The Blessing of Renewed Vision

In the classic movie, A Christmas Story, Ralphie desperately wants a Red Ryder Range BB gun for Christmas, despite everyone’s warning, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” As Ralphie’s last gift on Christmas morning, he unwraps the gun from his father, loads it, and darts outside. His first shot backfires, and Ralphie’s glasses fly off his face. Panicked, he blindly searches through the thick snow. CRUNCH: Ralphie’s foot crushes his glasses beyond repair. If you wear glasses, even if it’s readers, you know that panicked feeling when they break, or you’ve lost them entirely. Like Ralphie, you may grab an old backup pair if they help you see at all. Or, you scramble to get an appointment with the eye doctor. But what if you couldn’t get an eye exam, afford a replacement, or buy a pair of glasses in the first place? 

In Cuba, the government provides eye exams for residents. However, due to the current economic crisis in the country, medical supplies, like eyeglasses, are often not available. An eye exam can only be helpful if you get the necessary glasses to see better. Then, when you can get glasses, they’re often expensive and made of poor quality. Poor-quality glasses break easier, especially for active kids like Ralphie. Also, your health can be impacted without prescription glasses to see well. It can cause eye strain, headaches, dizziness, and an inability to focus and potentially result in an accident or injury. It may make reading challenging if you can read at all.

Scripture says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Matthew 6:22-23

To help those who need prescription glasses get a quality pair to see well, we’re working with Warby Parker in Charlotte, NC. We were relieved to find them because many eyeglass centers will not accept an international prescription, especially without a patient visit. Warby Parker’s mission to help people who need glasses but don’t have access to them made them easy to work with. Alleviating the problem of impaired vision is at the heart of what they do, and we can provide Warby Parker glasses to people in Cuba.  

“With the economic conditions in Cuba, prescription eyeglasses are not available, so pastors asked if Atulado could help. I found that Warby Parker can fill an international prescription. What a blessing it has been to work with Warby Parker to fill these orders. Their professional and friendly staff helps us choose the correct size frame by looking at the photograph of the person’s face and reviewing the prescription. The glasses are made and delivered in two weeks, starting at only $95! It’s a great blessing to our ministry.”

– Renee S.

“I’m so grateful to the Atulado family for helping me with a new pair of glasses. Some months ago, I lost my glasses. It was an unfortunate day because I wear my glasses permanently. The following week, I had intense headaches and even a fever. My mom thought I had a virus or another disease. She took me to the pediatric hospital, and the doctor said it was because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Then, I got better despite not wearing glasses, but the situation was severe. My missionary told me about Atulado, and we sent the prescription. Now, I can see well, and my heart is so thankful for this kindness.”

– Kevin

“I’m deeply grateful to God and Atulado Ministries for providing Algeline with glasses. I purchased a pair of glasses for her at the MLC store some time ago, but unfortunately, they didn’t work. The prescription was wrong. Despite the prescription error, Angeline used them anyway because we couldn’t afford a replacement. The quality of the glasses was so poor they broke after only four months. Now, Angeline has a pair of glasses with the correct prescription and exceptional quality. I’m so happy my baby can see good.”

– Angeline’s Mom

If you can join a mission trip to Cuba, just do it!  The hospitality of the Cuban people makes you feel at home even when you’re hundreds of miles away. Joining a mission trip is an experience that will change your life, just as it has mine. 

I had been to Cuba several times with my church before COVID-19 and wished to return. With our church not planning any trips to Cuba, connecting with Atulado opened the door to this opportunity. The Cuban Customs process has always been challenging, and I expected nothing different. The Cuban Customs process seemed easier than previous trips, even though we went through the most difficult airport for tourists. Also, I got randomly selected for a COVID test, my bags were the last to make it off the luggage belt, and I needed supervisor approval to enter the country. So, right away, the trip was off to a great start!

During our journey to encourage, support, and pray with pastors and their families, we met many inspiring people who impacted me more than they’ll ever know. Pastor Iderlandis Hernández Guzmán and his family were one who stood out. He receives dialysis every other day and spends hours at the hospital weekly. When visiting Iderlandis, you could tell he didn’t let kidney failure prevent him from doing God’s work. Instead, he uses it as an amazing opportunity to take the Gospel into the hospital, where many people aren’t allowed to visit. He plays worship music, reads and shares the Bible with people, and shows Christ’s love for those who are ill. He’s a modern-day Paul turning his situation into a chance to glorify God.

Also, God showed up powerfully in several ways to make his presence known through Hebrews 12:1.  

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

First, a visit with a pastor and his wife, who have been serving the same church on the mountain for 28 years, reminded me of Hebrews 12:1 about running the race. They walk to the church for 45 minutes each way twice a week. They’ve been married for 50 years. Watching them interact, you can tell they are in love with each other and are committed to how God called them to serve. Second, the scripture Hebrews 12:1 appeared through a podcast and sermon I downloaded from my pastor while on this trip. Also, a young Cuban girl who traveled with us had just won a Bible competition on Hebrews 12. Finally, the hostel owner’s niece was wearing a shirt with Hebrews 12 on it.

What I treasure most is gathering around a table with people we visited just to be a part of their lives. Their warm hospitality and sharing a meal impacted me profoundly because they are in the midst of a food shortage, where so many people need basic resources. Also, the ability to encourage, pray, and share God’s love with those we met was refreshing. We traveled to the Eastern part of the island, an area I had never visited. Seeing so many pastors, churches, and friends, and being able to just be there with them and for them influenced me deeply.   

