For the first time in its 77-year history, Pioneer Clubs, based in Wheaton, IL, launched club programs in a communist country. With the prayers and gifts of many generous supporters, Brian Ondracek, president and CEO of Pioneer Clubs, traveled to Cuba with a team of 10 people this past July with the sole purpose of training Cuban ministry leaders to use Pioneer Clubs’ Spanish curriculum. Over 30 dedicated children’s ministry pastors and teachers from across Cuba traveled by train and bus for a week-long training program—some traveling for 15 arduous hours. After the formal training was complete, these newly equipped leaders had the opportunity to train around 30 children using their new Pioneer Clubs curriculum.
In a country with over 11 million residents, about 1 out of every 6 is under the age of 15 according to a 2012 census taken by The National Office of Statistics of Cuba. The opportunity to reach a whole generation with the Gospel has the realistic opportunity to change the entire nation of Cuba.
This past fall, over 30 churches of the Los Ninos Pinos (The New Pines) denomination, serving approximately 1,000 children, began using the new curriculum with hopes of using the program nationwide with the remainder of the 5,000 additional children served by the denomination, as well introducing other churches and denominations throughout Cuba to this new resource. According to the Cuban leaders, a large percentage of children who attend club meetings will come from non-churched families, furthering the spread of the Gospel outside of the church walls.
Interestingly, this new effort seemed to happen almost by “accident”. In September 2015, Ondracek joined a team from his church on a trip to Cuba. At the last minute, he thought to bring the Pioneer Clubs’ Spanish curriculum to see if it might be useful there. After seeing the material, church leaders in Cuba welcomed the idea. “We believe that this material would work very well here. But, we don’t want it unless you come to Cuba and train our leaders how to use it.”
“Reaching kids in a communist country like Cuba was not part of some grand strategic plan for Pioneer Clubs,” admits Ondracek. “The opportunity simply presented itself to us—or more accurately—was given to us by God. It was as if He was saying, ‘I want Pioneer Clubs to help churches reach kids in Cuba.’ So, we are following Him as He leads us.”
With little resources and even less training available to the Cuban church, Pioneer Clubs is continuing to explore ways to expand its efforts in this new field of harvest and hopes to raise at least $250,000 in the next three years to facilitate those efforts.
“It has been amazing to see what God is accomplishing in Cuba,” says Ondracek. “Our ministry just keeps walking through the doors that He is opening for us not knowing what lies ahead—truly, living by faith.”
Sounds like the words of a true pioneer.
For more information see www.pioneerclubs.org.