The joy of seeing Hilton again
I had my first ‘arepa’ maize meal flat bread last night with ham and cheese. It is a typical Venezuelan snack. Roslyn, Raquel’s mom, made it for us.
Luis, Raquel and Hilton came to fetch me at Bolivar Airport in Caracas. It was hot but a slight breeze helped to ease the adjustment to the weather.
Coming off a serious bout of flu that affected my entire body including my lungs, and struggling through the 27 hour long flight via Frankfurt, it amazed me that I was not tired at all when I arrived. I had no jet lag whatsoever. I adjusted immediately to the weather conditions and to the new time zone that is about 8 hours difference.
I went to bed at about 9 PM and woke up at just before 6 AM like I normally do at home. This never ceases to amaze me that I have no jet lag, no matter which way I travel, East or West.
Caracas is a hilly city with suburbs constructed on top of the green hills. I can imagine what damage heavy rainfall and mudslides can bring. The liberator of Venezuela from Spanish dominance is Simon Bolivar and that is why the airport and the monetary system are named after him: Bolivar. He also founded Bolivia. He named Venezuela, ‘little Venice’, because so many people lived on the waterways in wooden houses built on stilts.
Chavez the late president appointed Manduro to take over from him and called him ‘my son’. But apparently the ‘democratic’ voting system was cooked in order to vote him into power. Manduro is not well prepared for politics, let alone to be president. They also appointed Chavez’s brother as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court but he is not even a practising lawyer.
The present government is not doing the country any good. They import things they actually grow here, like coffee. They mix the coffee from Nicaragua with the Venezuelan beans and the result is not satisfying at all. There are long queues to buy toilet paper because the government does not produce any toilet paper. Chavez leaned heavily towards communism and became a dictator in his own right, openly criticizing capitalism of America.
Chavez did try and do a lot for the poor people by building government housing for them and subsidizing it, that is why he got their vote.
Hilton has been here with the Lombana family for over a month and will stay here till we go to Don & Yve in Tennessee for her wedding ceremony. Yesterday he had his first surf in Venezuela and got barreled. He hired an old board and could not do to many turns on it, but could at least go straight through the barrel!
‘I feel right at home here, from the first day!’ he told me. There was no strangeness for him to adapt to. It felt right to him to be here.
My prayer to go to Venezuela
When I ministered in the West Indies, in Trinidad and Tobago, I saw the Venezuelan coastline and prayed for a door to open here. That was in 1997! Now both Hilton and I are here and I will minister in some churches here that Roslyn arranged for me when I return to Caracas.
Today I go to Cuba. I have to get my Cuban visa when I check in. From Cuba I go to Bogota in Colombia to teach in a Bible School and also hold church meetings. After that I will return to Caracas. From here we go to Tennessee and then home. It has been a major family trek across the globe during the past few months.
Nola went to Don & Yve to help them set things up in their home and to prepare for the wedding. Hilton came to visit Raquel and to get to know her lifestyle and background. I went to Asia and Aje & Chantal remained in Cape Town. We were, as it were, in the four corners of the earth at the same time, as was prophesied to me in Miracle Valley that I will one day go to the four corners of the earth. Only this time my family did it with me!
My dream about Cuba
I had a dream about Cuba before I received an invitation to go there. I was in a pastor’s house explaining the reformation of the church to him. He was very interested. There was another pastor who sat in a deep armchair and listened. The one with me had a little goatie chin beard and wore a red check short-sleeved shirt and dark trousers. The other one had a white shirt on with dark trousers. I noticed their shoes were very old. I can even remember the damp smell of the musty walls in the house. The furniture was very old and well worn. I also remember walking in the street in Cuba in my dream and seeing the old houses, dilapidated and disheveled, yet picturesque in an inimitable way.
When one thinks about Cuba all you come up with is Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra, the rebels who took over the country and ruled as dictators until death. They actually impoverished the country and the people suffered as a result. The country does not allow freedom of religion even though they say so, because Christians are repressed and persecuted.
Brother Rafael, who will be my chaperone in Cuba, will show me what to do in order to avoid suspicion. Perhaps he is one of the fellows I saw in my dream about Cuba, I don’t know.
The only other thing I know about Cuba is Cuban music. The Bueno Vista Social Club music became very popular in the nineties.
There is a sadness pervading the Cuban music, and yet the joy of their rhythms and song cannot be denied. It is a lifeline to an otherwise deprived community. They sing and dance because it is free and can express their sorrows and hardships with music peculiar to their culture, much like the blues did for the African Americans down in New Orleans.
To rent a car in Cuba cost $100 per day – like Africa! Fuel is also expensive, whereas you can fill a car’s tank for less than the price of a lollipop! It is hard to believe, but gasoline in Venezuela is the cheapest in the world!
The man I saw in the dream
Brother Rafael has arranged for me to address pastors in several different places so we will travel quite a bit, but spend the first night in the capital, Havana.
