Azusa Pacific trains trainers. It’s an irrefutable part of the university’s makeup. From the boardroom to the classroom, from science labs to mission fields, APU students lead and serve with the common goal of passing the torch to the next generation. More than 115 years ago, when the founders named APU’s predecessor the Training School for Christian Workers, they envisioned a place that would cultivate a culture of diverse workers equipped and willing to go out into the world, into the jungles, the deserts, the slums, and train others to minister to their own people. They envisioned students like Tim Broach ’81 dedicating their lives to spreading the Gospel by empowering others to do the same. Some call it support, others call it partnership—in Cuba, they call it Apoyo.
Regardless of the moniker, the translation resonates with all who heed God’s call to build His Kingdom. For Broach, it means spending his life mentoring and developing church leaders who can in turn grow their own disciples. As country director for Apoyo Cuba, part of Reach Beyond (formerly HCJB Global), Broach equips Cuban church leaders to multiply their ministries. “Apoyo Cuba is not a group of Americans, rather a national movement of Cuban facilitators undergirding the growing passion that already exists on the island. In fact, I am the only foreign evangelical missionary living in Eastern Cuba,” said Broach, who serves alongside his Cuban wife, Onilda, and their two children.
Multiplying ministries in a communist country like Cuba comes with myriad challenges, but the Spirit moves there in profound ways. “After the 1990s and the fall of the Soviet Union, Cubans experienced an amazing openness and desire to grow their churches,” said Broach. “Though they had few buildings, limited literature, and no mass media, they have multiplied at an incredible rate because of the faith of the believers—especially the youth.” To nurture this burgeoning population of Christians, Apoyo Cuba focuses on four areas of ministry: family, counseling, Christian education, and leadership. “We train facilitators and provide resources, but the nationals take that and make it their own. We are all Kingdom builders together, and I simply come alongside and help them grow what God has started.”
Apoyo’s counseling program represents a rare opportunity for Cubans seeking counseling from a Christian perspective. The six-module course equips lay leaders to invest in their own spiritual journey while training to help others navigate life’s challenging issues. To date, 300 people have graduated, representing 45 churches and 9 provinces. In fall 2013, the program opened in eight new locations. One graduating couple, Celio and Mirliudis, applied what they learned in their own church and later were appointed the family pastors of their entire denomination.
Similar stories illustrate the success of each Apoyo area of focus. Family ministry programs, including marriage enrichment courses and premarital counseling, now impact nine denominations in five regions. “Enseña con VIDA,” the Christian education emphasis, has prepared 10 teams of facilitators in 7 regions to equip others for Bible teaching, and a new group of 40 trainers began last January. An M.A. in Leadership equipped Cuban leaders who implement curriculum for the development of leaders in a diversity of ministries. New spiritual leadership training modules launched in five regions in January 2014.
Amidst all the training and ministering, Apoyo also works tirelessly to aid families devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Through partnerships with Cuban pastors and other ministries, they have helped many families replace roofs on their homes and provided much-needed resources as they continue to heal from the loss and repair the damage.
As these ministries grow, Broach sees his dream coming true. “God has blessed me with an amazing opportunity to have a voice where others don’t,” he said. “Onilda’s citizenship and connections to her denomination opened doors for us at the beginning, but now Apoyo Cuba has expanded exponentially. With all our directors and team members being nationals, it is definitely a Cuban movement. I simply have the joyful privilege to minister side by side with them in this unique context. In 10 years, I would like to see regional resource centers equipping those who multiply ministries, and all the major denominations with facilitators in Apoyo’s four areas fully prepared to train their own leaders who will raise up generations of Christian Cubans.”
Cynndie Hoff is a freelance writer and editor living in Walnut, California. firstname.lastname@example.org