Tag Archives: Cuba

The Mariel Boatlift of 1980: Cuban Refugees and the Assemblies of God

Workers sing and play gospel songs before a service with Cuban refugees at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, 1980

This Week in AG History —August 10, 1980

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 August 2022

On April 20, 1980, Cuban President Fidel Castro made a surprise proclamation in Havana that any Cuban citizen who was not happy under his regime and wished to immigrate to the United States could depart from the port of Mariel provided boats were available. 125,000 Cubans rushed to take the offer. Many Assemblies of God (AG) ministries were there to ease the difficulties of their arrival.

After the 1959 communist revolution, thousands of Cubans sought to flee their homeland’s restrictive policies. With few exceptions, the Castro regime refused those requests. During the 1970s, as economic conditions worsened, along with political and religious persecution, many Cubans grew desperate. In April 1980, several Cubans rushed the Peruvian embassy to seek asylum but were fired upon by Cuban guards. The embassy refused to return the Cubans to Castro, and soon more than 10,000 Cubans were crowding into the embassy gardens pleading for asylum.

When the April 20 announcement came that dissidents, whom the Cuban newspapers referred to as “criminals, lumpenproletariats, antisocialists, bums and parasites,” could leave the island if boats were ready to take them from the Mariel port, thousands of Cuban exiles in Florida hurriedly rented fishing boats to pick them up. By October, 125,000 refugees had crossed on these boats before the order was ended.

In May of 1980, the Pentecostal Evangel editor, Robert C. Cunningham, wrote in an editorial of the crisis: “As more and more people find themselves victims of oppressive governments, it is good to know there are still some countries where they can find refuge from their persecutors.” In June, the Evangel put out a call for assistance: “The Assemblies of God has launched an effort to provide financial aid for the refugees, sponsors to help in resettlement, and bilingual communicators who live near refugee camps to assist in meeting immediate needs.”

The Aug. 10, 1980, Pentecostal Evangel issue offered a report of the AG effort to aid Cubans fleeing from oppression and persecution. “Like the early settlers of the United States, they are seeking a home in a free land … Can we afford to ignore this great missionary challenge of offering the gospel to needy souls?” commented T.E. Gannon, national director of the Division of Home Missions. He further stated: “Immediately upon hearing of the plight of the Cuban immigrants, the Division of Home Missions began seeking to minister to these people. For evangelism to be effective and successful, it is necessary to reach the immigrants as soon as they arrive. This calls for emergency action.”

Life Publishers, the AG missions press, provided 19,000 Bibles to the camps where the refugees were resettled. CH (LTC) Robert E. Barker, USA Task Force Chaplain, wrote to the AG Chaplaincy department to thank them for their help in securing Bibles for Cuban refugees at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. “It was a thrill personally to watch several Cubans receive their Bibles with great pleasure and enthusiasm. They really appreciate owning their own Bibles! Thank you once again for your concern for these neglected people.”

Many Hispanic AG ministers and laypeople living near the refugee camps in Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania worked feverishly to provide ministry, housing, food, and clothing. They also served as interpreters and “pastors” in the camps. Sam Hernandez, a 1968 Cuban refugee and graduate of North Central Bible College, was granted a month’s leave from his church in St. Paul, Minnesota, to go to Wisconsin’s Camp McCoy to be of service. He conducted two to three services a day, discovering that the Pentecostal message did not die in Cuba when the missionaries were forced to leave as he found several members of Cuban Assemblies of God churches among those housed at Camp McCoy.

Adolfo Carrion, superintendent of the Spanish Eastern District, reported that many Cuban refugees were now attending Assemblies of God churches in cities where they were resettled, including one man who was of an “atheistic and communistic persuasion, who was a confirmed materialist” who was gloriously saved and never misses a service. It was found that after years of religious oppression, Cuban immigrants readily responded to the gospel.

Ruth A. Lyon, editor/promotions coordinator for the Department of Home Missions, concluded the August refugee update with an appeal to the Scriptures, “What we do, we must do quickly. And the extent of what we do depends on offerings received. This is one way you can help these strangers within our gates. Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:35).

