Loud salsa music, family gatherings, and Cuban food fill Bernie Cueto’s memories of childhood in Miami, Florida. The strong intercultural influence there gave Bernie a sense of pride in his own heritage.
“Miami is a melting pot of cultures and flavors and energy. I had Jewish friends, along with Columbians, and Brazilians, and North Americans—it was just a real blessing. I had a great upbringing.”
At the age of three, Bernie’s parent’s divorced. So, Bernie became the new man of the house, with his mother and sister by his side.
“My sister and I had witnessed my mother always searching for happiness and joy. She unsuccessfully tried to fill the hole in her heart and finally hit rock bottom,” Bernie said.
In fact the whole family hit rock bottom—financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Then Bernie’s mother was invited to a Bible study, and at the first meeting she put her trust in Christ. There was a quick, visible change in her life. She got rid of the many religious images in the house and refined her speech. You would think that you were speaking to a different person. A couple months later, a Sunday school teacher clearly presented the gospel to Bernie’s seventh grade class.
“This faithful, old teacher told everyone to close their eyes and then said ‘Raise your hand if you want to be saved.’ I didn’t want to be embarrassed about it, but since everyone’s eyes were closed I raised my hand. Then she told everyone to open their eyes, ‘Bernie has just accepted Christ!’”
About the time he became a Christian, Bernie started taking karate classes. After the first couple years, he won several state championships. He said that karate taught him the importance of discipline, and kept him out of trouble. But, after nine years of practice and performance and a couple years of teaching others, Bernie decided it was time to move on.
“I was training one day, throwing punches, practicing my form and looking in the mirror, and I remember thinking, ‘I wonder how many punches I’ve thrown in the air or at someone—I’d be an apostle by now if I’d read the Bible as much as I train in martial arts.’”
Three years earlier, at the age of nineteen, Bernie had led the youth group in his church from four members to over forty members. The encouragement he had received from that youth group,and traveling to Hispanic countries to minister coupled with a firm desire to better learn God’s Word, led Bernie to apply to Dallas Seminary upon graduation from Florida International University.
But, before he applied, Bernie decided to come to Discover Dallas, a program designed to showcase Dallas Seminary for prospective students. In the program every student was required to tour the seminary housing.
He took pictures of the rooms and took them back home to show his family and girlfriend, Ana. Ana commented on how big the rooms were for single men, and he corrected her with, “No, these are for married students.” Four months after that conversation Bernie proposed to Ana. Today, he manages the new 10-story student housing complex on campus.
Before Bernie was accepted, he was diagnosed with a brain malformation only weeks after his return from Discover Dallas. It was causing horrible headaches that he had dealt with his entire life. After the doctors discovered it, surgery was immediately necessary to remove it.
On April 13, 1999, Bernie called DTS saying, “I’m having brain surgery tomorrow, could you just tell me if I’m accepted so I can look forward to something?” They told him yes—he was accepted and they would pray for him. Bernie printed out the lyrics of his favorite hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God, and had it in hand to read as he was rolled into surgery.
The operation was a success—four days later he was home, and in November he married Ana. With a degree in English literature, and a growing concern for the church and the needs of nonbelievers, Bernie and his new wife Ana moved to Dallas.
Bernie’s dream is to be a pastor. He believes there is no higher calling than that of a pastor. In addition, he wants to minister to Hispanic pastors overseas who have not had the benefit of theological training. He just finished his Th.M. in May, and last month he began his doctoral work in New Testament Studies, which he and plans to finish in three years.
He is still very drawn to, and proud of, his heritage and culture. Bernie, Ana, and their new baby Bernard Enrique hope to move back to Florida after the doctoral work to be immersed and minister in that culture again.
“I miss the rhythm of the culture, and being able to go to any Cuban barber shop in Miami and hear ‘Oh, in Cuba, we were the first country to get color T.V. after the U.S., and the music was the best, and the water was sweeter, the beach was better, and the sun was brighter.’ We are already teaching our son that he is a Cuban-American, and Spanish will be his first language.”
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.