Forty-four young Seventh-day Adventist Cubans joined more than 5,000 Adventists gathered July 26 to 28 in Colombia for the church's Inter-American Youth Leadership and Prayer Convention.
Securing group travel permission from the Cuban government for the Adventist young people -- the largest such delegation to travel from the country since 1959 -- was a yearlong process, church leaders there said.
Twenty-two members of the delegation reported difficulties clearing visas and detoured to Venezuela, a country adjacent to Colombia, to arrive midway through the event. The other 22 members arrived July 27 in time to present their youth ministries report.
"It's an honor for us to be with you tonight," Ruber Alvarez, youth ministries director for the church in Cuba, told the convention audience. Alvarez said he hoped the Cuban presence at the convention would set a precedent for future events and suggested that Cuba might one day even host such a gathering.
Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church's Inter-American region, said the regional church would donate funds to help the Cuban delegation and urged those gathered to join in supporting Cuban Adventists.
More than 30,000 Adventists -- more than half of whom are young people -- live in Cuba. There are 272 Adventist churches and a theological seminary on the island nation of about 11.4 million people.