I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to join a mission trip to Cuba. While we supported those who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and disciple His followers, the trip was exactly what I needed to renew my spiritual walk with God. I believe God and the Holy Spirit brought me the opportunity and led me on the journey. It has grounded me again in my faith and moved me back to a great walk with Him. 

– Tim L.

Many describe him as a gentle giant. Pastor Reinier Núñez Pérez towers over six feet tall and weighs about 330 pounds. While he may appear to possess the strength of a warrior, Núñez’s humble spirit, kindness, and love for the Lord radiates with everyone he meets as he shepherds the congregation entrusted to him and faithfully serves God in all he does.

Núñez was born and raised in Los Angeles, Cuba, where he still lives with his family today. He and his wife, Maribel Sánchez Interian, have two little children: a daughter, Zurisadai Núñez Sánchez, and a son, Sadiel de Jesus Nunez Sanchez. While growing up, he loved doing all the things boys do, like playing outside, climbing trees, sparking a campfire using stones, racing friends, and playing ball. Naturally, Núñez loved baseball. One day, a baseball team was forming nearby, and Núñez wanted nothing more than to join the team, so he went to the game. Pastor Emmanuel Cruz Diaz, who was leading the baseball game, shared the Gospel with Núñez that very day, and the team prayed for him. He received Jesus, and Emmanuel taught him how to pray and have a personal relationship with Jesus. God began to work in his heart, and Núñez decided to not only join the team but serve God.

While serving in the sports ministry, God called him into a leadership role, and he wanted to become a pastor. So, he slowly took on leadership roles in the church in various areas of his local community, such as leading small groups while learning to become a pastor. His passion to see souls won for the Lord has grown into over twelve years of ministry and countless encounters where God used him to reach His people and encourage them in times of trouble.

Two people have deeply influenced Núñez’s ministry. First, Fermín Pacheco left a mark on his life during a difficult time. Fermín encouraged him with Bible messages that touched his heart and offered him counsel to provide him the strength to continue walking with Jesus and faithfully serve Him. Fermín’s walk alongside Núñez is now the foundation of how Núñez supports others who may be struggling.

Osmani Sosa has also been influential in his ministry. Osmani offers Núñez and Maribel encouragement and is always interested in them as people, such as inquiring about their spirituality, health, and well-being. For example, when their daughter was very young, Núñez and Maribel lived in the back of the church. They were so thankful to have a place to live and to serve God with all they had that they didn’t consider their living conditions. Imagine Núñez, a giant guy, living with his wife and daughter in a room 6 feet wide by 12 feet long, with the kitchen outside of the church, which was 10-foot by four-foot-wide and had no walls. On one mission trip, the Atulado team visited them at their home. Seeing their living conditions, not a single member of that team could walk away without supporting a plan to move them out of the storage area of the church into a home. Six months later, through the support of the Atulado family, they were moved into a home. Osmani has also been influential in showing them how to help others grow their faith and develop their own pastoral skills. Over the years, Osmani has become like a spiritual father and mentor to Núñez and Maribel.   

Today, there are 140 church members in Núñez’s congregation, with about 40 people who are elderly, sick, or need transportation to attend services regularly. Núñez leads several pastors broken into 30 groups to visit people weekly, offer the Word of God, provide a Bible study, and pray with those unable to attend the services. In addition, Núñez leads his denomination for the area, consisting of 22 churches, and equips the church’s leadership.

Since day one, the hand of God has been at work within the ministry. Many people have been lifted, relationships have been restored, and many have been encouraged to reach their goals. During COVID, while times were hardest, it was an opportunity for the Church to help others and show them the love of Christ. As they delivered much-needed food to one woman, she said she didn’t believe in God or go to church, so she didn’t deserve the items. This was another time God used Núñez to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that day, she became a believer. She now follows Jesus, attends church, and serves the Lord. 

Maribel and Núñez work as a team and share over fifteen incredible years of marriage. From day one, Maribel has been by his side in ministry. She visits members who are sick, helps plan kids’ Bible study classes, creates kids’ activities, and sometimes shares the message in the morning church.   

“My wife plays a vital role in my life and ministry. She has always been there in difficult moments and in moments of loss. In moments when my eyes could not see, she was my counselor, my friend, and my confidante.” 

– Núñez 

Núñez views his family as a blessing from God. First, God gave him Maribel. Then, after five years of praying for a family, God answered their prayers when Sadiel and Zurisadai were born. Even at a young age, the children are involved in God’s ministry. Because family is so important to Núñez, he dreams of his entire family traveling together, visiting different areas, and engaging in ministry together. When Núñez isn’t working in the ministry, he enjoys being at home with his family.

Núñez shared, “My favorite Bible verse encourages me when I am suffering and reminds me that Jesus went through more than me.”

“From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” 

Galatians 6:17

Since the beginning of this ministry, the challenge has always been getting resources to Cuba efficiently with scalability. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of lessons, tried many hacks, and modified plans as policies changed, but nothing made the process efficient, let alone scalable. Except now, thanks to an export license issued by the Department of Commerce and having someone in Cuba registered to receive shipments, we can efficiently send resources in a scalable way. This profound game-changer will shape our future impact.

As a team member on a mission trip, you helped take resources to Cuba. That meant having bags packed for you and being asked to put a few extras in your carry-ons. As a team, navigating the airports was always entertaining, with each of us carrying 100-150 pounds of supplies. For years, that’s how we’ve sent resources to Cuba, but we weren’t alone. Every other non-profit I know working in Cuba brings in resources as checked baggage.

