A Call To Serve

May 3 2013 / ShareHim in Cuba, Apr. 12 - Apr. 27 '13 #596
by Francisco "Frank" Santos

Personal Testimony of Francisco "Frank" Santos.

For several years, I have been avoiding answering a call from the Holy Spirit to serve the Lord in a different capacity. Together with my wife, we have recently been baptized in to the Seventh-day Adventist family in 1997. We have served our home Church in different capacities and participated in church-sponsored activities as much as our work schedules permitted us. But despite my involvement in our church, I continued to feel a sense of "calling" to do more. Not knowing what this call could have been, I did what most Christians do...find excuses to not answer the Holy Spirit's call to service. After all, I am actively involved with our church and felt spiritual contentment for most of the time. The persistent feeling of uneasiness from within and the several events in my life have led me to take a step beyond my "comfort zone" as a Christian. Last year, I asked our Lord to lead me to a direction He wished for me to take. That road led me directly to ShareHim.

The events that followed after I connected with a close friend who had participated in a mission trip to Asia and provided me the contact numbers of ShareHim were obviously the work of the Holy Spirit. This was after I had attempted to get in touch with other SDA mission websites but conveniently failed to sign up for any mission. I originally wanted to go to the Philippines to serve as an assistant in a mission but somehow ended up as one of the speakers to Cuba.

From the time I signed up, many times I have thought of not going but learned from my past experiences that resisting the Holy Spirit was not the right approach. I know now that He was in control and to just let Him lead the way and simply witness the miracles that unfolded before my eyes. It is no wonder that those who have served Him in various missions would often say that you always go back once you serve your first mission. It is a confirmation of the power of our God who manifested Himself through the many who came to the nightly meetings and whose love and care exude from the many evangelists that have surrounded me in my first trip to the mission field.

So I finally let myself go to wherever the Holy Spirit may lead me. This time and for my very first time, I was selected to go to Cuba together with some 14 other evangelists to conduct an 18-sermon evangelistic series. I was assigned to be the speaker in one of the smaller, startup churches in the town of Cidra. The church is situated about 3 hours drive from the city of Havana and has about 20 baptized members. We arrived on a hot and humid day on April 8th where we were met by Pastor Luis Leonor. A bus owned and operated by the SDA seminary met all the 14 evangelists and loaded it up with our luggage. As we headed for the seminary, we drove pass the narrow roads of Havana. Immediately noticeable were the many 1950's models of Chevrolets and Fords that cruised in and out of the streets billowing black smoke from its' tailpipes indicative of diesel-ran engines. We were finally in a country where we know very little of except from what we have read from history books and seen from old films. I must admit, I felt a different type of "uneasiness" seeing the neighborhood for the very first time. How can it be that a country so shielded from the outside world and still find her people umnindful of the consequences of the lack of progress, I thought. I found myself contradicting my own beliefs soon after as I got more immersed with the community and learned more about the people and its' culture.

The drive to the coastal city of Matanzas where 4 of us where assigned to 4 different churches, was pleasant and long. We were dropped off at the residence of the senior pastor for the district who oversees the Churches and pastors of several municipalities. The pastor and his wife were very helpful in assisting all of us to settle in to our new home for the next 18 days. Their home became our staging station for our daily devotion, lunch and transportation pick up to take us to our respective churches. The neighborhood where we stayed had several residents that offered room rentals for foreign visitors. It was an ideal setup in that it felt being at a "home" away from home.

The first weekend meetings started on April 12th and would continue on for 18 days. I went to visit the Cidra Church located about 30 plus kilometers from Matanzas that took us about 45 minutes drive from our neighborhood. Immediately I was warmly greeted by the pastor and Church members preparing the church for the series. I was taken aback by the friendliness and enthusiasm of the members. After dealing with minor issues in setting up my laptop and projection equipment, we all prayed and left our fate to the Holy Spirit.

The first night, I was astonished by the number of people who attended to hear us. Despite the high humidity and extreme heat, my translator and I were able to overcome initial challenges that we were confronted with. The projection equipment had some minor malfunction but somehow "fixed" itself after we prayed and worked throughout the night without a problem. I ran into a few words that had no direct Spanish translation that my translator somehow managed to overcome and delivered the context of the message clearly through the nights. We did not have any audio equipment but again through the Holy Spirits' guidance, we were able to speak loud enough to be heard beyond the four walls of the Church through the street outside. My initial nervousness was quickly over as soon as the pastor and I prayed just before the start of the meeting. This became our daily routine asking the Holy Spirits' intercession as challenges appeared regularly. We had 60 people who attended the very first night.

