Jeremy and I went to Cuba recently to visit Yadir and Ania’s family (the Cuban couple on our team) and to see the work that is going on there now. Before moving to the U.S., Yadir was one of the main leaders who started a church planting movement that produced 3,000 churches in 2 years! Their goal is to reach 10,000 churches by the end of 2017. It is one of the biggest movements going on in the world today, so we were very excited to see the amazing work that is happening there. We visited some churches who were meeting in homes, and it was amazing to see the hunger and hear about the changed lives in the midst of this Communist country.
One day, we met dozens of people on an old baseball field to play a pick up baseball game. This was a dream to me because I played baseball myself and Cuba is one those countries where baseball tradition runs deep. Most of the players this day had no shoes and I was curious about the talent. It didn’t take long to realize how amazing these players were. I was shocked when I saw them warming up. Most of these guys could easily play in college or above and here they were with no shoes and little baseball equipment. I was a little nervous. Here I was at 40 years old and I hadn’t played in 20 years. I was especially nervous when they wanted me to be the first player to come up to bat. There were no helmets and the pitcher was throwing hard! I said a quick prayer of protection and the game was on in front of a pretty big crowd. The first two pitches were balls, and on the third pitch I hit a line drive to left center field while pumping my fist on the way to first base as the crowd cheered. My life was complete :). Then someone handed me a Cuban jersey from one of the professional teams as a gift that I immediately put on. After that inning, they handed me a glove and told me I was pitching! What? I haven’t thrown from 60 feet in 20 years and it would be a miracle if I didn’t throw out my arm, but I did it and it was one of the sweetest moments of my life. I always tell people that I wish I could have played baseball as a follower of Jesus because I certainly didn’t in high school and college and it usually ended up in a mess because I didn’t have my head on straight. What a gift God gave me this day to give me one more game to play as a follower of Jesus. I was thinking about this the whole time I was pitching that day in Cuba. I was already telling people during the game that this was one of the best days of my life and then a young guy comes up to me after the game and told me that the jersey I was wearing was his. He told me what an honor it was that I wore it in the game and that I would be bringing it to America. Then he said, “I heard you were a Christian, and it would be a privilege if you would share with me about Jesus.” Wow..ok. I proceeded to tell him my story and after I finished he said he was ready to follow Jesus, so we kneeled on that baseball field and prayed together as he gave his life to Jesus and I connected him with one of the Cuban leaders to disciple him. What was already one of the best days of my life, had just become that much sweeter. What a beautiful and emotional day.
The guy in the white shirt below is who decided to follow Jesus.
The people are so hungry and open for God there. This movement actually started in San Jose, California. The team that I partner with planted churches among latinos who produced hundreds of churches around San Jose, and because families have family members and friends in Central and South America and the Caribbean, the movement has spread to several countries, including Cuba, and have produced thousands of churches. The team in San Jose did a training in Cuba in 2014 and this is what you now see. This is what we fully expect to happen from the DFW area as our team is now starting many groups who come together to learn about Jesus. Part of the reason for Jeremy and I going on this trip was to prepare ourselves for when our churches start multiplying to other cities and countries and to know how to support these churches from a leadership and resource perspective. To say the least, this trip was extremely impactful and left us with a hope and a vision of what will and can happen when we reach other nationalities in the DFW area. What an opportunity we all have!
See Video Below for my at bat