By Ivett de las Mercedes
HAVANA TIMES — The hymn of praise can be heard… I’ll follow you wherever you go, Jesus, I will follow you, because you are my path, my truth and life, and in you I’ve found peace… Pastor Yosbany del Campo Ortega (46) and his wife Sol Danela Paz Ortega (37) are leaders at the Christian church named Apostolic-Prophetic Ministry of those Born in Zion, who are being commissioned by Apostle Mario Alvarez Venegas, for four years now, from San Jose de las Lajas Church which is where the International Center of National Apostolic Ministry is based.
HT: When did you decide to go to a Church?
Yosbany del Campo: I’ve been learning about the Gospel for fifteen years now. I come from a dysfunctional family. My father abandoned me when I was three months old, my mother tried to educate me making a lot of sacrifices. I lived in a very difficult place: blood, violence and theft. I went from one school to another. I studied in the military and they threw me out. I used to abuse my mother. I was locked up on several occasions. I was known in this town for my abuse, drunkenness and arguments. I fell in love with a country girl but she left me for being a trouble maker and a womanizer. I have a daughter with her. That was until 2001 when I visited a Christian church and I began to take my first steps with God. I stopped meeting with addicts and aggresive people. God managed to change something inside of me.
HT: When did you become a pastor?
YC: In order to become a pastor, you need to have knowledge about the Sacred Script and receive investiture which an Apostle, approved by the Holy Spirit, gives you. Nobody gives you a church; I set this one up in my home based on my witness and what we have demonstrated. We’ve been in this house for three years now. First of all, I was a missionary pastor and when I had enough people following me and time, they elected me to be a pastor. God gives us our spirit; a leader cannot stand on a pulpit and speak in front of a crowd if he hasn’t been trained in prayer. Everyday we ask God to guide us through our services. When people come to our place of worship, the first thing we do is evangelize, confirm, baptize and teach them. My wife and I are currently studying our third year at a university which belongs to Apostle Guillermo Maldonado and they teach us at San Jose de las Lajas Church, with teachers coming from Miami.
HT: Is the church Christian?
YC: It’s the only church of it’s kind here in Candelaria, in Artemisa province; we are pioneers. We believe in water baptism, in the prophecies, in the power of placing our hands to heal, cure, we believe in spiritual talents, in the body’s own health, in miracles, in the Holy Spirit’s power, in the supernatural, in our almighty God and in the Word of God.
Our objective is to bring heaven to earth, it’s not about changing a president and establishing our own government, but rather about bringing about our own spiritual government. We aren’t a mixed faith, we don’t believe in saints or in virgins, we worship the heavenly, Jesus uses me to heal, I don’t want him just for myself, I want to share him. We pray for the sick, for love, for legal problems. God supports us with every word we speak, no prayer or promise falls on deaf ears.
HT: How many members does your church have?
YC: We have over a hundred members, although they don’t all come on a regular basis. The average age is around 60 years old. We worship in my home’s living room, there isn’t enough space there for so many pople. My old house got too small for us, that’s why we needed to buy this one. Nobody helped me, everything we have here is thanks to our own efforts.
HT: Do you work in anything else?
YC: I know how to do a lot of things but I only dedicate myself to the work of God. Nobody supports us financially, the Church is self-sufficient and runs on faithful tithes and offerings which are collected. I opened my heart and blessed it with all of my savings, buying fans, chairs, wooden benches for the church. The donations we receive, which come from our followers’ hearts, are used to help the sick, to buy medicines, food, something we need at the church, to fix the bathroom, to buy paint for the walls. No Christian church receives a salary. We have a humble place of worship, the Bible says: Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give] and we have learned that the Church gives but we must also give back to it. We work from the bottom of our hearts. We help our brothers, we spread God’s Word with a lot of faith, many of them have recovered from diseases, divorces, have been able to reintegrate into society, they’re better human beings.
HT: When do you meet and how do you praise God?
YC: We meet every Monday and Wednesday night and on Sundays mornings. Those are the times that the government allows us to meet. We praise God with clapping, musical instruments, tambourines, like psalm 150 says: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”, with all our voice, we jump, we sing, we mime, we make body movements, we use keyboards, guitar; we aren’t forced to do what other people do, we’re free. There are several children and teenagers who are now learning how to play the piano with a professional teacher, we want to buy some instruments in spite of the fact that the government doesn’t authorize us to make too much of a commotion while we rejoice, because it’s a house and not a place of worship. They don’t allow us to build a church either, because the religious law still hasn’t been passed, and we’re still not allowed to buy land for this end.
We’re praying to God for him to move the authorities’ hearts, those who are related to religious issues so that they can approve a law, and not just in my case but on a national level. Some Christian churches have a place of worship, except those post-1959. The rest meet up in indiviual homes which is what the State stipulates and we have to ask for authorization. We are doing all of this red-tape through the Justice Department. We are limited in the number of Bibles we have because, as we’re not members of the Biblical society, we have to buy them at a very expensive price.
HT: If they were to authorize land to you, would it be beneficial?
YC: It would be great; we would focus on building this church. Our Apostle Mario Alvarez is making arrangements, they suffer the same conditions as us, they have a piece of land which belongs to their own property, they have over 3000 members. Our space is already getting too small, we are predestined to grow because a lot of people are taking the Gospel into their lives. We trust that God is already in Cuba, he’s already being preached out on the streets in a slightly more open way, in spite of those in our country who criticize us for believing in God and his work.
HT: Do you feel fulfilled as a pastor?
YC: Yes, we are doing what we want and what we enjoy; we love and serve God with all of our hearts. He has taught us how to love; we identify ourselves with the nation of Israel even though we are Cuban. I don’t do anything forced; I am free because Christ set me free, I’m not afraid of him. He helped me to become a better person; he took me away from violence, death and prostitution. I’m very grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ, I have been in a happy marriage for 14 years, I love my children, the Church and its members. God watches over us, he is pleased and smiles.