How the Restored Gospel went Forth in Cuba

By Seventies Frank Frye and Neil Simmons

August 21-30, 2007 -- Trip Report

Report protocols. This report uses only first name initials because political oppression is still a significant concern in Cuba.

As a result of a visit to Cuba in August of 2006 by Arturo Gomez, contacts were made with the leadership of a splinter group of congregations separated from the Church of Christ (Cambelite). Approximately fifteen congregations had begun to separate from the Church of Christ, several years ago over evident differences between the teachings of the New Testament and the doctrine of The Church of Christ. Of particular concern to them was the absence of spiritual gifts in the teaching and practices of The Church of Christ.

A......, the leader of those who were convinced that the gifts of the Spirit should abound in the church, even today, was rejected by the leadership of the Church of Christ, and so they began to meet separately, though still affiliated with their mother church. After much prayer and fasting they began to experience some of the gifts of the Spirit, especially a prophetic gift that indicated to them God would soon send them the fullness of the Gospel. They prayed about the name of their congregation and decided that God was revealing that the name of their church should include the name of Jesus. They then changed their name, the Church of Christ to be registered as a new church—The Church of Jesus Christ.

They put the new name of the church inside the building where they were meeting. One day, they decided that the sign with this name should be placed outside for all to see. Thus it was that they moved the sign with the name of the church to the outside of the building. The very same day, however, the authorities of the State arrived and ordered them to remove the sign, which they did, putting it back inside. However, in the brief period that the sign was visible, (some few hours) N....., one of the Restoration Saints in Ciego de Avila, happened past the sign and wondered at those who had chosen this name for their church.

Shortly thereafter, brother Arturo Gomez, arrived having been sent to visit the few saints still in Cuba. He visited with sister N..... and she took him to see this church with the unusual name.

It was thus that A......, the leader of this group of members, received the visit of Arturo Gomez. His heart was open to hear the testimony of Brother Arturo who shared with A...... and a number of others, the teachings of the Gospel of the Kingdom. As A....... heard the things being taught by Arturo Gomez, he recognized these very teachings were consistent with the teaching of the New Testament. He became very excited. Their group had been fasting and praying for a considerable time (seven 7 years) that someone would come from the mainland and teach them the true gospel, and restore true authority to them so that they could receive the ordinances of the gospel.

After hearing the testimony of brother Arturo, and witnessing the healing of several of the members of their congregation through the ministry of the laying on of hands by brother Arturo, he left them and made his way back to Belize. Brother Arturo communicated with Seventies Frank Frye and Neil Simmons about his experience and urged an immediate contact with A....... and his members in Cuba. In the meantime A...... eagerly opened correspondence with Seventy Frank Frye by e-mail. Repeated efforts were made to make it possible for A...... to visit one of the missions in Latin America, but each time we tried to get one or more of them out of Cuba their government denied them the exit visas they needed. As the months passed they became more anxious about their relationship with the Lord. As they corresponded with Frank Frye they discovered that they did not have authority to serve the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and their e-mails became more and more insistent that someone must shortly come from the USA to teach them the true gospel.

In June Brother Simmons indicated that the USA Government had finally accepted the church’s application to obtain a legal permit to visit Cuba. In Cuba, A...... and his church members received this news with rejoicing. However, the US Government works slowly and it was mid August before it was possible to fly to Cuba.

Brother Simmons then e-mailed the Cubans that it would be a better use of time to have all of them meet in a central place, rather than try to
have the Seventy travel all over Cuba meeting with their leaders. He then e-mailed to them the ticket information and arrival times. Consequently, pastors of several congregations in Cuba met in Ciego De Avila awaiting the arrival of the two Seventy.

Hurricane Dean changed these travel plans. Instead of going to Cancun, Mexico and thence to Havana as planned, the route had to be changed to Nassau, Bahamas and then to Havana. The unfortunate aspect of this change was that there was no flight from Nassau to Havana the day the Seventy arrived in Nassau. This made them a day and a half late, according to their previously indicated schedule.

