Cuba, an incredible country
He is the face of the New Apostolic Church in Cuba, the largest Caribbean island. He is a journalist with an alert mind and a big heart: Bishop Alex Michel Reyes Martinez is good for the Church. Learn a little more about him.
“What makes Cuba so special?” I want to know. “The people.” The answer is quick, spontaneous, and precise. Cubans are cheerful, lively, emotional, caring, and extremely friendly, Alex Reyes says. He should know. He lives on this beautiful tropical island in the Greater Antilles. It has a lot to offer to tourists. Although only a few regions have been developed for tourism, the importance of this industry is on the rise.
Development of the church of Christ
For some time now, Christians have been able to live and practise their faith more and more. New Apostolic Christians too wish for more openness through recognition by the state. The Church was recently officially constituted. District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum from Switzerland—retired since 3 June 2018—supported our sisters and brothers in this. And everything else we shall see, Bishop Reyes says. We are on a good way and have beautiful and intensive contacts to other Christians and religious denominations.
The Bishop, who is 35 years old, has been New Apostolic for many years. His mother insisted on giving her children a good start in life. Her son Alex was diligent and studied journalism and marketing at the University of Santiago de Cuba. He still works as a licensed journalist for various magazines in the tourism industry and publishes his articles in Europe. Alex is a family man. Together with his wife, Cathia, and their daughter he lives in Santiago.
Improvisation is everything
Cuba is increíble, he says. Although the country still suffers from the embargo imposed by its big neighbour and people lack many everyday things, they are unbelievably creative. “Improvisation is everything,” he says. But the country has its merits. Medical care in Cuba is free, as is education. In fact, Cuba’s education system is one of the best in Latin America. The enrollment rate is nearly hundred per cent. Illiteracy is practically non-existent. The disabled, the vulnerable, and old people are well looked after.
The joy of life
“Real Cubans love to sing and dance,” the friendly Bishop says. Latin dances such as salsa, mambo, rumba, or the cha-cha-cha originated here. The country’s traditional culture is upheld by all families. It is a mix of African and Spanish elements. “We are still trying to find our own identity, but there are great development opportunities and immense potential,” he says.
What matters to him most as a minister of the Church is to care for the believers in his working area and also show respect to all the other Christians. “Love for our neighbour and fellowship with our brothers and sisters are important to me.” That is his motto. He mentions Matthew 6: 33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The many tasks within the Church have changed him, he says. “I feel very small considering that it is my task to lead the flock that has been entrusted to me to the goal of our faith.” This is what he is known for in the congregations, and what makes him popular, District Apostle Fehlbaum says.
Casa de culto: the next goal
Referring to Alex Reyes’ ordination as a Bishop, the District Apostle says, “It was good for our Church!” This way, the New Apostolic Church has a public representative. The next step will be the official recognition of house congregations, called casa de culto. In Cuba, a casa de culto is a place where Cubans can freely gather to worship, for example. The applications have been filed. Now we have to wait and pray. District Apostle Fehlbaum says, “The statutes for recognition of the New Apostolic Church at the Ministry of Justice have already been submitted with support from the Protestant Council.” In Cuba, the ecumenical idea is something that is lived intensively. “The authorities are well-disposed towards us and we have very good contacts to them.”
The development has been good
The first New Apostolic ministers came to Cuba over thirty years ago. Most notably, Peter Dessimoz, Theo Hirschi, and Jürg Doménig from Switzerland. Their first contact was the later District Elder Marco Martinez Cabrerizo, who is 72 years old today and retired. He was a professor at the university and a freelance journalist, who worked for newspapers and radio stations. To this day, Priests still go to the homes of members and conduct services in small groups in the living room or in the kitchen.
The future will show how the New Apostolic Church will develop in Cuba. With God’s help and with such men as Alex Reyes and the cheerful brothers and sisters things will move forward. Let’s pray for it!