Very little English is spoken in all three South American nations that I will visit on this trip, so it is a good opportunity to learn and practice some Spanish! I hope to buy a Spanish Children’s Bible that is much easier to read than the adult one, and pictures also help a lot!
I finished reading my ‘Le Bible pour Enfants’ in French, the other day and felt quite accomplished!
These three nations will be numbers 101, 102 & 103 for me! It is like almost scoring a boundary the first shot after you made your century as a batsman in cricket! Taking 3 runs is worth the effort! You are building your innings towards your double century!
I hope this mission will open doors to the variety of other South American nations such as Guyana, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Panama and Bolivia. There are still so many nations to be reached with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!
God will do it in His time. He is my strength and my song and He has become my salvation! In Him will I trust and I will teach people His ways.
I don’t know which cities I will visit in Cuba besides Havana: Puerto Padre, Camaguey, Santiago De Cuba, Holguin, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Pinar Del Rio, Matanzas and Artimisa.
I arrived safely in Havana (they pronounce it Habana and instead of saying Cuba they speak of it as Cuva, swopping the ‘v’ for a ‘b’ as often happens where Spanish is the major influence, even in the Philippines).
Pastor Rafael and his wife Tamana, another pastor and a young interpreter from the Seychelles studying at a university in Cuba, fetched me. Her name is Margaret. Pastor Rafael does not speak a word of English and neither do the others. I sent all my emails to Roslyn in Caracas and she translated it into Spanish for him. They do not have access to the Internet at all so he has to go through a lot of trouble to receive and send emails.
We had a typical Cuban meal at Mi Habana restaurant just outside the airport. It comprised of pork dipped in breadcrumbs and topped with cheese. They also added their staple diet, black beans and rice.
I discovered that we are not staying in Havana at all, but we are going to travel to Cienfuegos about three and a half hours from there. Cienfuegos is named after the last governor whose name means ‘ten fires’. I landed at 7.30 pm and we only reached their home at 12.45 am! I had to pay $50 per day for the rented vehicle and the tank took $75 to fill. The insurance was $150.
He insisted that I stay in their home.
In my dream the one pastor in whose home I was, had a checked red shirt. When I met Pastor Rafael I realized he was the pastor I saw in the dream because he was wearing a checked red shirt! So I agreed to stay in their home.
They gave me their small bedroom that had a little air con and a fan and they slept on foam mattresses on the floor in the church. The church is in their home. The whole house is the church and they use the back room for their room. There are about 50 seats in the church.
In Cuba they do not allow anyone to build a church. During the revolution they burned churches down and persecuted believers. But with the new government they say you can do what you want to in your home. So house churches sprung up all over the country. Pastor Rafael is the general overseer of 17 Assembly of God churches.
I noticed all the old American cars on the road and parked at various spots – as you see on post cards and movies about Cuba. I was curious about it.
‘Cubans fix anything they can to keep it in good condition because since the Revolution no new cars have been allowed into the country. So they keep the old ones running!’
The first thing Pastor Rafael spoke to me about was ‘apostle’.
‘We see you are an apostle. In the Assembly of God our denomination do not believe in apostles. We respect what you do but we will not call you an apostle. There were only twelve apostles that laid the foundation for the church in the beginning and there are none today.’
I told him: ‘if you need a dentist and no one calls him a dentist, how will you find him when your tooth is aching? You will have to keep your toothache! If there is no sign above his office that says ‘dentist’, how will you know where to go?’ He smiled and did not reply.
‘Please do not give any personal information about yourself or about what you are doing. It could cause complications,’ he continued. His series of warnings had nothing to do with protecting me; it is all about protecting his denomination. I felt very uneasy and not welcome at all. It is no use to welcome me to your house and not accept my office. You cannot divide the man from his office. You cannot be friendly to the man and say you do not acknowledge his work. It is like looking at a farmer and saying, ‘we never call him a ‘farmer’ because we do not believe in ‘farmers’. We can see what he is doing, but we do not use the word ‘farmer’ at all.’
This standpoint of the denominational churches is something I fought against for the past twenty years everywhere I go. They are so frightened by the fact that the Old and the New Apostolic Church are cults and use the title ‘Apostle’ for their leaders, that they literally threw the baby out with the washing water! They speak of missionaries and pastors only. Well, a missionary is a sent one and the word ‘apostle’ simply means ‘sent one’! When Christopher Columbus launched out with his fleet of ships to discover the brave new world they called it ‘Apostolic fleet’ and called him ‘apostle’ of the fleet. The Roman Catholics understand what an apostle is and what he does and how important his function is to the extension of the church, but the Pentecostal and Charismatic Denominations refuse to do so, because their constitution denies the existence of modern apostles.
