By Zoe Igarza Cabrera

Exactly 21 days after my third baby was born, police came and took my husband Leonardo to prison.

I was born in Cuba into a non-Christian family and had eleven sisters. In spite of a rebellious time as a teenager and young adult, God kept pursuing me and I gave my heart to Him.

After I married my husband Leonardo, he began to aggressively preach. Exactly 21 days after my third baby was born, police came and took my husband to prison. They accused him of government subversion claiming he hid behind religion to create a revolution. Although they had no proof, they imprisoned him for three months. He was released at the end of December. This calm was short lived. In March he was called to court again and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

I was left alone again with our children, but now there were three children to feed in the middle of an economic crisis that swept Cuba in the 90s. This was a very hard time for me and my family. We endured a lot of suffering and pain. The livelihood of my children and that of my husband in prison put great demands on me. In order to cook, I had to go into the woods that surrounded the village to find dried wood to cook what little food we had. The available food was very expensive. I had to climb the hills for about seven miles in order to get illegal coffee so I could sell it in the city. I was placing myself in danger of arrest in order to feed my family. Even though my parents didn’t have much they helped me all they could.

I visited my husband in prison sometimes up to seven times a month. While there I also visited other prisoners whose families had abandoned them. I brought them food for their bodies and for their spirit.

In the middle of this trial my house was in deplorable condition. When I couldn’t find wood for cooking I had to start taking wood pieces from my house. When it rained outside it poured inside the house, but Jesus Christ never forsook me.

At a time when I had no more energy, God intervened in a miraculous way in my life. He provided me economic help offered by an American organization, Voice of the Martyrs, which supplied most of the needs we had.

When my husband had served four of his eight-year sentence, I went to visit him with the last strength left in me. When I arrived the first thing I was able to put in words was that I loved him very much, but I didn’t have any strength left. Leonardo answered me with incredible faith and so much love. He said we should pray because God would never allow a greater burden than what I could carry.

We prayed together and the peace of God which passes all understanding came and comforted me in a very great way. The Lord Jesus Christ heard my crying to Him, saw my weakness and answered in a way that no one would had ever anticipated. On December 13th God intervened in a miraculous way. When Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in December 1997, he asked for the release of political prisoners. Leonardo with a few others were set free!

Glorifying the Lord in my Family

We were under constant harassment from state security officers. This affected the tranquility of our home. Every time we heard a Russian seneschal engine our nerves strained. We thought they were coming back to take him to prison again.

I went to the Swiss consulate in La Habana and filled out the necessary forms to leave the country. To our surprise we received approval fourteen days later. We didn’t have the funds to pay for the documents required, nor for the airfare. Leonardo told me, “I’m not going to ask help from anyone. In the same way God took me out of prison four years early, He will provide the $3,200.00 we need to leave the country.

During those difficult times I learned to admire the faith that the Lord gave to my husband. While still in prison, he founded a church within the high security prison. In those final months in Cuba my admiration grew even more.

On our last trip to La Habana to finalize our migration paperwork Leonardo took a Bible as a gift to our dear friend Marcos. When we got to his house he wasn’t there. We went on to finish the paperwork and returned to the train station to go home.

Leonardo walked around the station until it was time for our train. He ran into Marcos. As they talked, Leonardo answered his questions about his ordeal. His friend’s last question was, “What else do you need now?”

My husband answered, “Only the money to get out of Cuba.” Don’t worry about that, my friend. I will lend you the money without interest.” Seven months after my husband was released from prison we were able to travel with our family to the United States. We arrived in Miami on September 29, 1998.

The move wasn’t easy despite the miraculous way which God worked in our lives. I missed my parents and extended family members. I also experienced culture shock in my new home. In spite of all the unknowns for us, we knew God brought us to this country for a specific purpose. In 2000 the Lord opened the door for my husband to pastor the church Jesucristo El Buen Pastor (Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd), which is in the Kansas City area.

God surprises us every day in a thousand ways. On March 26, 2005 we were blessed with the arrival of our son David Isaac, who has sealed the link of love in our family.

I am thankful to God for His great faithfulness. Since that very first day He placed that seed of His Word in my heart, I know He who started the work will complete it. My heart burns with expectation for what He is going to continue to do in me and my family. My life and testimony of God’s power will help strengthen the faith of those who are going through similar tests. Be assured God will never place a heavier load on you than you can carry.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Zoe’s husband, Leonardo Cabrera just had his story translated into English. Free Behind Bars is available on

Watch future newsletters to read the transforming story of Zoe’s earlier life as a teenager, death of 2 babies, and her marriage to Leonardo.