Esther Díaz Sablón is an elder at the Boyeros SDA Church in Havana City, Cuba. Married to Pastor Juan Guerrero López, they have two married daughters and one grandchild. Esther studied Secretariat and Bible Work in Antillian College and finished her Bachelors in Religion and Masters in Education at Montemorelos University, Mexico. From there, she was chaplain and teacher at the Adventist College of Caracas, Venezuela. Later, she was dean of women and vice-president at the Cuban Adventist Theological Seminary where she eventually headed the institution for eight years. She considers herself “retired” but her passion for teaching keeps her in the seminary.
HOW MANY ADVENTISTS, CHURCHES, PASTORS, AND ELDERS ARE THERE IN CUBA?
The SDA church in Cuba is growing at an incredible rate! Today we have over 45,000 Adventist believers; 30,000 baptized. We have 279 organized churches and more than 150 companies. There are 98 credentialed pastors and 65 have ministerial licenses. We have about 1,200 elders who dedicate a good amount of their free time to work for God.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FOR THE CHURCH IN CUBA?
I believe our greatest challenge is the need for more churches. And to build them in better, safer areas. Another big challenge is to obtain more literature so that the Gospel can reach every corner of Cuba so that all may know Jesus and His love and may sincerely open their hearts to the truth.
WHAT SUBJECTS HAVE YOU TAUGHT OR CURRENTLY TEACH AT THE SEMINARY AND HOW IMPORTANT ARE THEY FOR A MINISTER OR AN ELDER?
I’ve taught Grammar and Orthography, which are essential for the development of anyone, whether a minister, elder or laity leader. I also teach Home and Family, which considering the condition of many homes nowadays, I believe it is extremely important to keep unity and love among family members in such a way that they can be a light in their community. I also teach Youth Ministry and Philosophy of Christian Education, which is important due to the many Adventist and non-Adventist youth who desperately need a good influence and upbringing. I also teach some Ministerial Practices such as strategic planning to better grow our churches and small groups. These courses have been a great blessing because we now have better prepared elders to fulfill duties in their various congregations and communities.
IN WHICH CHURCH DEPARTMENTS HAVE YOU SERVED?
Besides being an elder and deaconess, I have served in the children’s, youth, Sabbath school, community, pathfinders, and women’s ministries for over 25 years.
WHAT IMPORTANCE DO YOU GIVE TO THE WORK PERFORMED BY AN ELDER?
I would say the elder is the pastor’s right hand; meeting the church’s well-being, spirituality and needs. This includes visiting, encouraging, and supporting. In the absence of the pastor, the elder is the person indicated to lead forward with the church activities. Something that brings me great joy is that a few years ago church elders were only adults, but now we see many young people taking this office and they are doing it for the glory of God.
AS A WOMAN, WHAT ARE THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A FEMALE CHURCH ELDER?
Woman elders are very important and needed for good functioning of a church. They assist the pastor in different departments and activities, but their role is especially vital in reaching other women. There are times when it is more appropriate for a woman to assist in certain situations, rather than male elders. In most cases, it is easier for a woman to share her problems with another woman than with a man.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN ELDER?
I especially enjoy preaching, promoting evangelistic meetings, teaching Bible studies and organizing the platform. I like to offer a diversity of programs that are attractive and at the same time spiritual. I also enjoy visitation and love to encourage members to continue in their faith, especially during hard times.
EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE NOT AN ORDAINED ELDER, WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO DO THIS JOB?*
Despite not being ordained, I do believe that I have God’s ordination. And because everyone has a work to do for Christ, I believe this is what He expects from me and I desire to do it with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Even if they never ordain me, I will keep on working for God and for His church to finish the work and hasten His coming.
DO YOU FEEL THE CHURCH APPRECIATES THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE?
I believe so. Although the most important thing is God’s approval, it is always an incentive to receive human recognition. In 2005, I received the title of Women of the Year by the Adventist Women’s Association. I received recognition from the Adventist Theological Seminary of Cuba and the University of Andrews in Michigan granted me the title of Doctor in Divinity, Honoris Causa. Also, the Department of Education at the Inter-American Division granted me the Ellen White Medal. All of this has been a great encouragement of mine, but what I want the most is to have my name written in the books of Heaven and to meet many people whom I helped get there.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE CHURCH IN CUBA?
My dream is for us to go out and proclaim Jesus’ soon return. To accomplish this, we must work together and prepare Cuba and the world to receive Him in glory and majesty. May we be faithful until that day approaches.
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE TO THE LADIES OF OUR CHURCH?
If you are called to accomplish any job in the church, including that of an elder, do your very best because God needs you. He needs you to be His helping hands for the salvation of souls. Do your job with love and dedication, like a modern-day Priscilla, in such a way that when Christ comes again you may together, with the gentlemen of the church hear the Savior’s heavenly voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:23).
*NOTE: Shortly after this interview, Esther was ordained as a church elder.