contagious.

Fast forward five years…to January 21-28, 2020, when our team of eight arrived in Cuba to lead Reach Out's Eagle Leader Experience…an annual gathering of our key leaders for encouraging, equipping and empowering them to equip youth leaders to reach and disciple teenagers. Ovi and his ministry represent the kinds of leaders and ministries in which all these Eagle Leaders engage.
When we asked, Ovi humbly described his ministry in Holguin. Over the last five years, his church has planted five new house churches. The original congregation has grown to 160 people…and still meets in his backyard. They gather three times a week, with one of those times focused solely on prayer.
Youth Ministry and the Fruit of Prayer and Making Disciples  

Ovi gave us a vivid picture of his youth ministry…60 students attend and 45 faithfully tithe weekly out of the little that they have. They do this at the encouragement of their discipleship group leaders who guide them in spiritual disciplines. As well, every week they cook food and deliver it to those starving in their community.
From the occult to youth leader

Adrian has come a long way in his journey with Jesus. Previously known as one of the most famous sorcerers in Holguin, the Lord delivered him from Santeria, an occultist tradition of idol worship created in Cuba in the 1500s. He, along with 17 others in the church, have been set free! Now he has become one of the student leaders in the church, enthusiastically telling his friends about Jesus. 
Weekend worship at Ovi’s church
People in his church called to
preach and teach
An Ever-Widening Influence
Ovi still pastors the ever-growing church in his backyard, shepherds the other five house churches, and guides a rapidly deepening and growing youth ministry. How can he do that? Because throughout Ovi’s ministry, the essential characteristics of Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry have been lived out not only in the youth ministry, but also in the entire culture of the church. What began as a tiny flicker of light, now radiates from and shines in every direction. That’s what happens in any person or ministry that goes deeper with Christ, prays with passion, builds leaders, makes disciples, penetrates the culture, and creates outreach opportunities!
And with amazing passion, perseverance, and persistence, Ovi continues to equip youth leaders across Eastern Cuba in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry.
The younger generation in a recent worship service in Ovi’s church
If we could make this newsletter 20 pages long, we would easily fill it with similar, seemingly endless stories. God continues to draw the younger generation to Himself in Cuba, and all over the world. And He has given us the privilege to join Him in investing in leaders like Ovi, who invest in leaders and students in ways that produce life-change and life-changers!
Thank you for investing in us as we invest in more and more leaders like Ovi!
Jesus is Lord,