We flew late from the Bahamas, arriving late in Havana. After customs we went directly to the bus depot in Havana and boarded a bus to ride all night to get to Ciego de Avila in an effort to make up some of the lost time. After arrival in the very early morning hours we went to a hotel and got a few of hours sleep. We then contacted N..... asking her to come to the hotel and take us to the church where A...... was expecting our arrival. Of course, we did not know that they had assembled a group of pastors and had been waiting for us to arrive. We arrived just three hours after the pastors had given up waiting to hear from us, and had taken leave to return to their various cities and congregations.

As you might expect both A..... and the Seventy were very disappointed by this development. However, God in his wisdom has often allowed disappointments that later turn out to be blessings.

A....... chastised us for some time, and both Frank and I thought that perhaps our trip had been wasted because we had arrived too late. It seemed that they had come to the conclusion we did not care enough about them to be on time, or worse, we were insensitive to the leadings of the Spirit of God.

Finally, after A..... finished chastising us, we were able to explain why we had to change travel plans and why it was not possible for us to communicate while we were en-route to their location. Eventually, it was decided that we should continue with the dozen members of the leadership council of their congregation in Ciego de Avila.

For the remainder of Thursday, August 24, until after midnight Brother Frye and I taught the gospel of the Kingdom to a group of men and women who became increasingly excited about the gospel. Friday we taught all day and late into the night.

Saturday, we arrived early and began teaching. Early in the afternoon Saturday A..... confessed that they had despaired of our ever coming to them, and after reading in the Book of Mormon about the church established by Alma and Helaman in the waters of Mormon, he decided that it would be appropriate to be baptized. He asked me cautiously if we would accept them on this baptism. He bore witness that this baptism was the result of the Spirit of God leading them to read the scripture and to follow the counsel of the Book of Mormon.

Brother Frye and I had anticipated this, and discussed it the night before. We knew that they had previously baptized themselves according to the model in the church of Alma. We knew that they would consider their water baptism valid and already done. They clearly desired the baptism of the Spirit and knew that they did not have authority to confer the Holy Ghost. However, they felt that they had met the requirements for water baptism.

We both responded without hesitation that they would have to be re-baptized. A..... said that this was something he felt that they absolutely could not do, because they would be repudiating something that they knew was blessed by God. A long discussion ensured lasting several hours. They talked frankly of terminating our teachings and biding us farewell. Eventually, it was decided to continue the teaching, and Brother Frye began the class. Late that evening Brother Frye and I left these last classes without any assurance that we would be accepted or that they would make a decision to be baptized. We knew that Sunday morning would be the time when that decision would be made. We both spent much of the night in prayer for them and for the work in Cuba.

Sunday morning we arrived at the church at 9:00 AM. The pastor, A....., stood to make an announcement. He said that the twelve congregational leaders had been meeting earlier that morning. They had all voted, and decided that they should make the decision to listen to
the “two angels” who had been sent to them.

We were puzzled by this remark, and learned only later that A.... was talking about a spiritual experience they had received late Saturday night. After he had gone to bed, late that night the phone rang for A...... Though he was already in bed he answered it to discover that a sister in one of their congregations from the distant city, Las Tunas, was calling him. He mentioned to us that she was very respected in the church because she was known to have the gift of prophecy. She had not called him for several months and did not know anything about our arrival and of our teaching their leaders. However, she simply said to him, “You are going to be asked to do something you do not want to do. Why are you not listening and doing what the two angels that God has sent to you are telling you to do? You must do what they tell you to do.” He explained to us, that she said nothing else, and wishing him well, broke the connection. He confessed to us that had sat on the edge of his bed after that phone call “with his mouth open.” He then shared his telephone call with the congregational leaders Sunday morning about eight before we arrived. This testimony confirmed their individual decisions, one and all, to be re-baptized. He told us that all twelve would be re-baptized.

We were very pleased to hear that they had decided to be baptized. We asked when they wished to be baptized, they replied, “right now.” They explained that there was a fount of water in the back patio and they wanted to start immediately. Brother Frye had left his camera in our room but explained that we needed to take pictures and get the names of each one baptized. We sent N..... to get the camera. Meanwhile Frank stood and preached a great sermon about the Restoration of the Gospel. When N..... returned with the camera we went with them to their fount, located in the patio at the back of their chapel. Brother Frye required each who wished to be baptized to raise their hand, and then asked them to form a line in front of him. He then read this pledge.

