In 1995 an opportunity presented itself for a group of 22 people from Bethel Baptist Church to visit Cuba. This opportunity was to experience life in Cuba and to minister to the needs of the people. They assisted in building homes and painting a medical clinic. The Bethel group found the needs of the Cuban people to be overwhelming as they were so impoverished. The group realized that they could make a difference in the lives of the Cuban people by supplying them with medicine, money, clothing, sports equipment etc. This group of people felt they were benefitting from the relationships formed and the satisfaction that comes from meeting the needs of others.
The first organized meeting for this ministry was June 27, 1996 under the name “Cuba Challenge.” At this meeting officers were elected. Walter Waun became the chair person. Much discussion followed regarding possibilities and projects to be investigated by the ministry through ongoing association and dialogue with the Cuban churches. The group also discussed fundraising and agreed that 100% of any money raised should be used solely for the mission projects in Cuba. The group decided to meet monthly to carry on these plans.
In 2003 the name was changed to “Cuba Outreach Ministries” as the word “challenge” was problematic for the Cuban people. This mission’s ministry became supported by the membership and board of Bethel Baptist Church in 2003. One of the goals of this group was to work in conjunction with a group in Cuba. The “Good Friends of Cuba” was formed in December of 2003. This is a group of Cuban people living in Cuba who are associated with the churches COM is involved with. This group was developed to be accountable for money that was sent to Cuba. They also work in conjunction with COM to let them know what the needs of the people were so money could be sent and used specifically for those purposes.
In 2008 “Good Friends of Cuba” signed the first Agency Agreement with Bethel Baptist Church. John Mintz was the chairperson at that time. Alexis Alfonso was the Cuban contact person for “Good Friends of Cuba.”
Twenty years later some of the original members of Cuba Outreach Ministries continue to be officers and members of the committee. Other new members have joined as well. Many of the people on the committee go to Cuba on a regular basis, some once or twice every year.
The goal of these trips is to provide for many needs and to assist pastors financially so they can spread the word of God. Some of the needs are medical supplies, medicine, vitamins, water filters, clothes, craft items for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, bibles, teaching supplies for the pastors and churches and. Money is provided to help pastors who in turn help the Cuban people. Money has been used to help support a day care facility, provide meals for the needy, purchase chairs for churches and Sunday school, sending children to camp, and retreats for adults. This money comes from a contribution from Bethel Baptist Church. The rest of the money sent to Cuba comes from donations made by generous benefactors and fundraising. Numerous forms of fundraising have been done over the 20 years of this ministry.