A Shared Mission United Us for God’s Kingdom    

Imagine putting your surgery on hold because your doctor didn’t have the necessary medical supplies to operate. Although we’ve always known about the medication shortage in Cuba, which includes basic over-the-counter items like Neosporin or aspirin, it took probing deeper to grasp the full extent and level of need for medical supplies. From syringes for a penicillin shot to cure a basic illness to tools for life-saving surgeries, the severe shortage of critical items became evident as we inquired further about the situation. Thankfully, another non-profit operating in Cuba told us about Mission Regan. Mission Regan collects surplus medical supplies from those who have plenty and shares them with those in need, thereby sharing the love of Christ. We contacted Mission Regan in the spring of 2023 to request sutures for a pastor who needed surgery. We received the sutures and sent them to the pastor so he could have the surgery. While that was the first request for supplies, it wasn’t long before we began working with Mission Regan regularly for other needs.

Mission Regan collects gently expired or soon-to-expire supplies that are ethically usable and oversupplies from hospitals. In preparation for a quarterly inspection, hospitals toss items just past their expiration date or about to expire. Many items are ethically usable because not everything they discard actually expires, such as rubber bands, paper masks, cotton balls, pencils, and toothbrushes. Who knew cotton balls gently expire? Mission Regan collects these gently expired supplies, saving them from landfills, and provides these items to individuals and nonprofits who need them. Supplies are provided at no cost except for the shipping cost.

Mission Regan’s founder, Josh, was a firefighter on a medical mission trip when he first experienced the need for medical supplies. Doctors used tools that needed replacing because it was all they had to work with. On a return trip, he took supplies that would have been thrown away. Then, when he and Courtney, his wife, were adopting their son in Uganda, they met a very sick little boy named Regan at the orphanage. Regan had pneumonia and needed medicine that the orphanage couldn’t obtain. Josh was already collecting supplies and brought the medicine on his next trip. This life-saving medicine put Regan on his way to recovering when Josh and Courtney left the orphanage. Regan’s miracle inspired Josh and Courtney to collect even more supplies and eventually open the doors of Mission Regan.

In 2023, Mission Regan provided 3.8 million in supplies, which included 989 times people picked up items and 115 times international supplies were shipped. Their small warehouse in McKinney, Texas, is bursting at the seams with the many items they collect. One day, Mission Regan plans to buy a parcel of land at the end of their road and build a bigger warehouse. But for now, with the current size of their warehouse, they sometimes have to make hard decisions about what supplies they can accept due to space limitations. Items like wheelchairs, hospital beds, and crutches get picked up quickly, yet medical supplies are a little harder because they must find a group that needs them.

On a recent mission trip, we were stunned when a pastor shared that his kidney dialysis is performed with needles used by four people – sometimes more if they have too many patients. Learning this, we worked with Mission Regan to send needles to ensure he safely receives his treatment. Another urgent request was trach tubes and gastrostomy tubes for a 9-year-old boy with spinal muscular atrophy. Mission Regan went above and beyond what we asked for and sent a care package with diapers, bibs, oral care equipment, suction swabs, and a sweet note to the mom. Other items we’ve been able to send through Mission Regan include 1,017 syringes and needles, 1,000 medicine cups, 19 forceps, 17 iris scissors, 31 suture removal kits, 1,170 gauze pads, 1,980 needles, 20 boxes of Advil cold and flu, 72 boxes of aspirin, 360 boxes of prenatal vitamins, 320 boxes of diapers, 1,000 alcohol prep pads, and many other supplies. We’ve shipped 120 pounds of items thus far, with numerous essentials like syringes, which are lightweight but incredibly impactful.

Our contact, Ashley, has helped us identify if they have the requested supplies available since that first shipment for sutures. She joined Mission Regan in January 2021. Ashley and Josh were friends through church. Ashley had volunteered to sort supplies with the youth of their church. Mission Regan had been praying for someone to manage the warehouse. Then, in God’s timing, it was a blessing for both parties when Ashley joined the team in 2021. Having already worked in the ministry, Ashley’s coming on board as warehouse manager was a perfect match. 

“It’s our pleasure to provide supplies to those in need. God provides the supplies, and we give them back out. They do us no good in our warehouse. We try to be the best stewards of giving to what God has provided. I have enjoyed working with Atulado. They make it easy to do good work.”

– Ashley Kennedy

While it’s uncertain what specific items will be needed in Cuba, one thing is clear: the ongoing need for basic medical supplies and medication remains significant. Working with Mission Regan, we will share the love of Christ and meet essential needs in Cuba. 