“Do you wish to make an everlasting covenant with God, taking upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ? And do you desire to keep his commandments all the days of your life? Are you willing to love your fellowman and testify of God in all circumstances until death, so that He will pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you, and that you may be redeemed by God that you have life eternal?”

“Do you promise to be faithful to this pledge?

He then asked each one individually to indicate that they would accept. Each did accept and instead of just the twelve who had previously indicated they would be re-baptized, 26 individuals raised their hands and made their pledge. The congregation gathered around the fount of water as I entered it. Brother Frye took the names and pictures of each of those who were baptized.

Brother Simmons baptized these 26 new members into the church. He said afterwards that baptizing is always the most joyful ordinance of the church for him, and that this was a mighty experience for him. In fact, the next day his arms were sore from baptizing so many people. In the following service Seventies, Frank Frye and Neil Simmons, confirmed 14 members of the congregation. At that point in the day it was so late that it was decided that the remaining younger members should be confirmed at a later date by the local priesthood after more teaching had been completed.

Because N..... had been able to get most of the saints who had already been baptized to attend this service, we were able to have 19 baptized
and confirmed members present to organize the branch. There were still twelve who had not yet been confirmed, and three who had given their names for baptism who were not yet baptized. We then proceeded to organize a branch of the church. Calling the membership to order,
Brother Simmons presided over the organization of the first branch of the church in Cuba. After declaring it in order, he then asked the members of the branch to consider three priesthood calls. Brother Simmons presided both during the organization of the branch and the approval of the three priesthood calls. After approval with unanimous votes we moved on to the ordinations. Three members of priesthood were ordained in a service that was richly blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The branch in Ciego de Avila now has more than thirty active members and including the priest previously ordained by Arturo Gomez, four members of priesthood.

We ended these worship services and organizational meetings so that the women could prepare a small meal. As we partook of the food we instructed the priesthood how they should conduct the Lord’s Supper. Shortly, thereafter we entered into a beautiful service of communion of the Lord’s Supper. Brother Simmons spoke with considerable liberty in the Spirit during the service. Late that evening we concluded our worship services with prayer and the saints went to their homes. The next morning they gathered again for classes. During the following two days Brother Frye conducted several important classes, continuing with the teachings about the Apostasy and the Restoration.

Brother Simmons left some of classes in order to go to the homes of those who were already members of the church in Ciego de Avila. These had previously been baptized. It was necessary to make certain that they would be agreeable to meeting together as single congregation. Although there were some concerns, the members all expressed their devotion to the Lord and recognized the great and mighty work He was doing in their midst. They pledged to support A..... and attend their new congregation. Brother Simmons visited in the homes of the Saints in the city who had previously been baptized. He then met and gave considerable time to B......, the priest, who had been left in charge of the work when Arturo had departed the previous year. B..... pledged his support to A....., and recognized him as his presiding elder.

Brother Simmons returned from these home visits and priesthood visits, to the classes, at A...... congregation where he went on to teach about the Bible scriptures that support the Book of Mormon and to share testimonies of the Lord’s work. Late in the afternoon on Tuesday we concluded the teaching and took leave of our new brothers and sisters to begin the long trip back to the USA.

The following is a short list of the classes taught during the time we were in Ciego de Avila to the new members of the church.

1. Class on Free Will and Agency.
2. The three types of Christian churches.
3. All the flannel-graph series of classes, Come Unto Christ. (Six complete sets of materials were left for them to use teaching others. Also, Brother Simmons left his briefcase, flannel board, six Spanish Bibles keyed to page numbers on the scripture lists associated with this series of classes. This represented some twenty hours or more of instruction.
4. Special classes taught by Brother Frye included classes on Evidences of the Book of Mormon, and the House of Israel. Included were teachings about the Mormon Church, the doctrine of polygamy and a frank discussion of the false doctrines of open communion, ordination of women priesthood and acceptance of homosexuality in the church which had caused the apostasy of these most recent times.
5. Special classes given to the priesthood included instruction in the Lord’s Supper, in the organization and development of the national
mission in Cuba, and the financial obligation of the church in Cuba to be self sustaining.

