Take a Friday night walk through Havana's Parque G to see up close how much Cuba needs Christ. By day, the downtown park offers a pleasant stroll along a wide, tree-lined boulevard down to the gulf coastline. By night, Parque G becomes a murky zone where Cuban teens, dressed somewhere between hipsters and goths, cluster to smoke, drink, and exchange drugs. Young couples hide in the shadows of bushes as musicians hold jam sessions under streetlamps.
But in dramatic contrast to the surrounding activity, at 1 a.m. 25 young Cuban Christians form a circle to pray. Holding hands, they shout forceful prayers toward heaven for the salvation of Cuba. Across the intersection, a uniformed police squad watches with interest, but does nothing to stop their outreach.
The youth belong to Alcance Victoria, an evangelical Cuban church formed in 2003 based on the inner-city models of evangelist Nicky Cruz and Victory Outreach, an international ministry. Most of the youth are new believers and recovering drug addicts thanks to the church's weekly evangelism walks.
"Too many churches live their faith inside their walls, when the church needs to be here in the street," says dreadlocked evangelist Obeda, a former street kid whose brilliant white grin contrasts with his ebony skin. "We're out stealing souls from the Devil."
Speaking enthusiastically with visiting Christians, the teens point to each other along the organic human chain of who brought who to faith in Christ. Their style is direct—"Hi, I'm a Christian, and I'd like to tell you about Jesus"—and brings results. The church is 500 strong, and leaders hope to add another 500 by year's end.
Their leader, Manuelito, ...