Sound Across the Sea

Jorge and Yaumara Corvea crossed the waters in search of religious freedom, and now God is using them to broadcast the gospel message around the world.

A nervous Jorge Corvea sat across the table from Dr. Charles Stanley. Not long before, the young man had landed on the shores of Florida, an immigrant from Cuba in search of greater religious freedom and new opportunities. At present, he still spoke only a few words of English. Yet here he was, about to be interviewed by the head of an international ministry for a job in tape duplication. Dr. Stanley had insisted on meeting and praying for every applicant, regardless of the position—even if a translator was necessary.

But what Dr. Stanley didn’t know was that his own obedience to God had played a part in bringing Jorge into his office that day. Back in 1973, when Dr. Stanley had been the senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta (FBA) for only two years, he led the congregation in planting a new church with a goal of reaching Spanish-speaking men and women in the Atlanta area—the very congregation that had helped Jorge and his wife Yaumara make a new life in the States.

Finding the Lord (and One Another) in Cuba
The Corveas both grew up in Havana, but their lives couldn’t have been more different. Jorge’s family supported the Communist Party, while Yaumara’s did not. He lived a life of relative stability, while hers was one of uncertainty and, at times, persecution. But she had one thing that he didn’t: faith in Jesus Christ.

That faith came with a price. Publicly disagreeing with the Castro regime cost Yaumara’s parents their jobs. Under communism, legal employment is government-run, so once outside of the system, there’s no getting back in. Yaumara doesn’t remember a time when her mother and father weren’t scraping by, doing odd and undesirable jobs.

Though Jorge’s father died when he was young, his grandfather worked for the Cuban Chamber of Commerce. The family didn’t struggle financially, but they were impoverished in other ways. “God wasn’t ever mentioned,” he said. “I had no idea there was anything—or Anyone—out there. For the communist, there is no faith.”

After his 18th birthday, things began to change. Baptist missionaries had invited all the children in his neighborhood to Vacation Bible School at a nearby church. Curious, he took his 5-year-old brother Lyan. The program that day was Jorge’s very first church experience, and though it wasn’t intended for someone his age, he liked it so much that he stuck around, attending services week after week. “Every time the preacher said something spiritual, I thought to myself, I can’t believe in that; it’s just not logical. But there was something very warm about the people I met. I didn’t know why they were so happy.”

Jorge soon began smiling more often, too. And one day at church, God finally broke his unbelief: “The pastor was preaching, and I said to God, ‘You’re real, and I need Your forgiveness. I believe in You.’ And that was it for me.” The next Sunday, Jorge surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.

He took to his new faith with reverence and fervency, going so far as to keep a Bible on his desk at work—a choice that ultimately cost him his job. It was the severing of yet another tie to his former life. He started working at the church and was soon dating the young woman who’d caught his eye when he first attended.

Jorge and Yaumara courted for almost three years, and during that time they also began working together at the church.  “We cleaned. We taught Sunday school. We helped wherever we could,” Jorge said. “And I began working in audio.” A church in Miami had donated a small sound studio and some equipment to the church. Very quickly, Jorge taught himself how to record sermons and worship music.

“Audio recording is valuable in Cuba, and Christian music is not easy to get. Many churches don’t have music, so we began giving it away to believers in different parts of the country.” Yaumara would package the cassette tapes, and then Jorge would travel from town to town, delivering them to their brothers and sisters in Christ. With each mile Jorge drove, he risked being caught by the authorities, having the tapes confiscated, and even being charged with a crime—transporting contraband.

But God provided a clear road. And soon He began revealing His plans for their future.

God provided a clear road. And soon He began revealing His plans for their future.

Across the Water
The Corveas prayed, hoping to discern God’s will. Soon they began to sense He was calling them abroad to the United States. Each year, as part of the international visa program, the US government gives permits of entrance to a limited number of applicants. Jorge and Yaumura filled out the paperwork and then waited, and waited more. Then the news came. “I won,” Jorge said. The process had taken a little more than a year, but when it was complete, they were permitted to leave Cuba.

Representatives of the government came to their apartment and took inventory of everything the couple owned. They wouldn’t be allowed to take anything with them save the clothes on their backs. But Jorge did manage to smuggle one thing out when they left—a ten-dollar bill tucked in his shoe. To build a new life, you have to start somewhere.

In Miami, Jorge found work stocking grocery shelves. But a few months later, they realized they couldn’t stay. They would need to move elsewhere for the opportunities they were seeking, which included learning English—and that wouldn’t happen if they stayed in Miami’s Spanish-speaking community.

About that time, an old friend of Yaumara’s—her childhood Sunday school teacher—contacted her. He was now the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista, the church Dr. Stanley and members of FBA had planted just outside of Atlanta decades before. The church owned a small apartment the Corveas would be welcome to use for three months while they looked for work in Georgia. It seemed that God had once again provided a path for the couple to walk. So Jorge and Yaumara loaded up their few belongings and headed north.

It wasn’t long before a new friend from church told Jorge about In Touch and a position that had just become available in the ministry’s tape duplication area.

After the interview with Dr. Stanley, Jorge accepted the position at In Touch and determined to focus his attention on three things. The first was to learn everything he could about audio production. Each day, after he finished up his responsibilities, he’d head over to the production studio to observe the work being done there. “I would sit in the back of the room and take notes,” he said. “I would be there, watching and also praying, ‘Lord, please give me the opportunity one day.’”

“Working at In Touch is an amazing experience. I feel blessed because I know that many Spanish-speaking people will hear the Word of God and ultimately get saved.”

In addition to developing his studio skills, Jorge went to night school with Yaumara to learn English. Each weekday for several years, Jorge left work and picked up his wife so the two could attend ESL classes until 11 p.m. “I’ve always liked English,” Jorge says. “Even before I could speak it, to me it sounded musical.” And slowly but surely, they began to speak music of their own.

Eventually, there was an opening for an audio editor at the ministry, and Jorge was eager to put his new skills to good use. But one thing weighed heavily upon him: the absence of his wife, his partner in ministry. He longed for Yaumara to find a job at In Touch, but he knew it would have to be God’s doing to get her there. So he prayed. And then waited. Each day in the lunchroom, he would pull up an empty chair beside him, refusing to let anyone sit in it. ‘That’s my wife’s chair,’ he would say in faith.

After six months, God answered Jorge’s prayer. Yaumara began working as a Spanish-language Customer Care Representative in the Contact Center. Today, she is Radio Line Producer for the En Contacto broadcast—and Jorge no longer sits beside an empty chair. Yaumara says, “Working at In Touch is an amazing experience. I feel blessed because I know that many Spanish-speaking people will hear the Word of God and ultimately get saved.”

After all these years, Jorge still takes the initiative to learn things outside of his current job responsibilities. Today, he is In Touch’s Senior Manager of Audio Editing. Though the Corveas are no longer traveling the Cuban countryside passing out cassette tapes, God has multiplied their audio ministry to reach millions more across the globe. And though the In Touch With Dr. Charles Stanley broadcast is still not permitted on the airwaves in Cuba, Jorge and Yaumara are faithful to send Dr. Stanley’s books and CDs back home to friends and family, at their own expense, whenever they have the chance.

John Piper once wrote, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” For Jorge and Yaumara Corvea, God worked through Mexican missionaries, international visa lotteries, and a church with a spare room 750 miles from their home. But He also worked through thousands of small acts of obedience—and the blessings that came as a result.

 

Photography by Audra Melton

Related Topics:  Work

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