I resisted that standpoint for 12 years in South Africa and eventually the Apostolic Faith Mission (notice the name!) agreed that there are modern apostles and finally acknowledged me as one of them. It is now written on the front page of their new constitution. (I wrote the short thesis to convince them, but Ronnie Naidoo from Tongaat got the credit because he handed it in to the Head Office with his name signed at the bottom, because he said they would not accept it if it comes from me. No one knows this fact except Ronnie and the President of the AFM, Izak Burger, because I told him so. Oh yes, more importantly, God also knows!)
The AOG do not believe in apostles anymore
So here we are in Cienfuegos and I am told not to mention the feared word ‘apostle’. It feels like I am back in the ‘80’s again! In my dream I remonstrated with the pastor in the red check shirt. Now I know why.
I explained Ephesians 4 to him and said, ‘if you can use the term pastor, you can use the term apostle as well, it is all in the Word!’ Yet, he remained obstinate and replied, ‘our denomination does not believe in apostles.’ So they honor the laws of men more than they honor God’s own Word! And yet they pride themselves in the fact that they will rather serve God than man, even though they are persecuted. What they don’t realize is that they are serving a man-made church system, and not serving God in the real sense of the word. That is how deceptive religion can be! They deny the existence of apostles today.
At 7 am a cock crew outside. It was a quiet Wednesday morning in Cuba. I sat in the little room typing away on my report of my first mission to Cuba. I have no desire to get up and preach at all. Only God can give me wisdom and enthusiasm for the next three days. I understand why Jesus said, ‘you kill the ones I send to you! You kill the apostles and stone the prophets.’
The AOG firmly hold to the obsolete belief that there were only 12 apostles who laid the foundation for the church and their work is over and no longer required. It is the pastoral age as far as they are concerned. Where they are sadly missing it is the fact that every newly planted church should have its foundation laid with modern apostles and prophets! The foundation is Christ, but those two ministry functions have the spiritual gifts to do the job! Take those two ministries out of Ephesians 4 and see how it reads? They literally deny the word of God and say they are doing the work of God!
If a building inspector comes to inspect a home and it is not built according to plan he demands that they break down the walls and place the doors and windows according to the building plan or else it is unacceptable.
In I Corinthians 12:28 the Word clearly declares: ‘When God composed the Church, He put first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then he added miracles and healings, administrations, helpers, tongues and interpretation of tongues.’ Those are God’s ingredients for a New Testament church. I wonder how many churches qualify to be called a church in the sight of God?
Even though the New Testament enumerates 26 apostles by name the blind leaders of the Protestant, Pentecostal and Charismatic Denominations deny the truth and prefer the traditions of their fathers making the word of God null and void. They will be held accountable for keeping the truth away from people.
So no matter how much Pastor Rafael smiles and me and how he makes obeisance to show me how he respects me, and how friendly he is to me in his home, the bottom line is he does not acknowledge me in my function. So all the rest is false, as far as I am concerned. To show friendliness to impress others with your religion has no value if you do not accept the sent one. How sad, but I have been through this procedure so many, many times before…’same procedure as last time, madam?’ (a quote from the theatre piece, ‘Dinner for One’)
Well, Jesus warned, if you do not receive apostles in the name of an apostle, your house will be left to you desolate, empty and friendless.’ What a terrible state to be in!
Jesus said, ‘let those who have ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.’ He also said, ‘there are none so blind as those who choose not to see.’ Once a mind has been made up not to hear the truth, a friendly smile and service cannot change it. You cannot accept and reject someone at the same time and you cannot divorce the office from the man. But the church leaders do; they do!
This is part of the sufferings for Christ we have been called for. If I did not have that dream about Cuba, I probably will go home straight away! But now I have to see it through, day by day and see what the Lord wants to accomplish. That is why new churches are required, because the old ones resist the truth and refuse to change. They want religion and do not want to be part of the Church of the Firstborn, registered in heaven. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
They do not read English or speak or understand it, so all the material I brought with me is useless unless someone translates it into Spanish. Roslyn said she will help with translating some of our courses, but she works so hard at her job (which is translating from English to Spanish) and to care for her family that she hardly has any time to do anything else. She gets up at 6 am and makes breakfast and lunch. She leaves the lunch for the family and goes to work. In the evenings she comes home and cooks dinner, every day of her life. There are no house helpers in Caracas. She does it all without complaint.
I am learning Spanish as fast as I can every day because there is absolutely no way of communicating otherwise. I have picked up a few basic words so far that help me around the house.
But it is difficult, because I am not accepted, therefore I do not and cannot feel at home, no matter how friendly they try to be. How on earth will they listen to what I have to say? They have already made up their minds about me before hearing me speak. Where you are well received your gift freely operates; but where you are rejected from the start it is like walking through quicksand. It is abrasive and every act of kindness not appreciated, because it is not true.
Nevertheless, Nola, Aje and others encouraged me just to ‘be me’ and let the Lord determine the outcome. Aje added, ‘play piano for them, the Lord will open their hearts!’
