Cuba Church
(Photo : Courtesy of the International Mission Board of the SBC)
The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention sent over 80,000 Bibles to Cuba earlier this week.

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention sent 83,723 Bibles in Spanish to the Western and Eastern regions of Cuba, which are expected to arrive on Wednesday.

The IMB states that this is the third time it has made such a shipment to Cuba, but that it is the first time Bibles "were shipped directly from the United States." Kurt Urbanek, the IMB strategy leader for Cuba, explained that the Cuban government previously required an extensive process to receive permission to send Bibles into the country, but such a process was rid of in 2014.

"We are grateful the Cuban government opened the doors for the Bibles," he said.

Urbanek added that the Cuban government's switch from an "atheistic" society to a "secular" society in 1992 also allowed for Bibles to be distributed more freely within the country.

The IMB stated that the large shipment of Bibles was a combined effort, with LifeWay's donation of 60,000 Bibles, IMB's contribution of $100,000, and Florida Baptists who contributed $2,000.

75 percent of the Bibles will be distributed to the Western and Eastern Cuba Baptist Conventions, with each convention receiving 32,000 Bibles.

The IMB further emphasized that the Cuban church has seen tremendous growth recently. The Eastern Convention added 1,300 new house churches and missions recently, and the Western Convention saw similar numbers.

"The growth is so incredible, that's why Bibles are so important," Urbanek said.

Though the authoritarian regime of the Castros have restricted religious freedom, it hasn't stopped church growth, according to reports.

Christianity Today recently reported that the evangelical movement is growing at 3 percent per year, while Methodists are seeing an annual growth of 10 percent.

"The government attempts to stifle church growth by placing sever limits on building construction ... But savvy pastors have pivoted to a house-church strategy that has worked brilliantly at the grassroots. Aging cathedrals are empty, but new house churches are full," the report states.

The IMB hopes the shipment will provide Bibles to all of the new believers in the conventions. Bible commentaries, study Bibles, and giant-print Bibles were also included.