Through a project known as “Cuba: Million Bible Mission,” The Rock of Gainesville Church is trying to raise more than $5 million to send a million Bibles to Cuba.
The Bibles cost $5.40 each and, so far, the Rock has raised more than $100,000 and purchased 20,000 Bibles.
All of those will be distributed by the United Bible Society, the Council of Churches and the Rock in November.
The project began in June in partnership with the United Bible Society. The Rock expects to reach its million-Bible goal by 2017 or 2018, said church spokesman Oscar Candelaria.
According to Candelaria, the Rock and the United Bible Society have received permission from the Cuban government to distribute the Bibles in the country.
The Bibles are in “an easy-to-understand translation,” said Candelaria, who was born in Cuba.
According to the Rock, about 77 percent of Cuba’s population is Christian.
The church said Christianity is growing by about 15 percent each year in Cuba.
While some people, like Kevin Cauthen, a 17-year-old dual-enrollment Santa Fe College student, think what the Rock is doing is a good thing, some people, like Jonah Stokes, believe differently.
“Why a million Bibles for Cuba?” the 18-year-old musical theater freshman at Santa Fe asked, laughing. “Aren’t Cubans already religious? They aren’t a godless nation.”
Sequoia Cervone Buzzella, a UF sustainability freshman, said she thinks that the $5 million could go towards other things.
Tabitha Odabe, a senior at The Rock School who also attends the church, said she disagreed.
“It’s a good thing,” she said, referring to the mission, adding that “there are people who want to know God more and want to read God’s Word,” but they don’t have access to it.
Candelaria said people criticizing the effort to bring Bibles, rather than aiding the poor and in-need, just don’t have the right perspective.
“Most people in the U.S. don’t have any idea what it’s like to live in a country where you’re persecuted,” he said.
“Where everything is illegal, where you can’t raise your own food without giving most of it to the government.”
He continued, “And so, it’s easy to criticize this project of bringing in a million Bibles to Cuba, thinking you could use this money for something else.”
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 10/8/2014]