Many other teachings of the gospel were shared in the discussions which were always deeply based on the scriptures. Every one of those who participated in the class work were expert in the Bible, and knew their scriptures very well.

In conclusion, we praise God for his blessings and pray that the instruction given to the Church in the past, to establish the work in Cuba will at last be fruitful. We praise the Lord that this great day has certainly begun. The door in Cuba is now opened, and there are many other congregations that will shortly begin to hear the gospel as A..... and the new priesthood in Cuba share their testimony to those ministers who waited in vain for our arrival. We recognize now, that if there had been even one person present who had doubted or expressed any reservation at all about being re baptized, this mighty work would not have occurred, for A...... was very reluctant to acknowledge the need to be re baptized. He told us he would have refused had it not been for the phone call. The other fact he took into consideration was that the vote among the leaders of the congregation before we arrived Sunday morning was twelve in favor, and none opposed to being re-baptized. Even then, he said that if there had been a single negative vote, he would have refused to be re-baptized. The evident joy and pleasure on the faces of those who were baptized again was a mighty blessing to behold.

May God continue to bless his children in Cuba.

Special mention should be made of those who have labored in this mission field in the past. A very special recognition should be given to N....., who has remained faithful in Cuba in isolation, and to Elder, Arturo Gomez. If Brother Gomez had not been available, and willing to risk imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel, none of these recent events would have happened.

The church should be very grateful for his dedication and faithful service to the Lord.

Others who have visited Cuba and served earlier in this mission are:
Sisters Tita Metzger and Saralee Rhoads,
Brother: Ethan Zerr
Priesthood: Elders Charles Zerr, Bill Rhoads, Dana Simmons, Kenneth Simmons, and Arturo Gomez, Seventies Neil Simmons, and Frank Frye.

We are continuing to be mindful of the commandments given through President and Prophet Fred M. Smith, to raise up the work in Cuba. We
all labor so that the Lord will be able to establish His work in Cuba.

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The work in Cuba began in the late 1990's. Charles Zerr (Doctor) and Neil Simmons were the first two to go to Cuba. They made numerous trips as well with others. A small group was baptized and organized in the center of the country. A group was formed in the capital.

The license to go to Cuba from the USA government expired in 2002. No new licenses were being given because of the attack on New York. In August of 2007 we were granted a new license to go to Cuba by our own government.

In the meanwhile the pastor of the group in the center of the country fled to the USA and is in Miami, Florida. This left our congregation without leadership. Efforts to minister to their needs were made by sending Arturo Gomez into the country, at great risk (He was detained and grilled by the Cubans for 11 hours and then told never to come back). Arturo made contact through one of our existing members with this group of churches.

The new group of churches (15 of them all over Cuba) had their leadership (Like a district president) in the same city as our existing congregation. They were convinced that Arturo was a messenger from God to teach them the gospel. E-mail communications have been on going for about a year, before Frank Frye and I were able to go.

Frank Frye is not retired.
Neil Simmons is retired.
Frank has responsibilities in Mexico that limited the time he could spend in Cuba.
Neil has responsibilities at home that limit the time he can spend away from home.

We were blessed to be able to teach about 30 members of these churches. Most of them are in leadership roles. We baptized 26, confirmed 14, ordained 3, organized the branch, united the membership into a single congregation, elected a pastor. We taught all of the ordinances of the gospel except the blessing of children.

We left with 3 more decisions for baptism, and one futher call to the priesthood. Those baptisms and the ordination were performed the following Sunday.

Since leaving Cuba, the elders we ordained, have journed to visit the other 15 congregations, planning on being gone for at least 2 months from home, as they share the joy of the gospel.

Time will tell how many of their 800 members will decide to make their covenant in baptism.
Pray for the work and the wonderful new Saints in Cuba.

Neil


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