Today was the big day! Over a thousand people came to the sports arena for the conclusion of the 9-day evangelistic seminar. It started with enthusiastic singing and special musical pieces, including a band. Ryan had mentioned to the music director that he plays clarinet, so he was pulled in to play as well. Dr. Ortiz and the dean of the Andrews School of Theology both spoke. The Andrews/Sus Manos team sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” with soloists singing in several languages, including Adonías in English for the opening two lines. It was amazing how good we sounded after just a couple practice sessions. These pastors can sing!
After the church service there was a baptism in the pool next to the arena. There was little room around the pool, so most people stayed inside the arena listening to musical pieces. Mike was one of 32 pastors and elders who baptized more than 200 people. A few others joined the church who had previously been baptized, bringing the total of new members to 222. It was a beautiful, sunny day that mirrored the joy in the crowd. One of our Cuban friends told me she was excited because they hadn´t had a big conference like this since 1981.
After the baptism, everyone came back inside for the presentation of bicycles to pastors, Bible workers and others leaders. Several young people actively working for the church received bikes as well. Many received laptops, tablets and books to help with their work, too.
As we left the building, the children´s ministry leader told me she had never ever imagined this day. She had only been told yesterday that her husband would receive a bicycle and she would get a laptop. “I present seminars using just my phone,” she explained. “It is so difficult! This is going to make it so much easier.”
Sabbath afternoon we climbed those 475 steps up to the cross again. Andrés ran up them in about 3 minutes. The mission team met at the top for group photos and for a worship service together.
One last event! The Central church had a social to say goodbye to the two teams working with the Central and Amigos churches. We played funny games, ate cake and ice cream and the churches thanked us for our work and invited us back. Yesterday when Dr. Ortiz told us that the church wanted to do this, my boys said they were too tired to go. But once there, it was so much fun, they begged to let them stay longer. “Okay, one more game!” We ended up staying till the party broke up at 11:30 and headed home to bed, reluctantly realizing our time with our Cuban family is coming to an end and each one promising to come back… some day.