Early on, our bags were limited to 50 pounds, and we had to fly to the Bahamas first. Of course, we paid a checked bag fee on the first leg of the trip. Because of flight schedules, we had an overnight in the Bahamas. Seven team members joined that trip, taking 100 pounds each. In the Bahamas, to avoid lugging the bags from the airport to the hotel and back again, we fortunately worked with the airport to allow us to leave the bags there overnight. With God’s hand, everything was accounted for the next day. We rechecked baggage on another airline to travel from the Bahamas to Cuba and paid another baggage fee. On this leg of the trip, the fee totaled $1,400. Even with an inefficient system that was challenging for the team, I was grateful the items made it to Cuba.

With every pound of precious space that could carry resources, early on, we focused on the sports ministry. Sports connect people of all ages and offer an opportunity to share the Word of God. Our partner, Honoring the Father Ministries, guided us on foundational items. We focused on sports equipment, including new and used baseball gloves, bats, catcher gear, soccer balls, field markers, and anything related to activity on the field. Over the years, we refined what we brought to focus on the key needs in Cuba. For example, we only take baseballs and soccer balls for the sports ministry. While you can make a bat from a tree limb, there is no game without the ball. Tarps are indispensable and serve many purposes, such as shading the sun during events or church services held outside or temporarily covering a damaged roof after a storm. Medically, there are many needs, but our time with people has shown over-the-counter medications as a top need. Also, with high blood pressure as an issue for many people, blood pressure cuffs are very useful since many local clinics don’t have them.

Along with what we took, the Cuban Customs process evolved. On one of our first trips, we needed some bags to pack the sports equipment. The sports ministry in Cuba needed bags, too, so we bought some new bags to leave with the sports ministry. When we traveled, we broke into groups of two so immigration and Cuban Customs wouldn’t pull the entire team aside for questioning. What we failed to notice was that the exact brand-new bags with a prominent Louisville Slugger logo on the side made us stand out like a billboard advertisement to Cuban Customs. Of course, they noticed and pulled the entire group into a corner to empty every bag, item by item.

For me, a search is stressful. After all, you are being searched and questioned by a government official. It’s also stressful because I know every item in those bags and how they will meet the ministry’s needs or relieve some type of humanitarian suffering. At the same time, other searches were comical, such as a gentleman on one trip with hundreds of women’s underwear stuffed in one bag. Or when the Cuban Customs agent asked another team member, a gentleman, about several packages of reusable feminine products. Then, on one trip, we brought gasoline siphons to help travel during the fuel shortage. After running my bag through the X-ray machine twice, Cuban Customs finally concluded it was scuba gear. These hilarious tales created treasured memories for many who traveled on these journeys. Over time, we learned how Cuban Customs flags bags for inspection, eliminating the stress of anticipating what will be inspected

The more I traveled and packed bags for Cuba, our process improved. After airlines could fly directly to Cuba, we checked our bags once, got charged one time, and picked up our bags in Cuba. The airlines had an embargo policy that limited the number of bags per person and the weight of each bag, but this cut our baggage fees in half. One hack I discovered was to make all airline reservations under my airline status, which allowed the entire team to get two checked bags at no charge. Our next hack was to accept the upgrade to first class on the first leg of the trip, which cost $90. This allowed us to take three 70-pound bags at no charge instead of the two 50-pound bags, saving $700 per person. Also, it more than doubled the supplies we could take in the country.

Over 12 years, 153 people hauled 18,000 pounds of resources onto the island. During that time, I tried to find a person or company to help ship to Cuba but found restrictions, dead ends, and even discouragement from those who lost shipments in Cuba. So, nothing really worked. Then, God used LinkedIn to kick off a series of connections and conversations, which led me to the Director of North Carolina US Export Assistance Centers and the Director of International Trade of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. These two guys help companies operate internationally – even in Cuba. In fact, this is the same complicated process used by the companies that send over $300M in relief goods to Cuba each year. The premise is that an approved export license from the US government will ensure the goods get treated the same way as the other $300M – delivered and not lost

Why is this complicated? The Office of Foreign Assets Control, US Customs and Border Protection, the Department of State, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Commerce are all agencies within the US government responsible for the laws and regulations associated with enforcing the Embargo over Cuba. They provide a very complicated set of rules and compliance requirements we follow to operate legally in and out of Cuba.

With guidance from my connection at the Department of Commerce and three connections later, I worked on an application to get an export license for Atulado to ship supplies to Cuba. The application took 26 days to prepare. Consulting with an expert through these applications, we prepared all the necessary forms and data, and he coached me through the final application. The paperwork required to complete a shipment is unlike any form I’d ever seen – even tax forms. It is tedious and can be costly. One document comes with a penalty starting at $10,000 and goes up to $250,000 per field not completed on the form. Yes, I said per field, and many fields are on the form. Collecting the required detail takes time because they want information on precisely what you’re shipping. For example, the laptops must include the GFLOPS (whatever that means) and be within the guidelines set by the US government. Then, you must estimate the value of every item you may ship. I put over 200 items on the export license list – every individual item had to be listed, such as bicycle tires, motorcycle tires, and car tires, instead of just saying tires. Over the years, I kept a list of useful things to bring to Cuba. It served as a starting point. Then, I added things brought in the past and might bring in the future. I asked a few other ministries who travel to Cuba what they would bring and added more items. But in the end, with expert assistance, the Bureau of Industry and Security Foreign Policy Division only asked one question on my application. Our consultant was extremely invaluable!  

