Background – Meeting Fred Malir
In 2004, I moved to Washington D.C. Sometime in the next few years, my parents came to visit and proposed that we travel to meet an older couple who lived several hours away. They had met this couple in Houston, Texas at a weekend get together of some christians who had a common history. We made arrangements with this couple (Fred and his wife), to meet them. At that time, they lived on a large farm outside of Lynchburg, Virginia. We had a very good visit with them. At the conclusion of our time with them, they offered for my family to come visit them anytime. Over the next few years, we did visit them several times and were blessed to get to know them and have times of fellowship with them. We also got to know some other christians that they knew including another brother in Christ who had helped Fred on a number of his trips to preach and teach the Word of God.
In these various times with Fred, his wife and others, I never learned much about Cuba or the missionary work in Cuba that Fred had been involved in.
Led to Make an Offering
In the spring of 2009, I came to the decision to leave my job in the Washington D.C. area. I did not have another job lined up. Over the previous 5 years, I had been saving money because of an intuitive sense which I believe was from the Lord. I had saved enough money to provide for my family for a window of time. As I departed my job, I was prayerfully considering what to do next. The Lord brought it to my attention that He wanted me to consider making an financial offering to Him. He impressed upon me something I had not experienced before. He wanted me to know that the financial offering was a “free will” offering. I did not have to give anything, but that He was asking for it if I was willing to give it freely. He did not set an amount. He wanted me to choose. I prayed about it and decided that I did want to make a financial offering and I decided the amount. At that point, I did not know what the offering was for. Within the next few days, I received word that one of the brothers in Christ that I had met through Fred had passed away. This brother became ill with a terminal disease and passed away in less than 2 years. When I heard about this, I knew in my heart that the offering was related to him. I prayed and the Lord guided me to understand that the financial offering was to be given to Fred in honor of this brother in Christ. I contacted his wife and asked her for her permission to give this offering in her husband’s name. She told me that giving an offering in her husband’s honor to Fred would be what he would have wanted.
The Boy with Five Loaves & Two Fishes
I took the financial offering to Fred within a few weeks. I decided that I should bring it to him personally. As I arrived at Fred’s house, I was pondering what exactly I was doing from God’s point of view. I wasn’t completely sure, so I asked Him. “What am I doing?” with this financial offering. Pretty immediately a passage came to my mind from the Bible:
5 Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people can eat?” 6 (Now he said this to test him, because he knew what he was going to do.) 7 Philip replied to him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for them, in order that each one could receive a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people recline.” (Now there was a lot of grass in the place.) So the men reclined, approximately five thousand in number. 11 Then Jesus took the bread, and after he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were reclining—likewise also of the fish, as much as they wanted.John 6:5–11 (LEB)
From these verses, I understood that I was just a small boy giving something that the Lord was going to use for His purposes. This passage foretells a great deal about what would come in the future. The Lord would remind me of this passage from time to time. Nine years later, the Lord would lead me to speak a message based on this passage and my experiences in being involved with mission work in Cuba. This financial offering was the beginning of the Lord involving me in some of His work in Cuba, but I did not know it then.
I do not remember the exact sequence of events at Fred’s house, but here are the important parts. I came with a financial free will offering to give to Fred for however the Lord would lead him to use it. Fred had come to a point where he was struggling with something specific related to ministry work in Cuba. The amount I brought help to meet a specific need that existed at that time. As we fellowshipped, Fred asked me if I would be willing to take a trip with him to meet one of the brothers from Cuba who happened to be traveling to the Miami area in the coming weeks. Later, Fred told me that the Lord showed him that he should introduce me to this brother from Cuba and that is what prompted him to ask me. So, we planned a trip to Florida to meet this brother from Cuba.
Unique Trip to Florida
I decided to drive to Florida to meet with Fred and this brother in Christ from Cuba. Without a job, I wanted to conserve funds. In addition, I had a family member a few hours away from where Fred and I would meet the brother from Cuba. I decided that I should also visit him. This became a round-trip that would last several weeks in total. Including:
- Drive from Virginia to Florida
- Time in Miami, FL to meet a brother in Christ from Cuba
- Time in Naples, FL to spend time with a family member
- One night visit with a christian friend in Asheville, NC
- Brief afternoon visit with Fred and his wife near Lynchburg, VA on the way home to Washington, D.C.
It is necessary for me to share some about each part of this trip to convey to you my experience and the picture God was painting for me which sets one of the key contexts for my involvement in Cuba. I will keep each part as succinct as possible while also setting up for what God showed me towards the very end of this unique trip.
