Dec. 11, 2019
LA MIRADA, Calif. --- This summer Biola Softball partnered with Global Baseball, a missionary organization geared towards utilizing the popularity of baseball and softball to share the Good News.
Players from Washington, Texas, California met June 23 in Miami, Florida to board a plane heading for Cuba. Five alumni and five players on the 2017 roster headed out to share their testimony and play some softball with the Cuban natives.
We lived in a small house in a town outside of Havana, named Alamar, which had 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The house was located across the street from the local church which provided all the assistance we needed including interpreters, bus drivers, cooks, and a local retired professional baseball hero named Raul that made all the softball game connections.
On the morning of June 24 we hit the streets with a 'boots on the ground' mentality spreading the Good News of Jesus and praying for their people. The heat was almost unbearable, yet no one had air conditioning. The streets smelled of trash and sewage, yet the children were playing joyfully with no regard of their poor conditions. We were all so humbled by the fact that every home we visited, the families asked for nothing but prayers over their sick - not clothes, not food, not money, just prayer for their sick.
After leaving one home, there were two young men in their early 20s sitting on the curb, so we asked them if they knew where they were going when they died? Roberto's eyes filled with real tears as he told us that his mother had died and that he had two tear tattoos to represent his deep grief from her passing. This revelation brought my question full circle - 'Where will you go when you die?' In a few short minutes, we were able to share the Good News of Jesus with them and they allowed us to pray for them. We gave them each a Spanish Bible and they wanted to know where to come watch us play since they had never seen women play baseball.
The next day we hosted a children's Vacation Bible School. Over 50 boys and girls showed up to sing Spanish VBS songs that our players had been practicing since May. We were able to share the Good News with them through a craft and VBS was by far one of the team's highlight moments of the trip.
This was also the day of our first game against the Cuban National Team. We played at the same location as the 1991 Pan Am games held in Havana, Cuba. The once beautiful arena was weathered, unkempt, overrun with stray dogs, and deserted looking. I explained to our players before we arrived how important it would be to have good competition in order to earn the Cuban national teams respect. All of the top Cuban National Sports positions of authority and commissioners were there to watch the Americans play against one of their few women's Cuban National Teams.
We held the Cubans 0-0 until the fourth inning when our pitching ran dry due to being short-staffed. I sent an interpreter over to the Cuban coaching staff to explain that we may need to borrow one of their pitchers on the following Monday for the next doubleheader if we were going to be able to give them a competitive game. After the game was over, we invited the Cubans to circle the mound with us so that we can pray. A couple of the Cuban players said, "But we do not know how to pray..." - and that is where it all started.
Immediately after the game we had to load the bus and head back to our home in Alamar to get ready for our Saturday night ladies' seminar. I decided to speak on the power of prayer since that is the one of the biggest topics for Cuban people. Before we could begin our prayers for them, one by one, the ladies left their seats to join us on their knees to pray to our Almighty God for the healing of their people. As I prayed big and powerful prayers to our Creator, Monica, the translator, repeated the words in Spanish and we worshipped together.
Sunday morning we broke up into four groups that each attended a different home church. Sixteen years ago Global Baseball started ministering to this area of Alamar there were only 4 home churches, and now there are 100 expanding all over Cuba. My home church consisted of about six women. We sang and danced in praise and worship to our King. After a long period of worship, several women stood up and shared a Word of Scripture and some testimonies. Throughout the service, if anyone felt compelled to pray for a person or subject, we would all stand up, hold hands, and pray over that person, then continue with the service. Nothing was set. No schedule or preplanned programming. God was the Pastor in charge and He led it by His Holy Spirit.
After all the Church services were over, we had a relaxing day at the beautiful beach about 20 minutes away from our host home. A large group from the home church that was responsible for hosting our trip, held a baptism at the beach and four of our players were baptized in the clear blue waters of Cuba.
June 27 was the only day we were scheduled for a doubleheader with the Cuban National Team. We realized that ALL of our five games were scheduled with the same National Team and that meant that we needed to start establishing a relationship with these women, because God was brewing something that we needed to jump into. We were down to only one pitcher due to a kickball game injury, so I requested that the Cuban National Team would allow us to borrow one of their pitchers for the second game to ensure they would have competitive competition. We lost the first game 3-0, but established some respect defensively which was important to our plans of witnessing to them after the second game of the day.
