Cuban missionary to Uganda uses sports to teach Bible to refugees

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Hector Cabrera (left), a Cuban missionary serving in Uganda, uses sports as a way to share the gospel with refugees. While political unrest persists in Cuba, Global Missionary Partner Hector Cabrera, a Cuban, serves Sudanese refugees living in Uganda with the love of Christ and his God-given talents.

Cabrera was sent to partner with IMB missionary Jeremy Taliaferro’s team serving these refugees earlier this summer. The team’s main objectives are humanitarian aid and spiritual aid. He plans to be in the country for a minimum of three years.

Most of the refugees this team works among are from South Sudan. A percentage are from North Sudan, and a handful are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The majority are animists, who follow traditional African religions. These false religions are also mixed with elements of Christianity. Some of the refugees are Muslim.

Taliaferro’s team partners with Christians within the Sudanese refugee population to strengthen the church there. They focus on trauma healing, evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

The team works on water wells for the community, builds houses for those who are disabled and particularly vulnerable, and delivers food to children in schools.

Cabrera has been helpful to the team, bringing diversity and experience. But one of his most valuable contributions is his background in sports ministry. He responded to the call to missions while still in Cuba, after he heard news reports of teenagers in trouble. He’s served areas of Cuba in various ministry roles, but his heart for youth has always played a major part.

“In the refugee camps, I saw a lot of children. I decided to teach them Bible stories using sport,” Cabrera said.

Missionary Jeremy Taliaferro introduces IMB’s president, Paul Chitwood, to local church leaders. (IMB Photo by Chris Carter)

Taliaferro explained, “There’s a lot of idle young men who are just standing around with nothing to do during the day. Hector being able to get out and get them involved in sports and share the gospel is going to open up lots of doors.”

Cabrera is willing to jump in and serve wherever he’s needed, though. “If they need me to repair wells and houses, I do it. But my favorite thing is to play sports with the kids.”

His time overseas hasn’t been easy, especially as unrest persists in his home country and COVID-19 continues to be a threat.

“Cuba is going through a lot of upheaval right now,” Taliaferro said. “I think oftentimes, we tend to think that because our GMPs are internationals, they’re fine when traveling away from home. But he has family back in Cuba.”

Taliaferro continued, “There are people who have been sick since he’s been here. He’s seen his country break out into rioting and protests throughout. I’ve seen it weigh heavy on him.

“He deals with the same challenges that we do when we’re here, knowing we’re in a different country and far from home,” Taliaferro added. “But knowing that he’s missing out on some things – some important things that are happening in his home country while he’s away serving the Lord – I think that is something that is new and fresh (for Cabrera), and something that we’ve been going through for the last couple months.”

Cabrera – who was sent by Montes des los Olives Baptist Church in Alamar, Cuba, through the sending agency Cuba to the Nations – rests in the knowledge that he’s fully supported by his church during his time overseas.

“Yes, it will be hard, but I’ve already seen God take care of my family, helping them, supplying their needs. Our church supports me. Anything I need or my family needs, they are there, always,” he said, gratitude apparent in his voice.

Taliaferro commended the way the Cuban church has been supporting their missionary, not only “financially and through prayer” but in such an involved manner, even caring for Cabrera’s family in his absence as he helps get the gospel to the nations.

“I think they’ve really gone above and beyond,” Taliaferro expressed. “I’m so grateful for the Cuban church and the sacrifices they’re making and how well they’re doing in sending their people. I think it’s been a great testimony to watch and to listen to.”

Myriah Snyder is senior writer/editor for the IMB.

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