Read Lyon’s report, “Meeting America’s Newest Home Missions Challenge,” on page 16 of the Aug. 10, 1980, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Cure for Depression” by Ada Nicholson Brownell

• “First National Men’s Convention”

• “How to Win Your Husband to Christ” by Stephen J. Vaudrey

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Five Lessons from the Great Cuban Revival of 1950-1951

Cuba photo

Hands raised in prayer by those seeking salvation, Holguin, Cuba, February 1951

This Week in AG History — May 17, 1959

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 18 May 2017

The Pentecostal church in Cuba exploded in growth during a series of evangelistic and healing services throughout the island nation in 1950 and 1951. Several church leaders in Cuba, including Luis Ortiz, Dennis Valdez, Hugh Jeter, and Ezequiel Alvarez, hosted Pentecostal evangelist T. L. Osborn, and about 50,000 people made professions of faith in Christ. Jeter, an Assemblies of God missionary, wrote about this remarkable revival in the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Jeter wrote, “One of the greatest moves of God’s Spirit in our generation took place in the island of Cuba in 1950 and 1951. It was a common occurrence in many Cuban cities for crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people to fill a baseball stadium or city park night after night to hear the gospel and to be prayed for.”

The revival effected immediate and lasting change. Jeter noted, “Thriving congregations suddenly came into existence in places where previously we had had no work at all. The entire stock of the Bible society was quickly sold out. The miraculous was continually in evidence and people were convinced that of a truth God was in our midst.”

What can we learn from the remarkable Cuban revival? Jeter identified five practical lessons:

1.  A revival can be judged by its results over time. While some people initially questioned whether the Cuban revival was genuine, over the years it became obvious that people who were converted had become faithful Christians. Small churches were strengthened, and new churches were planted. The Assemblies of God Bible school in Cuba, which had temporarily closed due to lack of students, was overwhelmed in the years following the revival with students who had a burning passion to share the gospel.

2.   True revival will be grounded in the Bible and will give glory to God and not to man. Jeter wrote, “Our principal evangelist, Brother Osborn, did not claim to have any special gift or revelation that would set him a class apart from the rest of us. He simply let us know what God had promised and inspired us to believe that God would keep His Word.”

3.  Effective “follow-up” is essential in order to integrate converts into churches. The best “follow-up,” according to Jeter, is not merely a systematic visitation of converts, but the continuation of the revival spirit in local churches. The same spiritual vibrancy that brought people to faith in Christ will also inspire people to be faithful in church.

4.  Church leaders must be willing and able to relocate their congregation if current buildings become inadequate. Pastors who showed flexibility regarding location could more easily retain converts simply because they could fit into the church.

5.  Technology can help to reach the unchurched and to communicate with the faithful. In the Cuban revival, radio was an important tool by which news of the revival spread quickly.

“Can this revival be duplicated elsewhere?” Responding to this question, Jeter suggested that “God is no respecter of people, or of nations.” He noted that revival came to Cuba following a long period of time during which believers developed their faith and prepared for a move of God. While recognizing that God is sovereign in bringing revival, he stated, “I know of no reason why it cannot happen anywhere else in the world.”

Read Hugh Jeter’s article, “Lessons from the Cuban Revival,” on pages 6, 7, and 22 of the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Standing Together,” by Frank J. Lindquist

* “Led by the Holy Ghost,” by W. E. McAlister

* “Do the Deaf Speak in Tongues?” by Twila Brown Edwards

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Review: Annette Murphy Barton Missionary Biography

Memories of a Missionary’s Daughter, by Annette Murphy Barton. Oklahoma City, OK : the author, 2009.

Annette Murphy Barton’s book, Memories of a Missionary’s Daughter, is a spell-binding account of a missionary family to India and Cuba. Barton’s mother, Dessie M. Knight, first sailed for India in 1929 as an Assemblies of God missionary after completing her education at Central Bible Institute (Springfield, Missouri). She married fellow missionary Hubert E. Murphy in 1935 while on furlough, and they went back to India under the auspices of his denomination, the Pentecostal Church of God. H. E. Murphy died in 1975 and Dessie Murphy died in 1981. Barton’s book details a fascinating record of significant events aboard both freight-hauling ships and of magnificent floating palaces, all necessary for world travel in order to arrive at required destinations. The book records in detail, both the extreme highs and lows of life as missionaries from the 1930s to the 1950s. The volume is well written and includes excellent pictorial illustrations.

Reviewed by Floyd and Joyce Hutcheson

Softcover, 70 pages + 38 pages of photos. Price: $15 postpaid. Order from: Annette Murphy Barton, 5008 S. Anderson Road # 40, Oklahoma City, OK 73150. Phone: 405.610.7455 Email: anniebarton38@aol.com

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