After submitting the application, it took another 44 days to get the license approved. Then, it took another 34 days to find someone who would ship less than container load (LCL) to Cuba. Getting permission to receive items in Cuba is an entirely different process. Typically, you work with a freight forwarder who picks up the freight from your location, finds the ocean transport, and clears the shipment through the destination and Cuban Customs process. They also provide an option to deliver it to an address at your destination. This does not exist for Cuba. So, we needed someone on the Cuba side who understood the process. We also needed a registered business, as individuals cannot receive shipments this way. Without this critical contact, it could have halted the entire process, but God showed up in a powerful way. God connected me to Yamile; she is an administrator for a denomination in Cuba and helps churches get shipments through Cuban Customs. She then connected me with someone in Peru, who connected me to someone in Canada, and I found Central America Cargo, which ships LCL to Cuba.

I needed to test the process, so I spent seven days prepping the shipment for pick-up at my house. It took three days for UPS to get it to Miami and another six days to get it on a boat to Havana. From there, the test shipment spent three weeks in Cuban Customs to finally be released to Osmani. So, from the start of the application process to the shipment being released to Osmani, it took 141 days, and everything arrived! 

The export license will connect more people to humanitarian and ministry resources. For instance, Cuban Customs for personal travel will allow ten baseballs per person or 40 baseballs with a team of four people. The test shipment delivered 480 baseballs. We took 700 water filters in four years. We prayerfully plan to ship 1,200 in one load in the coming months. We bought 410 soccer balls in 2018. We’ve sent 123 balls over five years because the balls don’t deflate and take up a lot of space. The test shipment delivered 253 balls at one time.

In addition to our shipments, we plan to help two other ministries clean out their storage units with resources they have been waiting to get into Cuba. Then, we will start shipping resources by the pallet. Numerous items on our shipping list offer chances to creatively spread the Word of God and share the Gospel while aiding those in need. First will be water filters. They are a powerful tool for evangelism where the church can serve as distribution points to their communities. Many verses in the Bible refer to Living Water – a symbol of salvation and knowledge of God. Water filters can be used similarly to share the Gospel, and church members can share clean water with neighbors. Next, we plan to equip seminary students with laptops loaded with Bible lesson materials, a Bible study platform built for pastors, and many other resources. Finally, we plan to ship cavity-filling material for Christian dentists who can share the Gospel with patients. All of this we commit to the Lord as in Proverbs 16:3: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

A license to ship and having someone registered to receive the shipment changes everything. The days of being unable to get humanitarian and ministry resources onto the island unless someone physically flew to Cuba are gone. More people in need will receive resources when needed. And most importantly, getting critical supplies in the hands of more pastors and leaders allows them to connect with more people to share the Gospel and grow His Kingdom. Since we can now care for the biggest needs, traveling on future mission trips will allow us to focus on the unique needs of those we visit who serve the Church.  

– Wayne Snyder

Every pastor needs a strong supporter in ministry, and often, it’s a spouse. With Pastor Oskel Mariño Reyes and his wife, Vilmaris Laurencio Sablon, it’s more than support; they’re true partners in life and ministry. Their partnership was woven together by the hand of God. By working alongside each other to serve God and their community as a team, Oskel and Vilmaris inspire others and make a difference for so many.

Oskel was born and raised in eastern Cuba in a town called Moa and later moved 300 miles west to central Cuba to Morón, where he and Vilmaris live today. They have two children, a 20-year-old son, Rubén Mariño Laurencio, and a 12-year-old daughter, Ester Mariño Laurencio. When they were married for only ten months, they were invited to a worship service. Oskel had never been to church, so they went. That night Oskel and Vilmaris accepted Christ at the service. New in their faith, the church pastor felt they would become pastors, and he began preparing them for ministry. They accepted God’s call and were willing to serve.

Then, in 2000, Osmani preached at a church in Moa. Osmani’s vision and how he served the Lord traveling throughout Cuba, preaching the Gospel, and winning souls for Christ, inspired Oskel to think bigger about his calling. Over the years, Osmani’s commitment to God, perseverance, and support have influenced Oskel and Vilmaris in their ministry. Today, Oskel has about 80 people of all ages in his congregation. He loves teaching and guiding people in God’s way, training and equipping other leaders for ministry, doing missionary work, and helping other ministries thrive. Also, a sports ministry is a natural fit since he liked sports as a child, and it’s a great way to reach so many with the Word of God.

While guiding people to Christ is at the center of their ministry, it has always been in their hearts to host larger events, but without the tools and resources, it was nearly impossible. Bringing a large number of people together requires travel for attendees, space, food, and more. With a fuel and food shortage, the supplies and funding needed to execute a large event were impossible. One afternoon Vilmaris shared this desire with Wayne. And Oskel and Vilmaris turned a few resources from the Atulado family into a remarkable event that impacted many people. Last year, Vilmaris was featured in a story about the women’s conference she held for about fifty attendees. The event deeply encouraged the women who attended, and since then, many have been coming to church and committed to serving God. In addition to the women’s conference, sports events and other gatherings have been held. These larger events have inspired other pastors to step by faith to plan larger events even though their resources are that of a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:8-11). Some have contacted Oskel to learn how to implement these activities in their area, giving Oskel more opportunities to mentor those leading ministries.

Wayne said, “From the first time I met Oskel and Vilmaris, I knew they were servants focused on doing the Lord’s work. They never strayed from the calling God put on their lives. They both have the gift of hospitality and humbly serve the Lord, always putting others first.”

