Cubans can be sentenced up to 30 years in prison for slaughtering a cow for its meat? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I might have expected such a penalty in a Hindu country where cows are considered sacred, but Cuba? Our Cuban host assured me that I had understood him correctly.
Our team traveled to the Western Hemisphere’s only communist nation not long after Hurricane Sandy devastated many towns and villages there before making landfall on the U.S. Our intent was to serve hurricane victims among our own spiritual family who were dirt poor even before Sandy descended on their Caribbean island. Through Heaven’s Family’s Food Fund and Disaster Relief Fund, we were blessed to offer relief and repair. We also offered loans through our Micro-Loan Fund as well as transportation for church planters through our Mobilize a Minister Fund.
The Cuban government seemingly tries to control every detail of Cuba’s citizens, even to the point of restricting their diets. Beef is reserved only for tourists (who bring money that props up the economy) and the government elite. It is legal to own a cow, but it is illegal to kill it. Cow killers can go to prison for years—a prospective punishment that initially encouraged Cubans to kill and eat their cows and then report them as stolen. So Cuban authorities imposed a new law: If your cow is stolen, you must pay a fine of $1,500 (five times what many Cubans earn in one year).
Our conversation about Cuba’s cow controls began as our team stood in a muddy farm field discussing the potential purchase of two cows for a group of poor believers who lived in a nearby coastal village. Although we soon realized that our gift would not provide them with meat, it would provide them with milk.
So our expenditure would bring long-term benefit because of gifts to the Food Fund. The seller offered two cows for $340, which our Cuban hosts assured us was a very fair price. So we closed the sale.
But wait, there’s more!
By God’s plan, we arrived during a divinely-orchestrated “two-for-one” sale: The seller told us that one of the cows had an unweened calf that would have to go with its mother, and that the other cow was very pregnant. It was an opportunity we had to “milk”!
We rejoiced that we could provide our dear brothers and sisters with four cows for the price of two—a gift that will bless them for years to come. Once the animals were delivered to their new and grateful owners, we asked the man who would be caring for them, “Jose” (not his real name), if he would mind us naming them. Both he and our translator laughed—silly Americans, they probably thought—but agreed, so we named them Mercy and Grace.
During our travels to other Sandy-stricken villages in Cuba, we purchased dozens of chickens so that pastors could provide eggs for their congregations, as well as tons of rice, pasta, and cooking oil for our Cuban brothers and sisters. And as we joined thankful congregations during their praise and worship services, we were blessed by their enthusiastic gratitude, which made us appreciate all the more our privilege of serving them—and those who helped make their blessings possible through gifts to the Food Fund. Thank you!