The pastor’s meeting in Cienfeugos
So I got up to minister in the morning and there were several pastors and their wives present. They came from as far as 40 Kilometers with motorbike taxis and some even hiked. Pastors earn between $15 and $20 per month but it is not sufficient to live on. They have it very hard in the ministry.
Lilly interpreted for me. She is a private teacher of English and can also speak French.
I ministered on Journey 49 in the Life of Christ: the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and how he always knew what to do because he knew the Scriptures and how to fulfill them. As I preached I felt the presence of God very strongly and started prophesying to them to encourage and comfort them.
‘The Lord says, ‘well done good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over very little and you will be appointed over much more. Enter into the joy of your Lord!’
Tears were flowing over their cheeks as they heard these words. I thanked them on behalf of heaven for caring for the sheep that belongs to the Lord’s flock.
I told them not to talk about the hardships of the ministry in front of the children or else it will discourage the children from serving the Lord. Only share the blessings and the adventure of serving Christ and they will also go into the ministry because they see you actually like what you are doing! Many pastor’s kids hate the church because they see what people do to their parents. That makes them hate God as well.
We had a prophecy when we only had two children that all three will be in the ministry with us! Aje and Chantal has been in full time ministry for 11 years with us now and Yve worked in the church for almost 3 years before she got married to Don in Tennessee. Hilton is in Miracle Bible College at the moment and soon Raquel from Caracas will join him.
I shared how the Lord prepares us for something before He asks us to do it. Because we know God has prepared us we can be confident and walk by faith. (II Corinthians 5:6, 7)
I also spoke about equipping the saints for the work of the ministry and giving God’s people rest. I also said pastors need time to rest. The Good Shepherd leads the sheep by still waters and green pastures to restore their souls. I explained rest to them. It is the rest of faith that you are confidently doing what you are anointed to do.
When I finished preaching, the people got up one by one and thanked God for sending me to Cuba. Here are some of the testimonies:
Maria del Carmen asked God to speak to her about the man from South Africa that is coming to speak to them and God gave her Jeremiah 17:5 that says cursed is the man who trusts in man, but blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord and makes the Lord his confidence. When I preached I confirmed that scripture to them.
‘For he will be like a tree by the waterside: he will have deep roots and won’t feel the heat. He will not be tired in times of drought and his leaves will be green. He will always bear fruit.’ She said to the others: ‘Today the Lord will refresh us through this man that he sent to us.’ And she thanked the Lord that I fulfilled those scriptures and refreshed them all.
Alfredo said he had such a heavy burden in the ministry for such a long time. He fell on his knees yesterday and cried out to God to send someone to comfort and encourage him. ‘God spoke to me through this brother today. He combined all the questions I asked the Lord in one message and answered them.’ He thanked that Lord that his heavy burden was lifted today.
Kirenea and her husband were weary because of people in their church that rebel against them. They started thinking they were doing something wrong and God was punishing them. But today they learned that they are doing things right and those people are rebellious. She also thanked the Lord that she learned not to talk about the hardship of the ministry in front of their kids. For her daughter has turned her back on the church because of it. Now she understands why and they are going to change things.
Raixeidy feels if he does not get souls saved all the time that he is failing God and then he gets tired and weary. He lives 400 km away from his family and never has the finances to go and visit them. Yesterday he phoned his daughter and told her he needs a break and some rest. Today I came to confirm it to him. I also showed him that Jesus only went to Nazareth once; when they rejected Him He never returned. Jesus went were people received Him. This changed the pastor’s thinking completely. He will go where he is received from now on and not where he is rejected all the time.
Pastor Rafael affirmed that God sent me to them today to encourage them. He needed to hear this word today. He was worried and concerned about so many things in the ministry that it exhausted him. Today God said to them: ‘well done, I am pleased with you!’ We never hear a message like this! God spoke to us through this man that He sent to us.
Orlando thanked God for the gift of this word that this man brought to us today. It comforted and strengthened them and flows like living water inside of them. He realized that God’s servants have a lack of knowledge of the Word of God and that is why their trials are too hard for them for they do not know what to do. Today they heard that God has a promise for every occasion and He promises to be with us all the time, He will never leave us, till the world ends! This word was like a balm to my troubled soul today, like healing medicine. It refreshed my entire being!
Alfredo and Francisca are from Camarones and have started an outreach in Ballboa. Many young people have been delivered from demons and are turning to the Lord now.
Reineuris and Anna are from Caracas in Cuba. He was a boxer and a very violent man that ended up in jail. But he met the Lord in jail and became a preacher. They are seeing people leaving the Roman Catholic religion and learning to put their trust in the Living God.
Orlando and Eddie are from Simpatea, a very dangerous town on a beach. Orlando found someone who taught him to read the bible and now he preaches and people come to him for advice.
Eliezer and Vivian work in Tullipane, a suburb of Cienfuegos. The government gave them permission to build a church in their backyard and they were able to raise the funds to build it. The government normally never allows anyone to build a church, but if you build it in your backyard they sometimes grant permission.
