God, USAID and Cuba

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For just $50, you can help a Cuban evangelist bring the word of God to “an unreached village, community, or outside province” in Cuba.
God himself chooses the preachers who spread the Gospel, according to a Miami nonprofit called EchoCuba.
EchoCuba has taken in at least $2,302,464 in government-financed Cuba grants from 2009 to 2017, records show.
The nonprofit’s projects blend religion with activism.
In 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development gave the group $1,033,582 for a three-year program entitled “Empowering Civil Society by Strengthening Economic Independence.”
In 2016, USAID gave EchoCuba $1,179,066 to support a project called the Cuba Humanitarian Support Network.
That project is aimed at providing “humanitarian aid to Cuba’s vulnerable religious leaders” and creating a “network for the sustainable delivery of essential food and health supplies to marginalized Cubans and their family members.”
EchoCuba was founded in 1994 to help support the growth of independent churches in Cuba. The group’s website states:

Now our job as workers for God is to open people’s eyes so that they may turn themselves from darkness to light. Our vision and mission are both aligned to spread the Gospel of Christ not just for salvation but to expand the education of God’s Word. Our support to the independent Churches in Cuba brings salvation to a society lost in oppression and persecution.

In 2011, EchoCuba merged with AmericasRelief Team, which now oversees EchoCuba and Outreach Aid to the Americas Inc., or OAA.
OAA’s executive director and president is Teo A. Babun Jr., who reported an annual salary of $121,133 in 2016. His son, John Babun, was listed as a member of the Board of Directors.
OAA manages a number of projects, including the First Frontier Cuba Network, which was organized “in preparation for a greater opening of Cuba, and in support of the growing and vibrant Cuban Church.”
That must have been written before Donald Trump took office. Parts of EchoCuba’s website may also be out of date. The site said the group sponsored religious trips to Cuba.

One of our focuses as a ministry is to provide unique opportunities for US-based churches to learn about the Christian Church in Cuba by facilitating mission trips and help them provide support to recognized ministries on the island. During their journey, missionaries learn the struggles, joys, dreams and daily lives of fellow Christians and pastors in Cuba. They visit their ministries, learn their needs, hear their stories, and bless them with the brotherly bond of friendship that transcends borders. These voyages allow missionaries to see what God is doing in Cuba.

The group’s website also urged followers to invest in evangelism:

Evangelism is at the heart of everything we do. Our most important mission is to provide spiritual help to Cubans by proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. We accomplish this by supporting local pastors engaged in this vital work.
It only takes $50 to enable a pastor to serve full-time to evangelize an unreached village, community, or outside province. You can make a choice today that will change the fate of those who have yet to hear the Gospel.
Each pastor is a man or woman who already lives in Cuba. These individuals—chosen by Christ—live among the community, share the same cultural traits, and are driven by a passion and burden to reach their own people.

The group also said it fights “Biblical poverty” in Cuba.

Since Churches in Cuba are not legally allowed to be constructed, God’s people have been forced to operate through house churches, which hold no legal recognition from the government. Cuba has over 25,000 house churches on the island. The average house church holds an average of 20 to 40 members, on average only 5-10 bibles are available for the entire congregation.
In the last two decades, Christianity has grown in Cuba in an unprecedented rate. With a population of 11 million, and only 10%-20% of that population being active Christians, the demand for bibles is unlike any other point in history.

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