After weeks of waiting, over 134,000 Children's Story Bibles passed through Cuban Customs as part of the largest shipment of Children's Christian material in Cuba's history.
WorldServe Ministries, an organization serving the persecuted Church worldwide, in partnership with American Bible Society, is bringing 200,000 Spanish Most Important Story (MIS) Children's Bibles to be distributed among Cuba's 56 denominations.
Two of the three containers of Bibles have passed customs as of Tuesday, reported WorldServe.
"Many thanks for these Bibles," said one of the Cuban denominational leaders, whose name was not disclosed, according to WorldServe. "They are greatly used and appreciated."
WorldServe, which began working in Cuba in 1993, focuses on church planting, pastoral training, Bible distribution, and other areas of financial assistance to improve the spiritual and living conditions of the people and the churches.
The 212-page MIS Story Bible, the first of its kind to be shipped by WorldServe into Cuba, contains important and popular stories selected from the Old and New Testament. At the end of the Bible, there is also the 32-page MIS booklet called The Most Important Story Ever Told, which has been widely distributed in the country in previous years.
Although this shipment is the first time MIS Story Bibles have entered Cuba, over the past ten years, WorldServe has shipped more than 1.7 million Most Important Story Ever Told booklets into Cuba, averaging about 200,000 a year.
"Today in Cuba there is a desperate need for children's evangelistic material," said Tommy Danielsson, WorldServe's vice president of outreach and special projects, to The Christian Post. "The Most Important Story has been the most effective children's gospel booklet for church outreach into the community."
These scripture booklets are said to be popular among Christians and non-Christians alike in Cuba.
Christian children often give the MIS as birthday favors to other children at their parties. The parents of non-Christian children see their children playing and learning from the booklets at home and in turn requests copies to give to their families and friends.
Over the past couple of years, the Bible Commission of Cuba reported receiving hundreds of requests from non-Christians for the children's scripture booklets.
Cuba, a communist country, has had a publicly tense and even hostile relationship with the United States since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 when Fidel Castro came to power. And ever since 1961, the U.S. has not had formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Yet despite tense U.S.-Cuban relations, both nations have given permission for the Bibles to be distributed in Cuba.
Cuban Christian leaders explained that several years back the country's communist leaders approached them for help in educating the youth and combating the country's drug problems after seeing their good works in other social areas such as hurricane relief. The church leaders agreed but said they needed permission to plant churches and import Bibles. Cuban officials had agreed to their request for both churches and Bibles.
Children of the Eastern Baptist Convention now participate in "Happy Hour" – a community program where Christian kids invite their non-Christian neighbors into their homes to sing, play games, hear a devotional and memorize scripture. The MIS is reportedly used by the children in memorizing Bible verses.
Moreover, the MIS is also used at hospital bedsides and for chaplains in prison ministries with both adults and children.
Although unknown to many people, Christianity has flourished and continues to grow in Cuba where people are said to "flock" to church.
In 1991 – the year when the Congressional Communist Party voted to change Cuba's constitutional status from atheist to secular state – there were only 1,100 churches and house churches in the island nation. About 16 years later there are now more than 16,000 house churches, according to WorldServe.
"We send our gratitude to you for all of these Biblical materials that you continue to send," thanked one Cuban church leader, whose name was not disclosed. "It is the most effective material available to reach the Cuban Children."
On the web:http://www.worldserve.org