In July of 1943 we began a public effort in Mariana, a residential section of the city of Havana, Cuba. For this effort we had made quite extensive preparations. On a well-located corner we had set our tabernacle, which has a capacity of about 450 persons. We named our tabernacle The Voice of Prophecy, thus binding it to our radio program.
The members of the small church of Mariana had waited a long time for the opportunity to have a public effort in their section of the city, and when the time arrived they all, with great enthusiasm, took hold of whatever work there was to do. Marianao was divided into different districts, and these districts were assigned to different groups in which to distribute the announcements of the meetings from week to week.
We had two Bible instructors who gave excellent service despite the fact that this was their first experience in such an effort. The Committee of Co-ordination, which is one of the American Embassy services here in Cuba, was a great help to us in our effort. Once each week this committee gave us a half hour of selected sound film before the meeting began. By using it only once a week, we tried to avoid the danger of having this activity become the principal part of our program.
At the first we did not have a song service, partly because the small group of believers would not be able to guide a congregation ten or fifteen times their size, in unfamiliar songs ; and also because it seemed to us that in these fields where Roman Catholicism predominates and where the only churches that sing are Protestant, the singing exercise might arouse prejudice in the minds of those who heard us. If the meetings had been held in a church, naturally the case would have been different.
In the fourth week, when the people had developed a real live interest in the meetings, we had a short song service before each meeting. For this song service we used a small hymnal which had been prepared for the purpose of public meetings, and contained about fifty hymns selected from our regular Adventist hymnal in Spanish. After a little training our congregation got to the place where they could sing almost any of these hymns without any difficulty.
At the opening of the doors of-our tabernacle each evening, four young ladies, dressed in neat but simple uniforms, were there to welcome the public and to act as ushers. These young ladies used no distinction other than the uniform, but this was enough to identify them so that they could carry on the work assigned to them. At the hour announced for the first meeting the tabernacle was filled to more than capacity, and this public attendance was maintained faithfully right through the series. Our congregation was not composed of a changing group, but largely the same people continued in attendance from the first until the last.
During the first seven weeks we had meetings every night with the exception of Saturday nights. Although we were in a large city with all its social attractions, the people were faithful in coming to our meetings. I have found that when we give the people something of value and they see that we are earnestly presenting the Word of God, they will come to the meetings with great pleasure and joy.
A box was placed near the entrance for questions. Each night we received a goodly number and these were definitely answered. The part of the program dedicated to the answering of questions soon became of intense interest to all.
List of Subjects for Seven Weeks
After the subjects of the law and the Sabbath were presented, an invitation to attend the Sabbath school was given. At the first Sabbath school held after this invitation, seventy persons attended from our meetings. The following is a list of the subjects presented by weeks :
1st Week.—Our Day of Anguish ; Collapse of Our Civilization ; Miracles of Modern Science; The Supreme Book; Is the Flood a Fable or a Reality? Are Monkeys Our Grandparents?
2nd Week.—Public Enemy No. 1 (Alcohol) ; The Panorama of the Centuries;. Climax of History; Voice of Nature; Divine Mathematics; The Truth About Heaven.
3rd Week.—Has Our Civilization Failed? Is Destiny an Invariable Law? The Four Horsemen of Revelation ; Satan; Modern Scientific Developments Foreseen (Science and the Bible) ; Armageddon.
4th Week.—Is Jesus Christ God? Jesus Christ and History; Jesus Christ and Science; Jesus Christ and His Work ; The Life, Passion, and Death of Jesus (in two parts).
5th Week.—A Lighthouse in Darkness (Prophecy) ; Where Are the Dead? The Millennium; Hell; Spiritualism; "Watchman, What of the Night?"
6th Week.—The Greatest Need of Humanity; The Great Code of the Universe; Is a Day of Re Necessary? Eight Columns in Support of Sunda From Sabbath to Sunday; The Law and Grace.
7th Week.—The Most Impressive Parable of Jesus (Prodigal Son); A Sensational Jury Case; Confession; Can Man Be Born Again? (baptism); Sound Minds in Sound Bodies; Who Are Seventh-day Adventists and What Are They Doing?
At the end of seven weeks of conferences we organized a baptismal class of about ninety persons. These classes met on Sunday and Friday evenings, and for about three months we had one public meeting a week. In the classes we presented different themes which, because of their nature, it is well to avoid presenting in public in these countries. Some of the subjects were the little horn, the mark of the beast, papal infallibility, the Spirit of prophecy, and other themes which are more profitable for detailed study than for public presentation.
All this work was complemented by missionary visits in the homes by the Bible instructors and the evangelist. In conducting the work of giving Bible readings, we tried out, for the first time, a new plan which gave us good results. The Bible instructor left the lessons of the Bible School of the Air in the homes of the people, to be studied and filled out during the following week. At the next visit she talked over phases of the lesson with the interested person, gave out another lesson, and took the lesson that had been prepared, delivering it to the Bible School of the Air. The lesson was then corrected and sent back to the student through the Bible instructor. This system was carried on until those interested had finished the whole course of studies. On finishing this course the student received a diploma.
Unusual Arrangement for Offering
It may be of interest to mention that on the first night of the series at the close of the meeting, we presented to the public an opportunity to contribute to the maintenance of our effort. This matter was not presented as a requirement for anyone; on the contrary, it was presented as a privilege for those who were in a position to give. We made clear also that it was not necessary to give an offering in order to be welcome at the meetings. At a given signal the ushers began to receive the collection, beginning with those in the rear of the tabernacle, and working to the front, where they finally handed their collection plates to the one in charge of the meeting. With this arrangement people were less likely to leave the meeting before the collection was taken. Our impression was that the audience gave to this collection with joy and satisfaction. The collections taken during the series of meetings amounted to $140, and this helped substantially to pay the expenses of the effort.
On Christmas Day last year I had the privilege of baptizing forty persons who thus gave public testimony of their allegiance to their recently found faith.
The newspapers of Havana gave publicity, and C. M. Q., the most popular news agency in Cuba, filmed the baptism and immediately put it in with its news film display in the theaters of Cuba, giving an exact account of the baptism in a sound film. We wrote the titles to the pictures. Through seeing this film in a news theater many had their interest aroused in the advent message. After the baptism another class of thirty-five was organized, a large number of whom are now ready for baptism.