Taking Pastor Thomas to Cuba

April 17, 2020 | Written by Becky Tillman

OK,  I don’t really think Thomas has been to Cuba. But one of his sermons recently encouraged a group of Jesus followers there!

Here’s how God brought it about.

My husband, Bob, and I have had the privilege of traveling to Cuba four times with a group of friends from First Presbyterian Church. 1st Pres has a sister church in Havana, and every spring they send a group of encouragers on a week-long visit. We participate in the life of the church and minister at their request. Various group members have decorated a children’s Sunday School room, brought supplies for a clowning ministry, taught English to neighborhood children in an after-school program, visited shut-ins, sung with the choir, taught Sunday School, led a bilingual Bible study, and presented a Parenting with Love and Logic seminar to families in the neighborhood.

One important project each year is a day-long training for an inter-denominational group of volunteer chaplains.

These laymen are allowed into prisons and hospitals, where they have a ministry of prayer and Bible study. Those of us with Stephen Ministry training have provided workshops on developing good listening skills, the power of forgiveness, and healing the wounds of trauma.

Before we left last year, they requested the topic for 2020: How to deal with anger in a Godly way.

The topic seemed overwhelming, but we had a year to pray and prepare. We knew we needed a way to grab attention AND provide some good solid Bible teaching on the subject. Pastor Thomas to the rescue!

Those of us in the service at PRC for the Shame series in 2013 will not soon forget the humility and courage that Thomas showed in telling us a story of his own anger. He even brought in the door he had kicked!

Watch Thomas’ 2013 sermon on anger.

We were thrilled when Thomas agreed to let us share his story in Cuba, and even emailed us the sermon. His story would grab attention at the beginning of the day, and we could use the Bible verses from the sermon to help define when anger is unhealthy.

So Bob went to work. He practiced Thomas’s story, and brought a hat to wear when he was in character. He made a life-size door out of heavy-duty brown paper, which he rolled up and carried with him on the flights to Cuba. Before we knew it, it was performance time!

The “door” was taped to a free-standing chalkboard on legs. The audience of 25 Cuban believers listened intently as “Pastor Thomas” told his story, line by line, with all the emotion of the argument building. When he reached the part where the argument ended by the door being shut in his face, “Pastor Thomas” turned and kicked a hole in the bottom of the door! BAM! Our sound effects guy, hidden behind the chalkboard, clapped two wooden blocks together at just the right moment, and everyone jumped in their seats. We definitely had their attention.

Cuba is a pressure cooker, and the model of Thomas’s honesty and transparency will continue to encourage these chaplains as they minister in very difficult circumstances!

(James 5:16) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

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