Pepito Tey is where Carlos and Kirenea with 3 kids operate. There were no Christians when they arrived there. Today after many years they have a church building in their backyard and they started a new mission 3 Km away.
Rafael and Tamaris have the church in their home and he oversees 17 other churches for the AOG.
Another Rafael preaches in San Lazara, a suburb known for violence. People are getting saved and converted there and turning to the Lord. They leave their old sinful ways and begin to follow the Lord and trust in Him. He also built a church in his backyard in 9 years time.
After the meeting another pastor came up to me and said he rejoices that God sent me to them. ‘You have many things to say to us, but today God spoke through you what He wanted to say to us. We needed this message today. Thank you for coming. You are always welcome to come back to Cuba.’
Pastor Rafael that resisted me so much last night, came up to me after the meeting with open arms and hugged me sincerely, ‘ah Pelser!’ he shouted, ‘ah, Pelser, Pelser, Pelser!’ He does not speak a word of English, but that said it all!
How strong the love of God is! It breaks the hardest flint rock and smashes it open! It opens the iron gates of a city! It brings the breakthrough where everything else would fail. It melts the hardest heart. My sister Janine once sang a song in the spirit in our first church that we planted, Southern Christian Centre, in Mondeor, Johannesburg South:
‘Jesus, Jesus, your love has melted my heart.’
Ah, it is the love of God that is stronger than anything for God is love.
Oh love of God, so rich and pure
So measureless and strong
It shall for evermore endure
In saints and angels’ song!
The Love of God is greater far
Than any tongue or pen can ever tell
It reaches to the highest heavens
And stoops beneath the lowest hell!
While I preached I saw pastors and wives hug each other with tears of joy streaming over their faces. They did not bother to wipe it away because it was so glorious. It was the tender love of their heavenly Father that touched their hearts today. I did not come to bring them some church growth formula, or even explain steps to prosperity: I simply preached Christ and Him crucified and God’s love confirmed the message to their hearts. It was a heart to heart talk, rather than a mind-to-mind sermon that tries to impress. God’s word has substance and it is evidence of what we do not see yet. It is so simple; yet so profound.
There was no offering taken for me, no love gift offered, but I have learned to work in the anointing to preach the Gospel to the poor and my reward is doing the Father’s will and finishing His work. This sustains me and makes me strong. It is my hidden meat that others know little of. God is My Rewarder. He shall repay me. The Lord once told Nola, our work and our rewards are with God. Sela.
Today the same Cuba that seemed shut closed for me last night, opened up in the hearts of the pastors and wives who attended the morning meeting. I am content. I am happy. My heart is full and my soul satisfied. The Lord did it and it is marvelous in my eyes. It is so easy when He does it and you do not struggle in your own strength to push a door open. His love is mightier than a sword. The entrance of His word brings light. The light of God’s word entered the hearts of these dear men and women who lay down their lives for the people of Cuba. They are the unsung heroes of this troubled nation, not the Revolutionaries that have all passed away and are still being honored!
I gave them money for the rental car and fuel and also gave Lily my interpreter some Euros for helping me. Without her I cannot speak to these people. ‘You are good with languages,’ she said, ‘if you concentrate for one year you will speak Spanish!’
All the attendants had lunch together on the roof of the house. Rice and black beans, sweet potato and Cuban sausage made up the bulk of the meal today.
Lily is interested in translating my book, God’s Genius, into Spanish. She will have a look at it and determine what it will cost for her to translate it.
I handed out some gifts like CD’s, DVD’s and a box of pens and pencils that they asked me to bring. I also brought a rare article: a pencil sharpener! They sharpened their pencils with great glee and merriment! It is hard to find stationary here in Cuba. They were all so happy when each one received a new pen or a pencil – like little children at a party!
Tomorrow they will take me to the beach. I hope to swim in the warm waters of Cuba! I am feeling a bit better already and don’t cough incessantly. Praise the Lord. I confess my cold and flu is over, in Jesus’ Name.
We prayed for a baby of one of the pastors that had a runny tummy. They took her to the hospital with our rented car. A car is an absolute luxury in Cuba! I gave them the car for the afternoon and stayed indoors to rest a bit and do more writing. As long as I have a little desk in the small room, I am content. The prophet’s room upstairs had a bed, a chair and desk, and a lamp. That is all. It is enough. The Lord fills up the rest of the space. Nothing elaborately, just what is required. And the people who prepared that room for the man of God got their miracle when they needed one. When the son died they carried him up to the prophets room and the prophet presented him back to them, alive and well! People who take care of sent ones, receive a manifold blessing in return. My parents always took visiting ministers into our home. It enriched our lives and I am reaping where my parents sowed by people taking care of me again. It is a cycle of blessing that one does not break. Nola and I still take care of people where we can and we trained our church to take care of visitors as well. My mother always taught me: ‘be kind to foreigners because they are far away from home.’
