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Fleeing Castro, Finding Christ

In CT Magazine, Carlos Ferrer shares his journey from communist Cuba to faith in Christ:

From the earliest time I can remember, I had an intense longing for peace. Born in Havana, Cuba, in the early 1950s, I was aware from a young age that our country was in a constant state of violence. At night, it was common for our family to hear gunfire and bombs going off in the distance. These were the beginning years of Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.

On January 8, 1959, Castro marched into the streets of Havana, and I thought peace had finally been achieved. It wasn’t long, however, before ordinary Cubans began to grasp the true nature of the new communist regime. The government started taking over farmland and businesses, which roused a movement dedicated to overthrowing Castro.

Seeing no future on the island, we decided to make our escape later that year, boarding a commercial ship headed for Veracruz, Mexico. We left in the middle of the night, taking nothing but the clothes we were wearing. My grandfather had some distant cousins living in Mexico City. After we landed in Mexico, they took us into their home for a few months.

In April of 1962, members of my immediate family received resident green cards, allowing us to enter the United States legally and we left for Miami. Then a breakthrough happened: A Baptist church in California answered my father’s application to relocate from Miami.

This church sponsored our family so that we could begin a new life in Santa Barbara. Its generous people found a job for my dad, rented us a house for six months, and supplied us with basic necessities. I couldn’t help but wonder what was motivating these acts of compassion. Why would these people display such love and generosity when we were all but strangers? The question lingered with me for years.

I decided to attend the University of Texas in Austin. As a student, I was confronting some of the biggest questions of life, questions about career, family, and faith. One day I heard a knock on my dorm room door. I opened it to find two students, who told me they were sharing their faith in God with others. They asked the question I most needed at that juncture: “Would you want to have a relationship with Christ, who wants to bring you inner peace and eternal salvation?”

I immediately said yes, and we prayed together. Soon thereafter, I thought back to the people of that Baptist church in California, and a light bulb came on in my brain. Why had they helped us? Now it made perfect sense: Because Jesus had loved them so abundantly, they wanted to share that love with others … through their generosity and kindness.

A few years later, the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now the North American Mission Board) came calling, offering the position of financial controller. After taking the job, I heard that my new employer had been involved in helping resettle Cuban refugees in the 1960s. I asked if, by chance, the organization had worked with any churches in California.

The leader of the mission board’s refugee resettlement office called me over. He was holding a file folder. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Carlos, this is the church that sponsored your family. This is your file.” You can imagine my complete astonishment. What an amazing path the Lord had prepared for me years before I even considered inviting him into my life.

Nearly half a century has passed since my decision to follow Jesus, and I have no regrets. I am eternally thankful for the people God placed in my life to bring me the peace I always desired.

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