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BROWNSVILLE HERALD: Pereira's book chronicles his struggles in Cuba

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  • Walter Lippmann
    Pereira s book chronicles his struggles in Cuba By FERNANDO DEL http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/cuba_87283___article.html/pereira_book.html VALLE, Valley
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2008
      Pereira's book chronicles his struggles in Cuba


      VALLE, Valley Morning Star May 31, 2008 - 10:28PM LOS FRESNOS - For
      four years, Feliberto Pereira says, Cuba's communist revolution tried
      to break his soul in its work camps because he refused to forsake his
      Christian faith.

      With his freedom, he gave his life to help the poor and shelter
      political refugees along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      Now, his new book, "I Was a Stranger - Hope for a Hidden World,"
      hails his faith in God as the force that helped him survive a string
      of prison camps to found his ministry in Los Fresnos.

      "I wanted to witness that God exists, that God takes care of people,
      no matter what situation you're suffering," said Pereira, who
      co-wrote the book with Chris Kelley, an old friend and a former
      editor of the Dallas Morning News Web site. "I promised myself to
      help people who were suffering like I was suffering in Cuba."

      Born to a farmer in the central Cuban village of Iguara, he was nine
      when he felt a calling to follow God, Pereira wrote.

      In 1960, he earned his diploma from an evangelical Christian seminary
      as Fidel Castro cracked down on the nation's religious leaders, he

      "People were killed just because they believed," he wrote.

      After the government cut the salary he made as a minister, he took a
      job as a junior high school teacher to support his family, he wrote.

      Later, he would decline the job of school principal because he
      refused to renounce his Christian faith, he wrote.

      "The communist party secretary thought I was a dangerous teacher
      because I was a Christian," he wrote. "They assigned spies to watch

      A friend who worked in the communist party warned him of a plot to
      kill him, Pereira wrote.

      After he applied for a visa to take his family out of the country,
      the government fired him, he wrote.

      Then the government ordered him to forced labor, working 12-hour
      shifts in the sugar cane fields, Pereira wrote.

      When he tried to give a Bible to a friend in a prison camp, the
      commander accused him of smuggling CIA-coded documents into the
      prison, he wrote.

      "The commander told me that he was eager to mete out punishment -
      death by firing squad - for my crime," Pereira wrote. "I began to
      pray. I was sure I would die."

      But the soldiers backed down, he wrote.

      In 1968, the government ordered him to work in a prison camp, Pereira

      "In Castro's world, Christians and criminals were considered the
      same," he wrote. "Rifle-toting soldiers stood watch from towers - one
      at each corner of the compound and one in the middle - guarding the
      grounds, which were surrounded by barbed wire."

      Waking up at 4 a.m., prisoners "were regularly doused by
      insecticide," Pereira wrote. "Lacking food and clean water and
      poisoned by bug spray, some of the men were driven nearly insane."

      In his next camp, "decomposed animal parts" that floated in the water
      led to poisoning, Pereira wrote.

      "The ground-level water tank, open at the top, trapped frogs, rats
      and other small animals," he wrote. "With my hands, I would try to
      separate the body parts to get a clear spot for a drink." When he
      complained, the camp commander said, "Drink the water or die," he

      On Nov. 5, 1969, he returned to his barracks to find a telegram that
      gave him and his family the right to leave the country, Pereira

      When he left Cuba five days later, he weighed 105 pounds, down from
      150, he wrote.

      "I would devote my life to help others obtain the freedom from
      captivity in whatever ways God would show me," Pereira wrote.

      After six months of a New York winter, he and his family settled in
      San Benito, where he helped revive Second Christian Church, he wrote.

      In 1971, he launched a radio ministry called La Hora Cristiana,
      reaching 15 million listeners on 50 stations from Argentina to
      Canada, he wrote.

      By 1976, he helped re-locate the church now named Iglesia Cristiana
      Emmanuel to a five-acre tract about three miles away.

      As hundreds of thousands of Central American refugees fled civil war
      in 1980, the region faced "a migration of mass proportion that the
      United States had never seen at its border with Mexico before,"
      Pereira wrote.

      "Fulfilling my promise to God aboard my flight to freedom, I threw
      myself into trying to meet the needs of these brothers and sisters,"
      he wrote. "I saw my involvement in this new ministry as the grace of
      the Lord at work in my life."

      In 1985, he helped launch what's become Southwest Good Samaritan
      Ministries in Bayview, he wrote.

      Two years later in Los Fresnos, he helped open the doors of Iglesia
      Cristiana Ebenzer, a congregation of the Disciples of Christ church.

      As part of his work, he helps build homes for the poor in Matamoros
      and houses neighbors who lived off an old landfill there, he wrote.

      "For the past 25 years, God has blessed me with the opportunity to
      serve others in whose shoes I once walked," Pereira wrote. "I know
      what it means to be captive and to be freed and, now, an American."

      Los Angeles, California
      Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
      "Cuba - Un ParaĆ­so bajo el bloqueo"
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