Those who trust God are all like strangers and pilgrims in this world, looking for a better homeland of which God laid the foundations. They see it afar off and embrace it by faith! God is not ashamed to call them brothers and does not mind that they call Him their God. (Hebrews 11: 13-15)
This world is not my home,
I’m just a passing through
My mansion’s waiting there
Somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me
From Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore!
Cuba, Cambodia, Cape Town – it is wonderful to know these cities, but I am looking for my final home, more and more!
I have a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we never grow old
And someday yonder we’ll never more wonder
But walk in streets that are laid with gold
I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
For in that city where the ransomed will shine
I have a mansion that’s made with gold
There are so many ministers that mock the fact that heaven’s streets are laid with gold, because it is so unfathomable for the human mind, but let me tell you, if God says it is so, it is so! They are contradicting the word of God and calling everything symbolic, but there is a real place called Heaven. Jesus said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you, and if it is finished, I shall return to take you to be with me forever!’ He also affirmed: ‘In My Father’s House are many mansions! If it were not so, I would have told you so!’
He has been away for almost 2 000 years now – the place must be almost ready!
When the disciples asked the Lord the way to that place He said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me!’ (John 14:6)
It is good to be homesick for heaven sometimes! It gives your life direction and turns your head away from all the troubles and temptations of the world to keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1) who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and despised the shame.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of the earth
Will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
Jesus is the sweetest name I know
And He’s all the same
As His lovely name
That’s the reason why
I love Him so
For Jesus is the sweetest name I know
The Word becomes balm to the soul
It was so wonderful to hear the one pastor say that the word I brought was like balm to his troubled soul today. Jesus is The Word. The name of Jesus is like ointment poured forth. Just say it out loud: ‘Jesus! Jesus!’
May the glory of God that we experienced in this little house meeting in Cienfuegos, Cuba, overshadow you right now, and may you hear your Heavenly Father’s voice say to you: ‘well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful over very little; you will be appointed over much more; enter the joy of the Lord!’ Well done! Well done! The Lord is happy and He sings about you! There is a song in heaven with your name ringing in it! Rejoice for the Lord is for you and not against you! He is your God! You are His child. He will never leave or forsake you, world without end!
The difficulty to obtain a visa for Cuba
To get a religious visa for Cuba is a long and painstaking process that takes up to 3 months. There is a religious organization that have to approve of you and they are used by the government to issue the religious visa. But there are so many restrictions and obstacles in that visa, for instance, you are only allowed to preach in churches they designate, and that will not be Pentecostal, but only Roman Catholic or Protestant. The price for the religious visa is also very exorbitant. You have to answer all their questions and fill in many pages for them about all your details.
God stopped me from trying to obtain that visa, so I came in as a tourist and as long as I preach in homes, the government can do nothing. But if I go into public places then the government can arrest me for not having a religious visa. If you want to hold a crusade you require a religious visa.
I obtained my visa in the most unique way: as I checked in at Caracas, I purchased a visa to Cuba. Roslyn organized it and paid it for me. I have never known anywhere else in the world where you obtain a visa at a check-in counter! And it was dirt-cheap as well! All the travel agents I asked in South Africa said I will not be allowed into Cuba without a visa and I cannot get one in Cuba. But God made the impossible possible again like He so often does! In the end it is the best visa most suited to what I have to do here. Only God knew that. I didn’t.
The police only stopped us once along the way to check our passports and did not ask what I was doing in Cuba!
Toilet paper becomes luxury
The other tiny detail (Yvette wrote a physical theatre play with the title, ‘A tiny detail’, and also produced and directed it at The Little Theatre, in Cape Town) that amazes me is the fact that I took a toilet role with me when I left home. I never do that. I normally take a bunch of tissues and then rely on the airplanes and hotels to replenish my stock. Well, the airplanes of South America have not tissues in the toilets! And both in Caracas and here in Cienfuegos you cannot buy tissues and toilet paper is not produced in both of these countries. I needed the toilet paper for my cold and it was always at hand. I would not have made it without the roll of toilet paper that I grabbed as I left home! Who would have thought toilet paper is a luxury? It is a good business idea for anyone that is willing to set up a factory! But nations that have strong communistic influences tend to do without things rather than to create things. It is a mind-set that has set in that is so anti-capitalistic that it despises any new idea for business. Unless the government does it, no one else will do it. The individual is lost in the communal acceptance. It is almost as if people have been brainwashed to accept what the government determines. The government thinks on behalf of everyone and what the government decides is what they will accept. To think beyond the government is almost like dissent or rebellion. People have been punished so severely for going against the communistic rulers that they are afraid to step out of line and do something new.