How many times have you moved? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. Now, what if you had to move 26 times in six years? That’s a lot of packing and unpacking! Yet, this was the reality for a pastor and his wife in a small community in Cuba. Through each move, they remained committed to God’s calling to serve in that community.

Pastor moves 26 times

Pastor Diumar Enrique Alcantara Del Rio and his wife Dianelis Cobas began serving God in several other capacities before working to establish a church in their community. Diumar and his wife served and pastored in a church that is still active and remains in the community today. He served as a musician, worship leader, and official preacher. Dianelis held many roles, including secretary, president of dance, official member of praise, and pastor. Working in different areas of the church helped both of them learn many things, but what Diumar and Dianelis appreciated most was the privilege of serving God.  

A church had never been established in Poblado El Caney before Diumar and Dianelis arrived over six years ago. Many people had separated from the Gospel and did not want to listen to the Word of God. However, Diumar and Dianelis were ready to face the challenge. After all, their calling from God was to establish a church in that particular community. They began pastoring their church, which they called Maranatha, which means Christ is coming soon. Being new to the area, they rented a place to stay. Unfortunately, after some time had passed, the owners asked them to move. Diumar and Dianelis didn’t want to relocate to another town because their calling was for that community. So, they looked for another house in town to keep ministering to their congregation. They would find a place to rent for a while and eventually get asked to move again. Sometimes, they were the only ones renting a home; other times, they lived with people who rented other rooms in the same home. Sometimes, the other renters didn’t believe in God, and there were times when other renters stole from them or worse. Through it all, they kept vigilant on their mission to be a light for God in this community.

Not only was renting challenging, but most of their salary went towards rent, and what little was left over was used to purchase food. There were times when Diumar and Dianelis had no food or place to stay, and they went without basic comforts like a bed. For one year, they didn’t receive a salary at all because the church didn’t have the money to pay them. Diumar and Dianelis sold sandwiches and other items to pay rent. Unfortunately, people in the town judged them because, as pastors, they had to do other work to survive. But through it all, they were deeply grateful to their pastors and local and national churches, who supported and helped them in their livelihood and those who remained in the ministry.  

While it was the most sacrificing season of their lives and challenged their faith and God’s calling, they never expected anything in return or considered giving up. What kept them going was their assurance of God’s calling. It anchored them throughout their journey and goal to reach souls for Christ in their community.

Where they worshiped changed as they moved from one place to the next. Sometimes, they worshiped in a backyard or where they rented. They would gain new worshipers with every move, and when the time came to move again, they lost some worshipers. Those new in their faith perceived the frequent moves as a bad sign, so they decided not to continue their walk with Jesus. Then, some people moved to another church they felt was more stable because Diumar and Dianelis didn’t have a permanent place to live. For Dianelis, especially, this was painful to witness. She would hide her tears and pain from Diumar so he wouldn’t get discouraged. Through her sadness and stress, the emotional toil impacted her health sometimes with what appeared as ulcers in her mouth, spots on her skin, and itchy areas on her skin. Dianelis continued to ask God when this season in their life would end, and they would have a permanent home. Each time, she saw the faithfulness of the Lord, and He encouraged them and lifted them up.

Even early in their marriage and ministry, Diumar and Dianelis served God together, a commitment that endures today. Within the church, people recognize how they work in harmony and admire the couple for their pastoral roles and the exemplary partnership they exhibit. Even those who don’t believe in God are moved by the unity and strength of their bond, a testament to their impact on the community. Dianelis supports the ministry with her involvement in the children’s programs, teacher training, preaching, and other areas. Diumar is thankful to God for Dianelis as a wife and for her dedication to their ministry.

Dianelis stated, “I am like a complement to my husband, and we work together in anything we do. For me, it’s a pleasure to be the one who’s always with him, helping him.”

Today, Diumar and Dianelis’ ministry includes programs for children, youth, and women alongside a dedicated worship team. Future goals include a men’s ministry with a service team, a sports ministry to reach more people for Christ, and a marriage ministry for those whose spouses do not attend church. While about 50-60 people gather to worship together on a typical Sunday, about 100 people are in their congregation.

