Cuba’s Seventh-day Adventist Church Sharpens Communication Skills
Membership has grown to 31,000 in 20 years, despite limited resources
By Libna Stevens,
Inter-American Division, reporting from Havana, Cuba
Seventh-day Adventist communicators from across Cuba gathered recently at La Víbora Adventist Church in Havana for a three-day conference to network, sharpen their skills, and learn better ways to communicate hope in their communities.
Nearly four dozen communicators were in attendance to learn how to write news articles, as well as hear about communication duties and responsibilities, the direction of the media, practical communication, the church as a supercommunicated organization, and social networking.
CONGREGATION: Participants in worship service July 2, 2011, during the communication seminar at La Vibora Seventh-day Adventist Church.With practically no Internet access and limited working equipment, the church headquartered in Havana struggles to communicate with its four regional offices that oversee more than 280 congregations in the 16 provinces on the island.
“Through this conference we wanted our communicators to be clear on the objective of building bridges of hope throughout our country,” said Dayamí Rodríguez, communication director for the church in Cuba. “Every construction site needs to have professional builders for a successful outcome; the same goes for us as communicators of the truth. We must be trained to fulfill the mission of the church.”
It’s not only about keeping a church informed but also about reaching every corner of the island, said Rodríguez. Informing and reaching is still a process that takes time, she explains.
“We work with what we have available,” said Rodríguez. “Our best way to communicate among our regional offices is through landline telephone communication and newsletters.”
“We are able to promote our church initiatives, plans, strategies, and activities from the different departments and ministries to reach across all our provinces,” she added.
Rodríguez, who has been communication director for a little more than a year, said the conference was also an opportunity to push communicators to network and establish more dialogue among themselves—in spite of existing challenges.
However, these challenges have not prevented a growing church from establishing a structure for communicating and spreading the good news of salvation through printed newsletters and pamphlets, Rodríguez added.
Coralia García has been a passionate communicator as she spreads hope in Santa Clara, the central region of the island. For 12 years García has labored to produce monthly newsletters to inform members about what is taking place in the church in her region and the island, share encouraging stories, and bring about unity to a church membership mostly aware of what takes place in a short-mile radius around them. She is able to print dozens of newsletters for members and nonmembers who subscribe to them.
She is excited to participate in the conference, the first she has seen organized for decades.
“This workshop has really helped me in expanding my knowledge and confirming my resolve to continue doing my best to communicate our message,” said García. She hopes that networking among her fellow Adventist communicators on the island will result in greater outreach.
PRESENTATION: Abel Marquez, associate communication director for the church in Inter-America, presents a seminar at La Vibora Adventist Church, Havana, Cuba, July 1, 2011.Arnaldo Rodríguez, 30, pastors an Adventist group of 30 members in Batabanó, a municipality in the south of Havana. He is also the communication director in his church. Rodríguez is in awe of what he has learned in the conference, but sometimes feels overwhelmed by the lack of resources, such as a phone, computer, camera, and more.
“I liked what I’ve learned in this conference,” said Rodríguez. “The tools we may or may not have are not important; the message we must carry is most important.”
Rodríguez, who is an information systems technologist by trade, left his cyber job to become a pastor two years ago. He points out that he worked with wonderful tools before, but is comforted by the importance of the message he must carry. He is excited to be part of a team composed of techs like him from throughout churches in Havana that assists when church programs or special activities take place and productions are needed.
Reider Querol, communication director for the East Conference in Cuba, struggles with limited resources, but strives every month to publish a series of pamphlets with news and information for each of the church’s departments and ministries.
Yordángel Franco Navarro, who overseas a mountainous area belonging to the newly organized mission in the eastern part of the island, hopes to soon find ways to better communicate in his region. A former journalist, he dreams of one day using a camera to capture images of what is taking place in the churches he oversees. He reports on the progress of his region to his fellow communicators from a used-up notebook and holds photograph prints of activities and stories that took place several months ago.
“These photos were taken by a member who shared them with me,” said Franco. He admits his news is not “fresh,” but it’s the only way he can share it now.
Most communicators like Franco do not possess a camera. García is one of the few who do; a church member gave her a 7.2-megapixel digital camera years ago before that member left the island. Many of her colleagues have not been so fortunate.
Dayami Rodríguez understands the challenges her communicators face. She too struggles to produce materials with limited equipment. Her small studio staff endeavors to work with a broken-down video camera, a used donated home-video camera, an old CD burning machine, and a computer. “It’s what we can work with as we produce audio and video programs for our membership,” said Rodríguez. Yet she points out that the work of spreading the message of hope and communicating activities and events is still multiplying and not limiting the church.
Rodríguez, who also heads the community’s Art and Culture Department, recently organized a island-wide activity where dozens of Adventist artists displayed their paintings and works. She plans to organize a photography competition to involve church members across the island with whatever cameras they have at hand.
“We will continue to work the best we can to share hope,” said Rodríguez. “Our communicators will share their learned knowledge in this conference with their respective churches and territories.”
Rodríguez, just like her fellow communicators, dreams of when online access will be available on the island to satisfy their hunger to learn of what is taking place in the Adventist Church surrounding Cuba and around the world. For now, they hope for a better tomorrow and work hard to network together.
Aldo Pérez, president of the church in Cuba, firmly shares the vision of communication on the island. With a growing membership of more than 31,000 members, he and his fellow administrators see the greater impact communicators can have on the island.
“Now, more than ever, we see the importance of communicating more love and hope, and believe in the work they are doing,” he adds. “We have grown rapidly from 10,000 members in 1990 to 31,179 this year and believe the role of the communication department is invaluable.”
“We know how crucial it is to have an informed church membership and hope that our administrators and leaders in each of our four fields capture the vision of how communication can aid in the integrated evangelism strategy of sharing the message of truth,” said Pérez.
“The leadership of the union communication department and the administration during the event allowed me to see the commitment they have to sharing love by using all available means,” he added.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cuba was established in 1905. The church oversees three conferences, one mission, a seminary, and more than 280 churches and congregations.