Pastor Rafael also told me: ‘you cannot start a new church here in Cuba.’ When I asked him how the other churches started he said, ‘it was during the capitalist years. Since the revolution no new churches have been formed.’ God can do a new thing in Cuba! Once the mind of believers is reformed the nation can be reformed as well. All things are possible with God.
The Lord was present
In the evening meeting the place was jammed! People came with expectancy to receive something from the Lord and He did not disappoint them. I preached about the glory of God and how it changed from an outward manifestation in the Old Testament to an inward reality in the New Testament. I based the sermon on Romans 8:28-30 telling us that God has chosen us, called us, justified us because we are pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son. And those whom He justified He also glorifies. We read in the apostolic epistles that the glory of God has now taken up residence within us. The Old Testament was a mere shadow of things to come. That glorious presence in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night is now within us! Glory is weightiness, power and wealth! God gives our lives weight. Our words have weight and we have power in the Name of Jesus to cast out demons and to heal the sick! We are wealthier than before because we have things that money cannot buy: we have right standing with God and we have peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! (Romans 14:17) God has given His angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways! What a glorious life we are called to live! It is attractive. People are attracted to the glory within us and they come to Christ! It is no longer an effort to win souls. People see the glory and they desire to have it!
When I finished preaching I ministered to people as the Spirit led me for healing and for provision. Then an old lady that receives prophetic songs says the Lord gave her a song two days ago about ‘My glory!’ She sang it to us and we were all blessed by the way God confirms His word!
Lily my interpreter brought me Cuban honey for my cough (but the top does not close properly!) and also baked a Caramel Cuban pudding especially for me to enjoy after the meeting. That is their way of saying thank you!
In the morning the water supply was cut off completely. ‘El turbine…’ was not working. So we could not make coffee, nor go to the toilet or shower or do anything at all!
Every day I learn a few new Spanish words: ‘la lampara’ is the light, ‘desayuno’ is breakfast and ‘dos huevos’ is two eggs. ‘Nosostros vamos de la playa hoyo’ means today we are going to the beach!
Cienfuegos had a lot of French influence whereas the rest of Cuba was dominated by Spain. So Cienfuegos has a totally different feel than all the other cities. It is neat and symmetrical and the buildings have a European slant. It is amazingly clean, even at night. There are many small palaces and one called the ‘blue palace’ is actually a hotel opposite the Dutch Yacht Club. At night you find people strolling along the beach promenade. The evenings are not as hot and humid as during the daytime. The slowness and relaxed attitude of the Cubans is visible as you drive along the waterfront. They seem to have all the time in the world!
Struggle to release funds from SA Reserve Bank
Certain funds sent to me from overseas was kept in the South African Reserve Bank for more than two weeks before they released it into my personal account. This sort of thing is happening more often than before and there is absolutely nothing one can do about it. It is infuriating and frustrating because the government departments can do exactly as they please with no one allowed to complain. For instance, we applied for marriage licenses for a few of our pastors almost two years ago and even though we constantly remind the department of the interior about it, we have not received any response at all. This sort of attitude was not tolerated in the previous regime, but it is an African way of letting things slide without paying any attention to it and it is called incompetence. Some of my friends have left our country because of the incompetence. They place friends in high positions that have no clue what they are doing in order to facilitate huge salaries for one another. I wonder if the general population in South Africa will really vote for the ANC again in next year’s election. If they do they are not concerned about the deterioration of a very self-sufficient country. It is the only country in Africa that is still holding its head above water, so to speak, as far as sub-structures of society is concerned. It is the only viable living option in Africa. That is why so many illegal citizens move across borders to find a spot in South Africa to survive. They are welcomed with open arms and great heartedness by the government but the government does not supply housing or jobs for them. So they often resort to crime to survive. The government also turns a blind eye to their crimes because the prisons are too full already. The anarchy in Africa is slowly gathering momentum in South Africa as well. It is such a beautiful country and we pray to God to help us, but the government rejects Christianity and promotes their witchcraft idolatry in parliament and tells people to go back to their ancestral roots. The majority rules, but it is not always beneficial for a country.
In the long run we look for the government of Christ, where righteousness will reign, and his rule will never end.
Preaching in Cruses
The following night we went to Cruses, (‘Crosses’) to hold a meeting in a church where Pastor Carlos and his wife oversee the work. The place was absolutely filled with people on a Thursday night (‘Huwebes’). I preached on John 4 about the Samaritan Woman at the well and acted it out for them. When I mentioned the fact that the disciples went to buy some food, I asked three different people what their favorite food is and all of them confirmed that rice and black beans is still their favorite food in Cuba! They just can’t live without it!
At the end of the meeting I ministered to the church ensemble and many people were touched by the word and felt it was just for them. The pastors were intrigued by the way I preach: no notes, no bible and yet my message is very accurate. They way I act things out is also something they have never seen before. And how I prophesy and minister to people makes everything seem so simple and easy.
After the meeting a brown spotted fox terrier dog came in at the door and ran straight to me. It licked my hand and then sat next to me and escorted me out of the building to eventually disappear in the yard.