From the very first day of ministry, Oskel attributes Vilmaris as his blessing from God. Oskel said, “Vilmaris encourages me at all times. When she sees I am wrong, she helps me focus on what I must do to have good results. She is a true supporter in life and ministry.”

Oskel is always supportive. For example, Vilmaris leads evangelism and visits congregation members. So, when she’s at the hospital praying with people, Oskel takes care of the kids and household chores. 

Vilmaris said, “I never feel alone. The best part of working with him is I feel supported and cherished and not alone in the work, knowing I have the best partner.” 

Rubén and Ester have watched their parents serve God together, influencing their involvement in ministry at church. Today, Ester prepares dance for worship, sings, and performs at church, and Rubén does many things in ministry. In addition to impacting Rubén and Ester, Oskel and Vilmaris’ encouragement reaches deep into their community. Their testimony has helped many people come to Jesus Christ. Recently, they visited, shared the word of God through Bible study lessons, and prayed for a woman with two daughters. The family started coming to church and finally received Jesus in their hearts. For Oskel and Vilmaris, this is just one example of how God uses their work together in God’s Kingdom.

Oskel said, “My favorite Bible verse has always spoken to me of God’s great sufficiency for all of us.”

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

Ephesians 3:20

Vilmaris shared, “My favorite Bible verse reminds me that everything I do in my life is thanks to the ability that Christ gives me because he strengthens me. I give him all the glory and honor because he is good!”

Philippians 4:13

When Oskel and Vilmaris aren’t doing ministry work, they like watching a movie or going out to eat together.

For many pastors and leaders serving the Church in Cuba, creating sermons, Bible study lessons, and program materials is done the old-school way, using pencil and paper while referencing the Bible. This process takes a long time, misses the benefits of technology, and makes it challenging to replicate and share information with fellow pastors or leaders. Unfortunately, laptops in Cuba are simply not attainable because of the cost, and finding a store to buy one really doesn’t exist. But, thanks to our partners at E2D – Eliminate the Digital Divide, the capabilities of a laptop can be affordably put in the hands of a pastor.

E2D’s mission is for all residents of North Carolina to have access to affordable technology at home. Through their nonprofit laptop refurbishing program, they make that mission a reality, and sometimes, their work extends to areas outside NC, including other countries. With the help of E2D and the support of our Atulado family, we’ve started purchasing laptops and equipping church leaders and pastors with technology to further God’s Kingdom.

“We are happy to help Atulado Ministries achieve their goals by providing affordable refurbished laptops for their needs outside the US.”

– Christy Cowan, Community Partnership & Distribution Coordinator at E2D

A laptop provides access to valuable resources all with the touch of a button, allows leaders to save materials to build their ministry, and enhances spiritual experiences for people of all ages. Each laptop includes a Bible app that makes searching Scriptures easy, children’s ministry materials that last two years, the well-known Experiencing God study, a seven-session video Bible study for women on the Armor of God, and more, of course, all in Spanish. Leaders receive USB drives with their laptops. A USB drive is like surfing the internet in Cuba because leaders can share the latest information and Bible resources by passing a USB drive throughout their town or region.

In addition to providing vital resources, churches without musical instruments use the laptop for music during church services, adding to the worship experience. For leaders in a seminary program, the laptop serves as a lifeline to their studies, enabling them to grow their knowledge of God’s Word. Also, with more storage space than a phone, leaders can save family and ministry photos and videos and collect other Christian materials.

Osmani shared that the word impact comes to mind when he thinks about a laptop because it’s such an effective tool for Bible study, the preparation of ministry work, and the ability to archive documents, activities, data, and more. For example, one leader in charge of the children’s ministry had a lot of organizational work. When she received her laptop, her face beamed as she wept tears of joy. The laptop gives her access to programs, lessons, and materials for the children’s ministry and makes her work more efficient for an entire denomination. Then, on a recent mission trip, a pastor receiving dialysis every other day shared how impactful this will be while he’s in the hospital each week. He will use it for Bible study, playing Christian music, and ultimately, sharing the Gospel with his fellow patients. In addition to these two ministries, the generosity of the Atulado family has impacted many others and the people they serve by delivering many laptops to Cuba. We plan to equip more leaders with this valuable tool as we build the library of materials on each laptop. 

“I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to the supporters of Atulado for providing me with a laptop. I’m a pastor in Lajitas, Cienfuegos, Cuba, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a laptop. I’m learning to do many things with it. I find it so useful for my work as a pastor; it is such a blessing. My wife and I use it to study for a bachelor’s degree. Also, we can save congregational photos and videos, prepare sermons, read Bible study materials, and do many simple things we could not do before.”

– Aleander González Araujo

“I work with kids, teenagers, and young people at a church in Castillo de Jagua, Cienfuegos, Cuba. Being able to reproduce videos, music, cartoons, and movies has enriched their experience greatly. It has also helped me study more easily as part of my personal growth. Now, I can save a lot of important ministry information and share it with other people at church using USB drives. It has been a huge blessing for my ministry. Thank you to all the Atulado supporters who made this possible. I appreciate your effort, love, and dedication. May God reward and bless you in everything you do.”

Ivetty (Betty) Díaz Clavero

“On behalf of all the Cuban pastors, who are no longer a few who have received an enormous blessing, I express our gratitude for such a blessing and help to advance the kingdom of God here in Cuba.”