The second game of the day was a hot one! We knew God was up to something when the Cuban's sent over their only Christian to be our pitcher for the game. The American dugout no longer cared about the game on the field, but rather we were engrossed in conversation with the Cuban pitcher as we learned her struggles of being the only Christian on her team. After the game was over, we circled the mound once again and prayed for the Cuban team, then we asked them to meet us under a shade tree so that we can share some conversation.
Walking over to the shade tree, I felt confident and excited about what we were going to share with the ladies, but my confidence left my body when I turned around and saw the whole Cuban Coaching Staff join our circle. I nervously stumbled over a few words of who we are and what we came to Cuba to do. Next, one of our players shared her testimony. Awkward silence. They had not one question or comment for us. We just put our trust in the Lord that His Word will not return unto Him void. There would be two more days for God to use us to reach the hearts of the team and we needed a plan of better action.
On Tuesday, June 26, we began our day back at the softball field. We finally scored a run against the National Team with a one shot homerun. Once again, we borrowed a pitcher to help us get through the game. The pitcher, Ellen, was not a Christian so we loved her up even more. She was the youngest pitcher on their staff at the age of 20. After the game, we gathered into a circle again for prayer and came up with the plan to bring them to our host home for pizza after the last game on Wednesday night.
That afternoon, we hurried home to get ready for the ladies Bible Study that was to be held in our backyard. By 5:00 p.m., we had over 50 women waiting to hear from God's Word. Our players requested that I teach the women about one of our favorite women in the Bible, Leah. With the help of an interpreter, we had great conversation. We learned that all the daughters of the King are the same all over the world and share the same struggles.
The morning of June 29 was our fifth and last game against the national team. Each game, as I coached the bases on the third base side, I could hear the Cubans humming along with our cheers. I would come back to our dugout and encourage our players to keep going, because the Cuban team was loving our energy.
We scored the most runs in our last game, but still lost every game. However, our joy in spite of our losses became our unwanted ministry - God used it big time! By the end of the game, when we once again joined the prayer circle, we asked them if they wanted to learn our cheers. They were overjoyed as we changed the name in our cheer from B-I-O-L-A to C-U-B-A. It was awesome! We would meet for the last time that night at 8:00 p.m. for pizza and soda.
After the game, we rushed home to get ready for our girl's softball clinic. We waited for a while, and all of a sudden, grown women began walking onto our field for the clinic! Within 15 minutes we had women of all ages, ready to learn how to throw, catch, and hit - it was crazy! Women that have sat around their whole lives watching the boys play finally had their moment. Many of the women kicked off their shoes and ran the bases in bare feet. At the end, we took group pictures and shared hugs and kisses with them all.
Our 8:00 p.m. date with the national team rolled around quickly as we ran from the baseball field to the pizza house to the church to meet with the Cuban National Team. It was obvious that they do not get the privilege of eating pizza or drinking soda very often. The Biola Softball team served the Cubans and made sure they had as much pizza as they could fit into their stomachs. After we ate, we invited them into the backyard for a fun game that required no language.
After the games were over one of the youngest players on the Biola Softball team shared her moving testimony, which left tears in the eyes of many Cuban women. They stood in line to hug her, kiss her, and encourage her. The ice was broken and the Holy Spirit took over from there.
We returned to the dining area of the church to offer three more gifts to the Cuban national team. First, we gave them brand new bats that were donated by Demarini. Next, we gave them a gift bag of razors and a Spanish Bible. Many of them opened their Bibles and began reading them right then and there. Lastly, we asked if we could pray for them.
I was watching the Cuban Coaching Staff to make sure they were not becoming offended or annoyed by our faith. To my surprise, the Holy Spirit was breaking down their walls as well. Our entire staff of Americans circled the Cubans (including the coaches) and laid hands on each and every one of them. The room was filled with the Holy Spirit like I have never experienced before. The once hard looking women and coaching staff were now soft and emotional. We all embraced and took departing photos together. My greatest moment was when the Head Softball Coach of the Cuban National Team came to me and asked to take a picture together. He hugged me and sincerely thanked me for what we have done for them. I was richly blessed and God was truly glorified.
Thursday was our last day in Cuba as we spent the whole day touring downtown Havana. Under the famous huge statue of Christ, we each had a moment to share what God had taught us through our experience in Cuba. I am sure many Cuban lives were touched by our missions trip, but even more real changes occurred in us.
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