With Hearts for Missions
Brentwood Baptist Church has over 40 missionary units serving in over 25 countries around the world, plus a network of global church planters. Many of these men, women, and children serve in places where there are no believers. Others serve in places where the persecution of Christians is intense. Our church is committed to intercede, support, and advocate for our Christian brothers and sisters as they stand firm in their faith.
For several years, Oscar and Lilia Fernandez faithfully served as leaders of the Brentwood campus Hispanic Ministry. Launched in 2004, the Hispanic Ministry continues to reach out to the growing Hispanic population in Middle Tennessee. Oscar and Lillia relocated earlier this year to Florida. We love and appreciate them, and we’re grateful for their powerful testimony and inspired leadership.
Continue reading to see how persecution affected the Fernandez family and how we can continue to pray for the persecuted church.
A Call to Serve
I was born in a Christian home in Cuba. My father was a deacon at Primera Iglesia Bautista de Santa Clara (Santa Clara First Baptist Church), and my mother was also very involved and active. My memories as a young boy include going with my father, other deacons, and our pastor to preach and minister during the week. I become saved when I was 9 years old, and I was baptized when I was 11 years old. I preached my first sermon when I was 15 years old and was chosen by the church to serve for one week as a youth pastor during the youth week.
I was involved with the Royal Ambassadors and attended summer camps very often. When I graduated from high school, I moved to Havana (by myself) to attend the University of Havana to study Civil Engineering. I was accepted at the Baptist Student Union, which gave me access to live in a building built by the North American Mission Board. There, I helped Baptist students, with lack of resources, from other provinces on the island. I joined the Union Bautista de Estudiantes Universitarios (UBEU Baptist Student Union), where I later become a leader.
A Time of Hardship
Starting college in a country with revolution from a previous civil war was a challenge for everyone, especially for the Christian community. The Cuban Army faced the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and we paid the consequences. At that time, I had received a full scholarship from the Home Mission Board for me and my girlfriend to come to America to study at the University of Corpus Christy in Texas. We married to come together as a couple, but with the Bay of Pig Invasion, Cuba suspended all flights between Cuba and the U.S. We were forced to stay, although we had U.S. approved visas, Cuban passports, and airline tickets. Then, the real nightmare started. Because of our Christian faith, we were forced to stop our studies, and I lost my job.
For many years, my family (including my children) faced harsh discrimination. As long as I was in Cuba, my mail was always opened before I could get it, my phone conversations were recorded, and all of my moves were watched. Our Christian friends also faced the horror of been marginalized. Some of them were sent to forced working camps and treated as criminals. In one day, 55 Southern Baptist Cuban preachers were placed in jail, including my pastor, mentor, and counselor—the President of the Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental (Cuban Southern Baptist Convention).
Through Intense Persecution
I will always remember the day I was placed in jail. I was 18 at the time, and for three weeks, none of my family or friends knew where I was. After being released, an officer followed me and searched my dorm room without any explanation or apologies. Another time, I was called to join the Army (obligatory military service) to be deployed to the battlefield in the Angola War. At the very last minute, I was liberated of that duty. When I finally was able to come back to the University, they did not allow me to finish the career I had started. They made me start from scratch in another field, not related to technology. They censored everything I wrote and only a few of my manuscripts were published. They denied all permissions that I requested to travel outside of the country. I was constantly humiliated. Every time I drove my car, I was followed. When I was appointed as a lay pastor for a smaller church, I always had a ‘Christian brother’ sit in the front row with a military uniform and a gun.
The God Who Sustains
God sustained me by His love and mercy. He was the only one I could trust in the darkest times of my experiences in Cuba, and He always strengthened my faith by giving me hope. He made me see His miracle hands working in my favor. I lived by Psalm 46:1, which says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Pray for the protection of God’s people, asking Him to fill them with His power as He gives peace and strengthens faith. Ask Him to give hope and endurance. Also, pray for the persecutors. We must pray for our enemies. At the cross, Jesus taught us a love lesson. So, let’s pray and ask God to open the eyes of their hearts and put in His compassion.” —Oscar Fernandez, Making Disciples Magazine