Cuba’s Great Awakening

Cuba’s Great Awakening

by Spence Shelton

Kurt Urbanek, father to Mercy’s very own Scott Urbanek, wrote a book a few years back called Cuba’s Great Awakening. Kurt has been a missionary to Cuba for over 20 years now and in his book he chronicled the movement of God that has flourished for the past 25+ years unbeknownst to most of the evangelical world. In this time frame, Cuba has grown from 0.5% to 10% evangelical. That is almost 1 million people who’ve become followers of Christ in the past 25 years. There is perhaps no richer soil on the planet to plant the gospel right now than the island of Cuba.


Last week I had the privilege of being on a small team from Mercy Church who went to help a local church run an evangelistic outreach to their city. The lead pastor sat us down the first night and said “To understand Cuba, you must experience Cuba.” He was referring to this movement of God (though it applies to all aspects of life there) he is caught up in and now sitting in my air conditioned office I can say I’ve never felt the constraints of the English language like I feel right now. How can I bring you to Cuba in one post or even a series of posts? I can’t. But I do know why God took us to Cuba. It wasn’t to help the work. If anything, our need for translators and our low body tolerance for such heat only slowed them down. I believe God took us to Cuba to awaken our hearts to what he wants to do, and is capable of doing, in Charlotte. So I’m going to share what we saw and what it could mean for Mercy Church and really the entire church in America.


  • The soul harvest is abundant right now in Cuba. Over the course of 3 days 80 Cubans and 6 Americans walked the streets sharing the gospel one-on-one with anyone who would listen. Then, each evening, we held a worship service that had a very evangelistic angle to it. Scott and I each had the privilege of preaching at one of the services. In three days 781 people gave their lives to Christ. And of those 781, maybe 60 of those professions happened at one of our 3 worship services. The rest were in one-on-one conversations. Right now let me caution you against your western skepticism. I watched people, right in front of my face, put their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and it was beautiful. While we stood mouth agape for 3 days at this, none of the Cubans were surprised. Because this is what happens when the gospel is explained boldly to those who don’t know it. Lesson: The same Holy Spirit who was at work saving souls in Cuba is ready to go to work right here. Our problem is not a harvest problem, it’s a laborer problem. Just last night at dinner Scott had the chance to lead a complete stranger he met while a group of us were eating over at a burger place in Elizabeth. We are praying for a gospel awakening to happen in Charlotte and the sobering reality is: It’s less likely that we are waiting on God and more likely that God is waiting on us. Will we be open to sharing the saving hope of Jesus with people? Will we join him in his mission to seek and save the lost? I believe the soul harvest is more abundant here than we may realize.
  • The Cuban believers sacrificed A LOT to pull this off. 80 cubans came from around the island to spend 4 days, sun-up until waaaaay past sundown, to carry out this campaign. They were ready and willing to do whatever it took to see people come to faith. I met an 18 year old who said to me “I give my whole life to God’s work and he uses me to bring glory to him when he saves others through my testimony.” First off, awesome English for a guy who’s never studied it. Second, how simple and true this is. Many of these believers slept on the floor of the church or outside for these 3 days, they walked more miles than I can count, and they did it with joy on their faces because they were getting to see people come from death to life! By the way I’m not even dipping into the recent history of the believers who were imprisoned and tortured for preaching the gospel. Those heroes paid the price which laid the foundation for the present movement.The mission of God wasn’t something they did begrudgingly, it was something they celebrated as if they’d been allowed in on something incredible they didn’t deserve to be a part of. Lesson: Will we approach the mission of God with sacrificial tenacity & joy? We are enslaved to our distractions & schedules. Will we allow the Spirit of God to break those chains and will we give ourselves radically to the advancement of the gospel here in our own city? I promise sacrifice is not comfortable and since most of us worship comfort we will most likely experience pain and frustration to see the gospel advanced. Will we let our joy for the gospel lead us through that pain and into the abundant harvest of souls waiting for us?
  • The Cuban Church worshiped like they were practicing for heaven. I’m not sure how else to describe it. Everybody came to church expecting to sing, shout, & even sweat. People broke out in applause when the good news of the gospel was proclaimed. Whether that was in singing, in skits, or in preaching. There seemed to be a spirit in which their hearts were captured by what they’d been saved FROM and the love of the one who had saved them and it kept spilling out in worship. The church we were at is virtually identical to Mercy Church theologically, yet their expressiveness challenged me in a good and timely way. Lesson: Worship is a collective celebration of our joy in Christ. Will we come to church ready to celebrate? Maybe even ready to sweat a little bit? If you’ve been around Mercy for a while you know this is along the lines of something God has been working on us in recent months. Every time we gather for worship we have the chance to celebrate the miraculous work God has done for us. I’m praying we let the celebration of the gospel drive us to open up and enjoy worship together!

The gospel is thriving in Cuba. And as God has done throughout the ages, he allowed one church to look in and learn from another. May we put on the sacrificial joy of the gospel and run fast into the harvest waiting for us here in Charlotte.