Our missionary journey began 25 years ago in Western Canada. After six years and one church-plant, the Lord redirected our ministry to Cuba, a Restricted Access Country (a country whose government-sanctioned policy prohibits open evangelism and the distribution of Bibles and other Christian literature). Canada had become our home, as well as our classroom. We said farewell to that wonderful Commonwealth nation, taking with us dear friendships and Canadian citizenship, both of which we value greatly.
When we arrived in Cuba, we longed for the traditional ministry methods we had employed in Canada. However, in a country where foreigners are not permitted to do religious work openly, we were forced to re-evaluate our ministry purpose and method based on II Timothy 2:2, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
In 1999, God supplied “the faithful men” and we began to discreetly host nationals in our home nearly every day of the week. There, in central Havana, we began teaching and training Cubans to do the work of the ministry. At first, progress seemed slow and the path was often fraught by loneliness and discouragement. However, in time, church-planting goals were being realized through the graduates of Berean Bible Institute which was officially established in 2004 and is completely comprised of Cuban faculty. We realized early on that longevity of God’s work in Cuba would depend on our ability to leave our cowboy boots behind and begin a barefoot approach, leaving no intentional foreign footprint on the ministry.
At Berean Bible Institute, we have been sensitive to the fact that every faculty member and student has grown up under Fidel Castro and a Communist state. Though their peripheral vision has been severely limited, they have begun to look beyond their island as the Great Commission has unfolded before them, even as the world maps we delivered in our luggage.
Over the last many years in Cuba, we have endeavored to convey that the unreached fields of the world require help from outside in order to be evangelized. In the beginning, our tendency was simply to brush over the topic of missions, as one would a history lesson because we saw no real hope of Cubans ever being able to do missions abroad. However, as the Lord led, we continued to educate the Berean students in not only the idea of missions, but also to plan for the reality of it in their lifetime. Well-worn copies of Operation World 1, missionary biographies, and world maps are among some of the most valued resources of the Berean faculty as their teaching stresses that the name of the true and living God be universally known.
Now, with governmental changes in travel policies, there are Cuban men who stand prepared and able to go. Our belief is that these men will leave behind churches that are less-foreign to the national and less-American. At the forefront of TAINO ministries is a focus on church-planting and the goal of strictly implementing indigenous principles.
The Taino are the unknown natives of the Americas. Although they were the first inhabitants of the islands of the Caribbean, they were practically annihilated after the arrival of the Europeans. We chose this name not only because of its colloquial familiarity in the Caribbean, but also for its representation of all unreached people groups today. We are careful to remember them as an indigenous people who were never reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the name TAINO is a solid reminder to not impose a New World mission-type colonialism that led to the cultural and physical demise of the Taino in the first place. TAINO is an acronym defining the objectives of this expansion:
Networking with Churches
Outreach to the Unreached
TAINO will facilitate Cubans to minister among the unreached peoples of the Greater Antilles and Central and South America, in places particularly resistant to traditional missionary methods. Our expectation is that having a familiar ideology, language, and culture will afford an international team more effectiveness. TAINO will assist the Cubans in locating areas of need abroad, finding believers “on the ground” to receive them, and offering support and resources as we labor together. Having long since made peace with the sometimes misunderstood anonymity of ministry in a Restricted Access Country, the initiation of a church-planting team led completely by Caribbean nationals simply solidifies the fourth generation, the “others,” in II Timothy 2:2.