– Osmani Sosa

How many times a day do you pour yourself a glass of water, replenish your child’s water glass, or use water to mix baby formula? Most of us probably need to drink more water, and it’s easily available to us. What if your next glass of water has a yellow or brown color or an odd smell? Worse yet, you’re used to this water. With water filters installed on refrigerators, water filter containers, and access to bottled water in the US, you expect drinking water to be safe and good for you. However, the water from the faucet is contaminated and unhealthy for many people, and it’s what they’re accustomed to.

For Pastor Manuel Alfredo González Taboada (Alfredo), becoming a pastor was never in his plans; it was God’s plan. About 24 years ago, Alfredo worked as a shoemaker in Morón, Cuba, and left to go home for lunch one day. While riding his bike, a vision appeared with many people in front of him, and he heard a voice saying it was the Church of Chambas. Alfredo shared the vision with his pastor, who told him a missionary was needed in Chambas. Later, where he saw the vision of the people on his bike ride that day, he built a church, never knowing how the ministry would impact the lives of so many

In the early 90s, where Alfredo lives, you could drink the water. Then, due to a lack of funds, repairs and maintenance stopped at the community’s water treatment plant. The water is pumped from a nearby river where people swim, and animals trample through the water. Without proper water treatment, people experience stomach problems, vomiting, diarrhea, and many other illnesses, sometimes resulting in hospitalization because drinking faucet water is unclean with dirt, germs, and bad odors. The drinking water is worse in the rainy season because the dirt and germs get muddled up even more, causing more people to get sick and some hospitalized. Unfortunately, adapting the water for drinking isn’t an easy process.

After a hurricane several years ago, Alfredo received his first water filter from Atulado. This was a blessing for him and his family because it provided safe drinking water at home. He began sharing clean water with fellow church members and neighbors. As people learned the church had clean water, they came to the church. While Alfredo and church leaders offer people clean water, they also take advantage of the time to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Inspired by the message of God’s love, some have started attending church. The water filters provide life-giving clean water and have become a powerful tool for evangelism. Alfredo has taken the water filters to the homes of church members so they can do the same.

Anytime Alfredo equips someone with a water filter, excitement fills the air. As he shows them how it works, some people shed tears of hope when they hear just how effective the filter is in providing clean water. Most have never seen crystal clear water, and the emotion overtakes them. Alfredo also teaches people how to maintain the water filter. The Sawyer water filter uses reverse osmosis to filter the water, and flushing it with clean water extends the lifespan up to a decade, making it a viable solution for Cuba, unlike other filters we typically use in the US that only last three to six months.

Clean water helps maintain a healthy body, keeps you hydrated, flushes out toxins, and aids in digestion. After using the water filter, many people report an improved quality of life because they get sick less frequently. Sharing their testimonies with neighbors has provided a powerful witness to the church’s work within the community. 

Atulado has purchased 600 Sawyer water filters since 2020 for people throughout the island. Alfredo has made clean water his mission for his town, and he has, so far, deployed 21 filters. With about 29,000 people living in his town, we have a great opportunity to impact more people, and we expect to deliver many more Sawyer water filters in the future to help Alfredo equip people with clean water. 

Sawyer Water Filters Make a Difference

  • 95% Waterborne Illness Reduction
  • 90% Reduction in Diarrhea
  • 10+ Years Lifespan per System

In addition to offering clean water to one person or family at a time, Alfredo’s ministry spreads the news of Jesus Christ through sports ministry, working with teenagers, kids, and adults. He dreams of having several church study groups in strategic places throughout his city to help people get closer to God if they aren’t near the church.  

When Alfredo isn’t working in ministry, he enjoys spending time with his wife Karitina Florisbel Pérez Cardenas, daughter Elizabeth, and son Daniel. Sometimes they swim or spend the day playing dominoes and other games with friends.

While many say their health improves, some have health issues from drinking unclean water for so long. Unfortunately, Alfredo reports complications with his gallbladder, even though he drinks clean water today. As you think of Alfredo, please lift him up in prayer for comfort and healing.    

Alfredo says, “My favorite Bible verse reminds me of where to go and what to do when making decisions.”  

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”  

Psalm 37:5

You may think of praying or singing as a regular part of worship. But have you thought about dancing as worship? For Ana, God called her to dance at a very young age as a way to worship. And she didn’t just dance. This ignited a passion within her to cultivate a ministry that reaches others and transforms lives through Christ.

Anabel (Ana) Delgado Fernández has attended church since her mother embraced the Lord when she was a small child. She was baptized and began serving God at an early age and working with the pastor on many important church activities. Gradually, Ana learned about leadership, and she first danced as a part of worship at age 10. By age 15, she led the church’s dance ministry to prepare for important events such as anniversaries. Ana then participated on the church’s board and was trusted with the praise ministry. Finally, she became a key leader and proudly celebrates 10 years of ministry. When Ana isn’t working in ministry, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, Ariel German Valdes.      

From the time Ana first danced, she knew that dance was her passion. She felt that sometimes words didn’t express her gratitude and joy of being in the presence of God. Through dance, she can express everything and worship God with all her heart, soul, and body.

Over the years, she learned and improved her dancing skills. Then, Ana saw pastors use sports ministry, such as soccer, to connect with children, create fellowship, and bring people to know Christ. Also, some young girls preferred to dance instead of playing soccer, baseball, or other sports. That’s when she had a vision to open a dance school, to not only train dancers but also evangelists and leaders in the church.

With God’s inspiration and support from her sister-in-law, Patricia Coca Martinez, Ana launched a dance school at her church two years ago and created a two-year certification program. In the first year, she enrolled 15 students. The second year 20 students enrolled, and five students will graduate in a couple of months. Three teachers and four helpers support the program. The students dance to Christian music, sometimes in costumes or dance skirts.

