Eastern Cuba WMU president Zayda Hernandez Concepcion
Missions Discipleship

WMU in Cuba: Moving Forward

She started out one day in early February 2023 riding in a horse-drawn buggy, then transferred to a motorcycle taxi. After the motorcycle taxi came an automobile taxi. Then she boarded one of many buses headed to the conference location. Zayda Hernández Concepcion (pictured above), Eastern Cuba WMU president, finally arrived at the first in-person meeting of Eastern Cuba WMU in more than four years.

That type of effort was not an isolated incident. Many of the women who attended — more than 120 — required an entire day to travel to the conference. They were happy to make the effort, having anticipated this special meeting for several years. Originally, more than 1,000 women were expected to participate, but COVID-19 protocols and other regulations limited attendance. Those who were able to attend knew they’d be blessed by this exciting meeting.

Eastern Cuba WMU conference attendees
Eastern Cuba WMU conference attendees

Eastern Cuba WMU celebrated its 100th anniversary at this gathering; Western Cuba WMU celebrated its 100th anniversary several years ago. Both organizations provide training in their local churches and reach out to women in their communities. They support their local lay missionaries — which is critical, as those people are often the leaders in missions and house churches throughout the nation — as well as missionaries who are beginning to go out from Cuba to other countries. Western Cuba WMU also has an offering that supports a seminary, and the organization gives to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions each year.

Both groups have offices and leaders at the convention level. These individuals provide training, leadership, and direction for those at the district level. In the past, training took place at the national and district level, but COVID-19, as it did for many, caused the leaders to become creative in their planning and training. They didn’t cancel leadership development opportunities but instead found new ways to offer them. And the women being trained adapted too.

Remote training has taken place through WhatsApp groups for the past three years — even to the level of seminary courses with certificates of completion. While doors are opening for larger groups to meet in person, this virtual model continues to be a benefit. Utilizing both models will offer the flexibility and accessibility of remote learning alongside the advantages of in-person training, such as fellowship and a space to share ideas so that informal — but often critical — conversations can take place face-to-face.

At the conference in February, the women of Eastern Cuba WMU focused on moving forward. Using Philippians 3:13–14 as their theme verses, they acknowledged circumstances have been hard, but they were also encouraged to “forget” those things and move forward. Leaders in each of the 50 districts were challenged to bring a young leader — under 30 — with them. They met the challenge! Half of the participants were under the age of 30. The conference included a special time when the experienced leaders symbolically “passed the torch” to these young leaders. This passing acknowledged the next generation of leaders who need to be invested in, encouraged, trained, and given opportunities to lead so WMU groups and churches don’t experience a void in leadership. It was a celebration and a commitment.

Eastern Cuba WMU passing torch to younger generation
Passing the torch to the younger generation

These young leaders have already formed a WhatsApp group where they will receive training and begin to build connections that will be important as they prepare to take on new leadership roles. Immigration to the United States has taken its toll on local church leadership and has greatly affected the local church. Women in WMU often have other leadership roles in their churches; therefore, continued leadership training for the women who attended this event is critical to the health and well-being of the local church.

Pray for these new young women leaders. Pray they would feel a sisterhood with one another and would know and understand their calling from the Lord. Pray for the leaders of WMU in the Eastern and Western Cuba WMU conventions. Pray the leadership teams would have wisdom as well as unity and vision for their organizations. Pray as they continue to seek the best ways to train members and call out new leaders.

Eastern Cuba WMU packing to leave meeting
Women packing up to leave the meeting of Eastern Cuba WMU

While WMU in Cuba closely resembles WMU in the US — even to the age-level organizations in Western Cuba WMU — its leaders encounter barriers to their ministries daily. And yet they remain deeply committed to the cause of Christ and making His name known throughout their country and around the world. They are committed to “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13 NIV).

Laurie Register recently retired after 29 years with South Carolina WMU. She continues to participate in missions locally and globally.