Meeting a Brother in Christ from Cuba
For this trip, Fred needed to fly. He was in his mid-80’s and did not need to be riding in a car for the number of hours required. I drove, picked up Fred at the Miami airport and we spent two full days with this brother from Cuba.
I did not speak Spanish. This brother from Cuba did not speak English. Fred spoke both languages and translated for both of us. The language difference did not hinder our fellowship. From the very beginning of our time together our fellowship was intense. This was our first meeting while Fred already knew both of us. God’s presence with us was very strong and a bond was formed between us in a matter of just two days. I learned a lot about this brother’s life. His life had been unique. He had become a believer in Jesus Christ after many years of living a very different life with much prominence in Cuban society. God had significantly altered the course of his life and he became a servant of the Lord with no prominence in Cuban society. After this, God called him and most of his family to focus on serving the poor and needy in Cuba. During this time, he met Fred and Fred became a spiritual mentor to him over many years.
Fred shared with me afterwards that our time together was one of very few times in his life that the presence of God was so strong. Up until that point, I would have to say it was at the top of my list. God’s presence was so strong, it was palpable in our time together. I left knowing that God had something in mind, but I did not know exactly what it was. During the remainder of my trip I had time to reflect and God gave me the understanding that He was going to ask for some additional help from me related to the work in Cuba. I told the Lord, “amen, and that I would wait for Him to show me what He wanted”. I had learned to hear the Lord in some situations, but then to wait before acting until He made it clear it was time to act.
In closing, this brother shared one thing that really stands out. He said that in his previous life in Cuba (before being saved) that he was a wealthy man who had everything. He had a career, a house, a retirement and all the other things you might want from a “good life”. However, he did not have good relationships with others including his own family. After he received salvation through Jesus Christ, he became a poor man in practical terms, but he gained many relationships including good relationships with his family. He said that in truth he had been a poor man before when he had the practical wealth, but now he was truly wealthy with his relationship to the Lord and many siblings in Christ (including his whole family) even though practically he is very poor without assurance of income from month-to-month.
Visiting a Family Member
After these days of intense fellowship, Fred returned home to Virginia. I continued on to meet with my relative in Naples, Florida. I spent three or four days with him. My relative was of a similar age as the brother in Christ from Cuba, but a bit older. He did not have a public profile, but served in the United States government in various capacities in the Legislative and Executive branches of the United States government. His politics are different than mine, but we have enjoyed conversing about many topics. In addition, like the brother in Christ from Cuba, my relative had a major time of transition. In his case, he started in the religious realm becoming an ordained minister in a major denomination of christianity. After several years, he became very disillusioned with things in the church and left. He found his way into government service for more than three decades. During this particular trip, a famous senator passed away whom he knew personally. This caused him to be more cathartic in our time together on this particular visit, so we talked about many things from his time of government service. As a result of many years of service, he had ended up with a sizable nest egg for his retirement. He was always very frugal, so he has enjoyed a comfortable retirement. As for his family, he was alone. He had been married once and had one son. He and his wife divorced and he lost contact with his son many years ago. In summary, he lives a hermetic lifestyle. This suits his personality, so overall he is content with his situation.
He said one thing that stood out to me in this time together. Since he had shared more with me in a seemingly cathartic way (due to the passing of his friend, the senator), we spoke more about his beliefs in God. After a some time on this subject, he said to me, “I have my faith and I know that God has been looking out for me over the years, but I cannot talk about it very much.” It was clear that it really disturbed him to talk about it very much. I was left with a clear impression that he did believe in God and had probably received salvation through Jesus Christ, but that his faith was not very strong. I do not say this with any bad thought, just an observation. He is a family member whom I have always enjoyed knowing and spending time together with him.
Visiting a Christian Friend
I headed north again towards home in Washington, D.C. Rather than trying to accomplish the whole trip in one drive there was a close christian friend who lived in Asheville, NC. He was glad I was coming through his area and offered for me to spend the night and have some time to visit and fellowship. Now, this friend is a very zealous and avid student of the Bible. I have learned a number of things from him about the Bible. He had previously lived in Washington, D.C. and we attended the same church. He and I had a number of lively interactions about portions of the Bible which are not easy to interpret. We had much agreement, but we also had some disagreement with an understanding that we did not have to agree in our interpretation of things that are not essential to our common faith in Jesus Christ. One such subject was about the Churches in the Book of Revelation. My friend had an interpretation about the seven churches in Revelation which I did not completely agree with him about. I had told him that I could understand what he was seeing in those passages, but I did not completely agree with his conclusions. His interpretation was not his own. It was an interpretation shared by earlier christian authors. We hadn’t spoken about the churches in Revelation for some time.