She uses dance not only to glorify God but also as a tool to reach people in the community and teach them about Christ. Ana and the teachers go to homes and into the streets of her town to find teenagers and young girls interested in dancing. When they have a group, they start teaching them basic dance steps along with the principles of the Bible. Students may be most interested in dance at first, but when they learn about Jesus while learning to dance, many become more curious about Christ. Then, when they see a student attending Bible studies and services, developing a relationship with God, and becoming a disciple, they help the student grow their faith through the church.

Many students have shared that the school has greatly blessed their lives. Before attending, they didn’t know why they danced and didn’t believe that spiritual life was important until they learned about dancing’s connection to worship and heard about Jesus.

The idea to graduate students from the program stemmed from Ana’s love of doing things well for God. Graduation can remind students of their time at the dance school and everything they have learned. Students grow a lot in terms of talent, but more in their spiritual life and as ministers of the Lord. As part of graduation, she wanted to give students a certificate, not one printed at home. Ana wanted it to hold value and represent all of their effort and time invested so that they would value their ministry more. Therefore, Ana worked with Atulado to find a source to professionally print excellent certificates for the graduates, and Graduation Ink became a partner on the project. Now, Ana has beautiful certificates to give students on graduation day to commemorate their milestones. 

When students graduate, they’re equipped as instructors to start a dance ministry at other churches and expand the ministry. Ana and her teachers can’t wait to see how their first five students change the world. She dreams of extending the school to Central and Eastern Cuba, but Ana knows if it’s in God’s plan, he will make it happen.

“My favorite Bible verse reminds me we can do anything with God’s grace. I may not do everything perfectly, but God’s strength is with me in moments of weakness. Moments when we’re not strong enough, is when God covers us with his grace and his power to make us stronger.”

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

II Corinthians 12:9

A countryside pastor living in the town of Jesus Rabi, with a horse and buggy, is how Rafael Palacio Rodrigues spends his days serving the Lord. Married for over 29 years, he and his wife Yusmary work side by side to spread the Gospel to those in his small community. They have a son, Samuel, 23, and a daughter, Sarai, who is 19.

Rafael, a trained veterinarian, knows how to care for animals. He also knew that a horse and buggy would allow him to travel and reach as many people as possible through his ministry. This is why he is deeply grateful to the Atulado family for the generous donation of a horse and buggy. 

Pastor Rafael uses it to serve his church and community by helping to carry the sick and elderly to and from church and the hospital when needed. He can pick up children for ministry events and activities and take them home. He moves people, food, and resources around easily, which wouldn’t be possible if he didn’t have a horse and buggy. To keep this valuable resource safe, Rafael set up a stall outside his bedroom window to keep his horse, Riqui, close by.

As a kid, Rafael liked to play sports, especially soccer. His now thriving sports ministry touches the lives of about 30-50 kids and teens weekly on Sunday afternoons. They meet to play games, hold soccer tournaments in the stadium, pray, and hear the Word of God. Events and summer programming also gather everyone together at special times to worship and have fun. As the ministry grows, managing big events can be more difficult because of the large number of people gathering in one place, but that hasn’t stopped Rafael. 

Growing up, Rafael attended church and read the Bible as a young man. But it wasn’t until he was studying to become a veterinarian at the university that he became a Christian. A fellow student invited him to a worship service, and Rafael gave his life to Christ and accepted the call to serve. As a new Christian, he received discipleship from a pastor in his town. Later, Rafael assisted the pastor by sharing the Gospel with people nearby and leading a group of young people at the church. During his leadership, he felt God’s presence and guidance. That experience sparked his passion for serving others and guiding people to Jesus Christ as a missionary. After serving as a missionary, he later returned to the area where he became a pastor.

Since then, Rafael has served the Lord as a pastor for over 20 years. He disciples and cares for over 60 congregation members through worship services, events, a sports ministry, and a marriage ministry. Rafael and his wife are facilitators of the Two Becoming One marriage ministry, part of Christian Family Life in the US. Church services are held on Sundays. Then during the week, his wife and other leaders join him to visit congregation members and share God’s love through evangelism on the street. 

Rafael and church leaders seek people who need visiting or sometimes just someone to listen and talk to them. Showing love and care for others makes a difference in people’s lives. They help people with things like cleaning the garden, backyard, or inside the home. Also, they look for needs and often share what they have, like food or resources. Vegetables, sweet potatoes, yams, and yucca are grown and more available living in the country. However, paying for things such as medicine, meat, clothing, and shoes is expensive. Rafael raises pigs for additional income for his family. He helps his church community with food — helping people as a church and meeting people where they’re at impacts the whole community.

In addition to visiting people nearby, Rafael travels to two other areas of Cuba to share God’s Word. One area is almost five miles away, and the other is more than six miles away. While that doesn’t sound far, it feels like traveling to another country when you don’t have good transportation, and the journey is through gravel and dirt roads, if there are roads at all. Sometimes they will also travel by bicycle.

From the early beginnings of Rafael’s ministry, Osmani Sosa has been a significant influence and mentor in his life, marriage, relationship with his family, and a spiritual leader guiding him on his pastoral duties. Osmani’s charisma, love for others, and ever-present spirit provide Rafael and his family the much-needed support to do God’s work.

