Editor's Note: Paul and Monika Allen have been traveling for monthsestablishing contacts for future missionaries so that a Christianpresence is established in many of the Omega (4K) zones of the world.Their new project, Operation: John, is paving the way for those whowill follow. Paul, 28, and Monika, 26, use journalism and photographic skills to tell the stories of need, as well as recruit and teach in YWAM schools and churches.
They are a testimony to the pioneering force of young people who are committed to using their spiritual gifts to go to the ends of the earth. Their most recent trip, chronicled below, took them to the island ofCuba. They will continue to share their stories on this website, and you canalso visit their personal website at www.paulandmonika.com.
Isla de la Juventud, Cuba, July 19
I stepped into the Cuban immigration line and my heart began to beat louder and faster. It had been a busy summer and I hadn’t had time to be nervous. But now I was.
“Isn’t it illegal for you to go to Cuba?” a teen in my small group had asked me the week before. “Aren’t you scared?”
“The Cubans need God,” I answered, excited about the adventure of ACTUALLY living on the edge. “And we’re going there to make a way for more missionaries.” It seemed so simple and straightforward then!
But now, as I stood in line to enter the country, some of my confidence faltered. My Spanish was far from fluent, I didn’t know anyone in Cuba, and I had no idea what it meant to be an American in Cuba.
For the last four months, my husband Paul and I have been traveling as “Operation John,” a part of YWAM’s 4K project. We’ve been in India, China, and Jamaica learning about the countries and the people, writing their stories, and making new contacts for future long-term missionaries. We planned to be in Cuba for three weeks with my younger brother Lukas, a photography student, and Paul’s brother Philip, another full-time YWAMer.
The immigration officer stared at my passport and then at me. He pounded a few stamps in my visa and, to my relief, buzzed the door open without asking me any questions.
Two days later, the four of us flew south from Havana to Cuba’s Isla de Juventud, “the Island of Youth.” Because our flight had been delayed for 9 hours, we didn’t arrive until 10:30pm. Some tourists lent us their guidebook so we could find a casa particular (a private house, government approved to rent rooms to foreigners), but it could only house half our team and was double our budget.
“God, we need a place to stay,” we prayed as we waited for our luggage to come off the plane.
Just as we stepped on the bus that would take us to town, a lady appeared behind me. “Do you need a house?” she asked in Spanish. “My house is only $10 a night for two of you. My friend has a house for the other two.”
The next morning, we thanked God for providing us with a place to stay and interceded for Isla de la Juventud.
“Help us meet people today,” we asked God. “Show us how to spend our time here.”
The sun beat down on our heads as we walked. It was a Monday afternoon, but the streets buzzed. Lines thirty people long waited in front of banks and brightly painted bodegas, shops where Cubans received their rationed food. Music blasted out of tall speakers on both sides of the street. Dogs and cats darted between peoples’ feet. Old cars and trucks drove by, belching exhaust as they passed horse-drawn carts and “bike taxis” on the road.
When we saw several people licking ice cream cones, we knew ice cream was just the fuel to keep us going. The line was long, but it was in the shade. Four blonde-haired blue-eyed people really stuck out, though, and it wasn’t long before a man introduced himself and asked us where we were from.
“Are you Christians?” the man asked in Spanish.
“Sí,” answered Philip.
“Wonderful. I’m a pastor!”
As we waited for our ice cream, the pastor told us all about his church and the work they do among the communities of La Isla de Juventud. He introduced his wife and talked about his family and life as a pastor. “I’m also a carpenter full-time so I can support my family,” he explained.
We explained our purpose in coming to Cuba and he was overjoyed. “There are no missionaries here on the island,” he said. “We need missionaries!”
After our conversation with this pastor, we spent another hour interviewing the pastor of a Methodist church.
“The pastors need people who can encourage and train them. And the youth need new life!” he said. “We reach out to the community and they’re very open to the Gospel. But we really need missionaries. We’ve had one or two come, but they’ve left. We need whole teams!”
By the end of the day, I was tired and hot from walking all over town in the intense sun. But I was encouraged and excited. All my nervousness from the first few hours in Havana was long gone. God HAD told us to come here and He would take care of us--not only for our housing, but also helping us meet the right people.
I had a feeling that the longer we spent in Isla de la Juventud, the more we would understand the significance of God’s sending us there. The words from both the pastors echoed in my head as I went to sleep that night. “We need more missionaries.”
I prayed that our trip would be the first of many teams of people willing to take a risk, to “do the possible so God would do the impossible” through them.