I arrived at his home and knocked on the door. He opened it and said, “I want to talk to you about the churches in Revelation”. He was ready to go! His desire was to help me see and understand the understanding he had come to through much study. There were some specific aspects of things expressed in the Greek that he wanted to share with me that supported his interpretation. So, we had a time of Bible study about the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. It was a good time of study and fellowship. I saw more of what led him to his interpretation. I cannot say I was convinced to adopt his view, but I more fully appreciated the basis for his interpretation and see it as very plausible. For me, I had decided to hold portions of Biblical text (like passages in Revelation) “loosely”. I do not lock into one point of view, but I try to understand different views and ask God to shine light and understanding on it if I need to have a fuller understanding.
If it is not clear, each leg of this trip felt extreme in different directions. Even during my drive from Southern Florida to Asheville, NC I had already been reflecting on the extremes between my two visits in Southern Florida.
- The brother in Christ from Cuba was poor by human standards, but wealthy in his relationship to God and others
- My relative was somewhat wealthy by human standards, but seemed poor in his relationship to God and others.
I don’t look for meaning in everything, but the contrasts between the brother in Cuba and my relative were strong enough that it left me wondering about the contrast. Then, I arrived at my friends house and entered into a one-night, somewhat intense engagement on the churches in Revelation. I was puzzled by all of this.
Brief Visit with Fred & Returning Home
I drove from Asheville, NC through the Lynchburg, VA area and was close enough to Fred’s home to stop for a brief afternoon visit. I shared with them about the other two destinations on my trip and the substance of what had happened in each place. I told Fred and his wife that I was puzzled by what had transpired on this trip and that I didn’t know if there was something I should understand from it all. Before I left, we spent some time in prayer. I do not remember exactly what we prayed for, but knowing Fred and his wife it probably included a request from the Lord to show me anything I needed to understand from the whole trip experience.
Two Men from Two Churches
The last leg of my trip home was another 3-4 hours. For this part of the trip, I continued to be very puzzled by the events from my trip. As I thought through them, I repeatedly said to the Lord, “I do not understand if these things mean anything or are supposed to mean anything to me”. Each time I set it aside in my mind on this part of my drive home, it came back to my mind again and I was left with knowing that I didn’t perceive anything. I told the Lord, “You will have to show me if I am supposed to understand something from this trip”. This is a type of prayer I had made at other times in my life which the Lord had answered.
After this prayer, I went back to listening to some music. Sometime in the last 30-45 minutes of my drive I had a realization. In summary, I remembered two specific churches from Revelation and I realized that the brother in Christ from Cuba and my relative each mapped somewhat closely to one of these two churches. Furthermore, I realized that the condition of the church in Cuba versus the church in America mapped to these same two churches. In summary, I was seeing a picture of “two men” from “two churches”. These churches are Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Over time, I shared this realization with others and have come to further know that what I realized that day on the last portion of my trip is true. I cannot easily (in a few words) portray how strong the correlation is between these two churches in Revelation and these two nations. I know it seems very counter-intuitive given the governmental systems in these two countries, but it is my witness before the Lord to each of you reading this article.
Church in Philadelphia
Philadelphia = Brotherly love.Smith, S., & Cornwall, J. (1998). In The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names (p. 195). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos.
To Philadelphia, God says:
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “This is what the holy one, the true one, the one who has the key of David, the one who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one can open, says: 8 ‘I know your works (behold, I have put before you an opened door that no one is able to shut) that you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and did not deny my name. 9 Behold, I am causing those of the synagogue of Satan, the ones who call themselves Jews and are not, but are lying—behold, I will make them come and kneel down before your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept the word of my patient endurance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come upon the whole inhabited world, to put to the test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming quickly! Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take away your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go outside again, and I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God, and my new name. 13 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’Revelation 3:7–13 (LEB)
Church in Laodicea
Laodicea (la-od-i-se’-ah) = Greek, laos – people; laity; and dicea – opinion; custom; opinion or custom of the people;Smith, S., & Cornwall, J. (1998). In The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names (p. 158). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos.
justice of the people; ruled by the people; rule of the majority; democratic; i.e., peoples right or opinions. The people’s rights.
and to Laodicea, God says:
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “This is what the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation, says: 15 ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, in order that you may become rich, and white clothing, in order that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and eye salve to smear on your eyes, in order that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. Be zealous, therefore, and repent! 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also have conquered and have sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”Revelation 3:14–22 (LEB)