Maranatha Volunteers International’s work in Cuba continues to evolve in response to the country’s worsening economic climate. In the past year, the Cuban people have been struggling from a lack of basic necessities, such as food, water, electricity, fuel, medicine, and personal hygiene products. The few supplies that are available for purchase cost more than even employed citizens can afford. “The situation is pretty horrible,” remarked President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cuba Aldo Perez. “But in the middle of that, God is with His people.” Maranatha stays active in Cuba amid turmoil, sending shipping containers full of basic necessities and planning to purchase ten Havana homes for congregations to use as places of worship.

During last year’s Cuba-focused #GivingTuesday campaign, generous donors raised more than $250,000. In February, Maranatha used these funds to send four shipping containers full of food, medicine, and other essential items to distribution points across the island. These resources aided more than 5,000 families, which represent roughly 20,000 individuals. Since that first shipment, two more containers are full and ready for transport from Panama. But a country-wide labor strike shut down the isthmus nation and postponed the containers’ voyage to Cuba. The supreme court in Panama ruled on the case in question on November 28, prompting the country’s gradual reopening. “It’s hard to say with absolute certainty, but we believe the containers will be on their way soon,” said Maranatha’s Chief Operating Officer, Kenneth Weiss.

The clock is ticking for the Cuba Adventist Theological Seminary in Havana, which depends on the containers’ supplies to keep their doors open. Built by Maranatha in 1995, the institution is a pillar of Adventist Church growth on the island, but is currently struggling to feed its 70 students.

Amid economic stagnation, the 40,000-member Adventist Church in Cuba flourishes. Of the island’s 168 counties, 161 boast an Adventist presence. “The only way the people in Cuba can survive is through faith,” explained Perez. “And we offer them faith and hope in Jesus Christ.” Maranatha usually supports Adventist Church growth through the construction of new church buildings, but Cuba’s situation presents unique hindrances to this strategy. In the past, congregations have faced delayed building permits and the costly shipment of construction materials from other countries. “It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. It’s complicated,” said Maranatha President Don Noble of the construction process in Cuba. The solution? Renovation. This month, Maranatha leadership is preparing to purchase ten houses across Havana, for just $3,000 a piece. The plan is for local crews to remodel the homes’ main rooms into places of worship and any extra space into living quarters for pastors.

Since 1994, Maranatha has been working in Cuba to build and renovate Seventh-day Adventist churches. Despite economic circumstances, which make work in Cuba complicated, Maranatha has been successful in building or remodeling more than 200 churches all over the island, in addition to the seminary in Havana.