After 26 moves, they will soon have a place to call home. Diumar and Dianelis have been faithful, and God has provided them with a permanent residence. Their denomination is in the final steps of purchasing a house. A permanent home will provide security for their growing congregation. Also, having all of their belongings in one place will eliminate the stress of moving and rebuilding their ministry. During a recent mission trip, the Atulado family equipped Diumar and Dianelis with resources to get their first double bed after 7 years of marriage, a refrigerator, microwave, wall fan, and a pot for their new home. Providing these necessities will give them much-needed peace of mind and help them continue building God’s Kingdom in Cuba.

Diumar and Dianelis shared three Bible verses that encouraged them through their journey.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and constant, always growing in the work of the Lord, knowing that your work in the Lord is not in vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:58

“I will make you understand, and teach you the way in which you should walk; I will fix my eyes on you.”

Psalms 32:8

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; You have been faithful over a few, I will make you ruler over many things; enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Matthews 25:23

I traveled to Cuba for the first time in 2009, and January marked my 40th trip to support what God is doing through His Church in Cuba. Throughout this incredible journey, I encountered canceled flights, countless delays, and so many Customs inspections, to the point where I became recognized as a regular. I experienced diverted flights to the Bahamas, lots of lost luggage along the way, and faced questioning from Cuban immigration about suspicious items, including a baby stroller without a baby and thumb drives that were confiscated. On one occasion, a Cuban official searched for me with my photo as I entered immigration. Over these forty trips, our teams included 63 unique travelers and, with repeat participants, a total of 169 people who hauled in nearly 20,000 pounds of resources.

You can read about one aspect of this journey in our stories online. These narratives show how God is using His people in Cuba to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the conditions they experience by being obedient to His calling on their lives. The sacrifices made by pastors, missionaries, and their families for the sake of God’s Glory are both inspiring and convicting. However, there’s another aspect to this journey: the internal and spiritual journey God has taken me on during these 40 trips. These experiences shaped me as a Believer, challenged me as a Follower, and provided moments of Truth for Him to build my Faith.

Many moments have transformed me and my walk with Jesus. One includes being used to answer a prayer 12 hours after a pastor prayed to God for a solution. The pastor had no prior knowledge of our visit, and I was unaware I carried what they had prayed for in my bag. Another instance occurred when a pastor prayed for a blood pressure cuff and had no means of getting one. Several weeks later, we delivered one to him, unaware that this was his prayer and that of his congregation. The prayer was answered almost exactly how they had envisioned and matched what God put in our bags. Although the device I had was a newer model, this reminded me that He wants to use me right where I am. I just need to open my eyes. So, sometimes, the most transformative journeys occur without ever leaving home. 

I’ve also experienced personal growth through God’s challenges to walk by Faith. In Cuba, you don’t have much of a choice. A pastor can’t simply run to the local music store when a 40-year-old sound system breaks. He lives by Faith and remains very flexible when God asks him to move forward without certainty. Gasoline is a great example. Having access to fuel has never been easy and has always been an issue. Today, it’s worse. So, imagine being in the middle of nowhere, and that yellow light flickers on. Like me, you may pray for provision or go straight to an anxiety attack. When you pull up to the gas station, which looks closed, and a guy emerges to assist you, you are reminded God is in control, so give thanks! Then, when you only have enough gasoline to reach your destination, you trust that God will provide for your return trip. When He does, we praise His name! In many ways, walking by Faith goes against our cultural norms and certainly isn’t easy. However, by being in Cuba, where solutions to potential problems are scarce, the pastors push me forward in Faith that God has a plan for our journey.

If you want to learn more about Scripture, then speak to a congregation at a church service in Cuba. At first, it was easy as I shared testimonies of God’s work in my life. This was profoundly meaningful because I shared from the heart how God was shaping me. However, since I visit Cuba often, I ran out of stories to share, and God nudged me to take on Scripture. It was hard initially, but I realized you need to be obedient when called upon. Reflecting on when Peter was called in Luke chapter five, I have often skipped over so many lessons of obedience. We typically focus on Jesus’s declaration that Peter will become a fisher of men. However, numerous lessons of obedience are woven throughout the passage. Now, I prepare lessons to have in my arsenal, which has better equipped me to study His Word. I see things as they relate to God’s ongoing work in my life. Being in Cuba and speaking from the pulpit, I had to dig deeply into Scripture. There, I met the Holy Spirit, who showed me what to share on the journey through a passage.

So, 40 trips later, the journey has nothing to do with travel. It’s about the spiritual journey God has orchestrated for me in Cuba—a journey of drawing closer to Him, being a vessel for His glory, and receiving a 40-fold blessing!

– Wayne S.

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

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