As this installment of Photo Friday goes out, I’ll be enjoying conference presentations on the history of Protestantism in the Americas. Over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot about Latin American Protestants — a topic about which I know very little — and have enjoyed building my knowledge base on this aspect of American Christianity.
All this new information has me thinking about the Brethren in Christ missionary work done in Latin America — including the Caribbean, where the Brethren in Christ began to work as early as 1953, when two church leaders — Harry Hock and Dale Ulery — began conducting successful tent meetings in Cuba.
Serious consideration of Cuba as a Brethren in Christ mission field began in 1953 when several Brethren in Christ ministers found the Cubans receptive to the gospel. Their successful tent ministry caused them to repair an unused church building located in the town of Cuatro Caminos. A congregation was now in the making. The Brethren evangelists asked the brotherhood to assume responsibility for the work and the foreign mission board (BIC) did so in 1954. The first missionaries sent out by the Board were Howard and Pearl Wolgemuth.
Additional missionaries were sent out as the work grew. Methods used were Sunday schools, preaching, home visitation, and youth work. Workers also began a Christian elementary school. A second congregation was formed at Nazareno. In 1958 the mission had two congregations, three additional places of worship, four Sunday schools (attendance, 180), and 27 church members. Membership in 1986 was 46; attendance was often significantly higher.
The Cuban revolution (1959) resulted in the missionaries leaving in 1960. Fortunately an able member of the church with Bible Institute training, Juana Garcia, assumed leadership responsibilities. Under her guidance the church has weathered the difficulties, grown, and remained spiritually alive.
For more on the Brethren in Christ mission work in Cuba, see Leslie Book, “Howard and Pearl Wolgemuth and the Beginning of the Brethren in Christ Church in Cuba and Nicaragua,” Brethren in Christ History and Life 17, no. 3 (December 1994): 243-282.