‘Why did he come to you?’ my interpreter wanted to know.
‘They can feel the anointing too,’ I explained.
We drove back through several towns one of which is the head quarters of witchcraft in Cuba. One can sense the evil and darkness as you drive through.
Exotic beaches of Cuba
‘Varadero esta le mahor playa de Cuba!’ (It is the best beach in Cuba). The Atlantic Ocean is warm here, unlike the icy Atlantic in Cape Town! And there are no ‘pedros’, no rocks to hurt your feet on as was the case in the southern beaches of Cienfuegos on the Caribbean Ocean. But the lukewarm waters literally relax you completely and after soaking and swimming for an hour or so you feel like a new person altogether!
Hemmingway in Havana
We only had a few hours to have a peek into Havana before going to the airport to catch my flight to Caracas. Here you have to check in 3 hours before. As we arrived at the airport the public announcement for Caracas was made.
In Havana we entered the famous bar where Ernest Hemmingway used to sip his mojitos: La Bodeguita del Medio. It means ‘a small bar in the middle of the block’ because bars are traditionally on the corner. There are Bodeguitas all over the globe today, but this was the original one. The walls are covered with people’s signatures. It is one of the most visited places on earth. We also signed our names on the turquoise wall where we could find a gap!
Besides La Bodeguita we went to the famous public square and also tread on Revolution Square where the monument in the shape of a star is the central focus. Important national events are still being held in Revolution Square.
I asked the two pastors that accompanied me everywhere what they gleaned from me and this is a summary of what both of them said: ‘we were not sure of you at first and we do not go by first impressions. But we waited until God confirmed you through the messages you brought and how God used you. Your life of faith trusting God for all your missions and your life and ministry amongst us spoke deeply to us. We feel God sent you to us for a greater purpose and we want to relate to you as a mentor and a friend. Please come back any time. Your words left us with a lot of questions about the way we do things in life and ministry. We see many things have to change. You have given us many tools to start working with. It was a pleasure being with you in church, at home and on the beach. You are the same everywhere. We know now that you are a man of God. And we acknowledge you as an apostle. We see how God sends you and how you trust God to provide for you in a supernatural way. Your messages were like balm to broken hearts.’
When Rafael mentioned the feared word ‘apostle’ the first time in his life, he felt a burden lift off him.
‘I understand you in the spirit.’ He mentioned.
I felt so weak throughout the time in Cuba as my coughing and dripping nose exhausted my weary body day and night and yet while I ministered I seemed fine. I even sang a song on the final night and I had no voice when I arrived in Cuba.
‘But you never looked weak!’ Lily replied.
‘When you are weak, He is strong!’ Nola reminded me.
My first message had an apostolic anointing to it and touched the pastors deeply. The second message was a teaching and opened their understanding concerning the permanent glory instead of the manifested glory. On the last night I ministered evangelistically and gave altar calls for salvation, deliverance and healing. I also used prophetic acting to demonstrate my sermon.
The Cuban Image
I thought about the image one has of Cuba because of all the movies and advertising: the old and colorful cars, the old and colorful buildings, the relaxed way that people dress and walk and just sit around, giving the impression that no one has to work or go to school in Cuba, the warm weather and the tall Royal Palms waving in the breeze and realized that their abject poverty forcefully produced their ‘style’ of life that others in more affluent societies try to copy, for instance the art deco buildings in Miami. The old cars are painted with colorful paint because that is the only paint they have. The old cars are the only ones they have. It is not a style. It is a necessity. They have to fix them up and keep them because there are no new cars. The old motorcycles are all they’ve got. It is not being retro; it is being real!
So I noticed old De Soto’s, Fords, Chevrolet’s variety of models, Buicks, Chryslers, Olds Mobiles and the pink or yellow Cadillac with sunroofs! When I looked into those old cars I saw how terribly uncomfortable they are to drive! The steering wheel is right up here against you and there are no armrests, and the gear lever is built onto the shaft of the steering wheel. You can hardly see over the steering wheel so the view is not good. The doors are hard to open and close and most of the boots do not close. You can buy one of those antique models here in Cuba for about $5 000 each.
It feels like time has stood still in Cuba while the rest of the world moved on, but that is not a criticism it is actually part of its charm. There is nostalgia about the place that is natural without any pretence. Their music also hits that note in the hearts of people.
Che Guevarra and Fidel Castro’s images are everywhere as if the revolution is still going on, but people no longer dress or try to look like them. That time is over. It is a new day for Cuba. Only in other countries do young people wear Che on their T-shirts, not really knowing why, but just liking the image. In Cuba his image actually means something to a whole nation. Fidel’s slogans are engraved permanently on walls of every city and town. Those two made Cuba what it is today, the good and the bad of it.
Dios te bendiga, Cuva!
21 June 2013
Apostle Andre Pelser