What’s next for Rafael’s ministry? There aren’t many Christian churches near where he lives. So, he dreams of expanding his church to places where no church exists and plant a new ministry. More churches allow people to become closer to God, know about Him, and accept Him.

No matter where God takes him next, Yusmary is his biggest supporter throughout the ministry and as a partner in life. She is foundational to the ministry as she supports him in the church through visitations, service, praise, preaching, children’s ministry, marriage ministry, and more. They work together to make a difference for all of God’s people and each other.

“My favorite Bible verse reminds me that God is with me through times of affliction to provide strength and encouragement as a safe anchor.”

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.”

Psalm 119:92

Ivetty (everyone calls her Betty) Diaz Clavero felt God’s calling to serve through language translation as a young girl. Her father is a pastor, and in high school, she learned English and began helping her father translate conversations with visitors in their church. Betty wanted to be an English teacher, so she studied at the university and graduated in 2019. After graduation, she was asked to work as an English teacher at the school, and at the same time, the church called her to work full-time. So, she prayed and decided to serve full-time at the church, only using her English occasionally.

When COVID hit, the island closed, and Betty couldn’t practice English for two years. Then, our paths crossed on a mission trip when we were with Osmani. Wayne was a surprise guest speaker at an event, and she translated for an audience of more than 100 youths and for several conversations that weekend.  

Since then, she’s become essential to Atulado’s ministry in bridging communication and cultural barriers. She joins our pastor interviews over WhatsApp to translate the conversation. Along with traditional translation, Betty modifies an expression or its intentionality for both parties to navigate through something that may not be proper to say, could unintentionally cause hurt feelings, or make a mistake occur. In certain situations, she helps interpret the circumstances, and Betty answers any questions to ensure everyone engaging in the conversation understands each other. We have great discussions about many practical things to help us understand the true needs and how things really work. She also teaches us how to purchase items at a store or on the side of the road. Betty checks prices and the quality of what we want to buy.  

As we worked together in ministry, we also learned about Betty’s own ministry serving others in Cuba. About six years ago, while Betty studied at the university, she started a children’s ministry program in her father’s church. Children were only cared for at church while parents attended the worship service. Children being children, were sometimes loud and disturbed the service. Also, they combined all age groups and held no worship service or Bible study lesson. That’s when she envisioned a church created just for children that’s mindful of their ages and needs and helps them come to know Jesus.  

So, Betty opened the doors to her ministry, and about ten of the congregation members’ children attended the first services. The children worshiped, prayed, read Bible stories and messages, and gave an offering. She soon recruited a couple of teachers to minister to the children and help prepare lessons.

With the support of a team, Betty expanded her ministry to touch the lives of those who didn’t know or believe in God. Many had very few resources at home, and their parents didn’t attend church. Betty felt inspired to share the love of God with them so that they, too, could grow to know and love Jesus. They started picking kids up for church, meeting parents at a place for pick-up, and visiting people door-to-door.

Her ministry flourished, and today about 35 children ages 4 – 12 attend services ministered by a team of three teachers and Betty. Many children come with spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. Some have no parents and see Betty as a mother figure or big sister since she’s an ever-present figure greeting them with hugs, kisses, and love. Often due to a lack of resources, children don’t eat breakfast before coming to church, so they’re given a snack or drink. Birthdays and special occasions get celebrated; for some, it’s their first birthday party.

For a girl turning fifteen in Cuba, it is a special occasion called quinceañera. This is similar to turning sixteen in the US, but much more of an event. Any girl who doesn’t celebrate will feel disappointed not to celebrate the momentous occasion. Two years ago, the church celebrated a girl’s quinceañera whose family didn’t have the resources to honor her, and the church stepped in to help celebrate her special day as they shared the Gospel with the family. The big event made a difference for everyone in attendance.

Betty pictures the ministry’s future as a place that nurtures Christian disciples and where small kids become grown adults who love, follow, and serve Jesus Christ. That vision is starting to come true as some of the children that started attending church at a young age now spread the word of God to others. For example, a sixteen-year-old boy she taught when he was just a child joined her team to share Bible stories with others door-to-door and visit those who are elderly or physically incapable of coming to church.

As for Betty, she’s studying theology to be more knowledgeable of the Bible to prepare Bible messages and lessons. She also wants to continue serving God with her talents in the English language. She plans to continue learning and preparing to let God equip her for His mission.

“I like to communicate with people, and translation is an opportunity to reach more people. It’s like being an instrument in a person’s life, and it serves as a blessing and encouragement for them. I am always meeting new people in my travels with Atulado, and our visits are a huge blessing for me to see what God is doing in their lives, meet new people, hear their stories, and get to know them.”

Even when she’s not working, Betty mixes ministry with fun as she often heads to the beach on a sunny day with the young people at church or neighbors. She also enjoys a game of dominoes, a good movie, or spending time with family. Betty has big dreams for herself and her ministry, and like many others in Cuba, the lack of resources in the country is the biggest challenge in making her dreams a reality.

To equip Betty in her mission, the Atulado family generously provided an electric bicycle to help her get to more places faster. We also equipped the ministry with some children’s ministry supplies, completed the construction of bathrooms and a front door at the church, and provided a refurbished laptop. Betty supports our important mission work with her talents and embodies what it truly means to live our purpose.

“Since Ivetty was a child, her dedication to the Lord has been total and complete. She has always worked passionately for God’s calling, always putting the Lord first in her life. She is a leader in our church and to the young people in the community.”
Rafael – Betty’s father

“Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and stature, and increasingly enjoyed the favor of God and the people.”

Luke 2:52   

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