As we met nightly talking about various messages and getting deeper in to the Word of God, several challenges came and went. There were evenings when we had power outages that would last for a couple of hours but miraculously be back on just before our meeting started. Of course, this affected our equipment but not nearly close to cancelling the meeting. I have had a visit by two military men dressed in their military uniform who took a video of the whole proceeding of one of our meetings. We prayed that whomever were viewing the video to be touched by the message instead of being concerned with the messenger. There were several nights that rained so hard that prevented most of the visitors to come to the church as transportation was hard particularly when it rains. These minor distractions did not deter those who wanted to be baptized nor those who wanted to hear the Word of God. Though the Church can only effectively sit 50 people, there were several nights that we had 60-65 people in attendance. All throughout the evangelism campaign, I was able to witness how the Holy Spirit worked miracles in transforming the life of those who attended and more importantly, those who had a hand in delivering His Word.

On the seconnd Saturday after the Sabbath service, I conducted my very first baptism of two young men who made my faith even more stronger and experienced a spiritual "high" once again. The first young man who was baptized sat on the very first row every night and diligently listened to the Word of God. His desire to be baptized was a result of the previous evangelism effort and had requested that I baptize him before the end of this campaign. As I talked to this young man, I was surprised by his knowledge of the Bible and his excitement to learn more about the Word of God that he exhibited. Surely, the Holy Spirit lives in this young man's heart as he gave his life to Jesus. The other young man who was a member of another church had asked me to baptize him through the pastor of the church. I met him when the Cidra pastor's family invited me for lunch. This young man is very cheerful and filled with the Holy Spirit. He is such a joy to be with and exhibited his readiness to accept Jesus in his life. You see, when he was 8 years old he was diagnosed with leukemia and was hospitalized for over 6 months in a government-ran hospital. One night, he had been so ill that his grandmother and parents were called to his bedside as the diagnosis was that it would take a miracle for him to get through the night and even a lesser chance of surviving the week. With his sobbing grandmother by his side, he reached out and grabbed her hand and barely able to speak, weakened by the medication, he had asked her to pray with him. He had asked Jesus to give him strength to last through the night and to ease his pain. Not only did Jesus provide comfort to this child that night but 6 years later, He is still blessing this young man. Though his vision is now affected by the regular treatment of his cancer, nothing is slowing him down. There is no disease that God is unable to control and no amount of discouragement can ever stop this young man from being baptized. Now I realize why the Lord led me to Cuba. It is not to serve Him comfortably in a place I chose but to wherever I can be used as a vessel for His people to be served.

It was unfortunate that I had to cut short my mission trip to Cuba by four days because of other circumstances in my life but the experience of baptizing these young men and the hospitality and genuine care I have received from the wonderful people of God and those who have made public their intention to be baptized, is God's clear message to me manifested through the many people that touched me and taught me how it is to "walk with God". They may have little in life but have much of God to share with those like me who search for God's loving kindness. There are no longer questions about how I ended up in Cuba but only answers that have strengthened my faith in the One who created everything that we may enjoy our stay here while waiting for His second coming. There are no longer doubts about Who is in control in this messy world we live in but only validations of a powerful God who directs and guides us in our spiritual journey. There are no longer unknowns of what He would want us to do but a clear road map of where He wants to take us, a road to salvation. There are no longer fears of the future but certainty of His predictions. There are no longer walls that confine me to serving a God to the limitations of my existence but an expanded view of God's people and His Church. There are no longer hesitations from answering God's calls to serve Him but a reassurance that He will surround me with His own people who will guide me in my walk with God. Yes, we serve an awesome God who will never abandon us when asked to serve but a very powerful God who will be by my side in my spiritual journey. There are still lingering fears that I am confronted with but now I know that the "Great Comforter" will always be there to calm me down. I have learned a lot in my journey and I must admit that this was more self-serving than anything and spiritually uplifting and now I need to share the messages I have learned with those who would want to hear it. Truly, we need to trust in God. To trust Him is to serve Him even though if it means answering His call to serve.
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