And yet, who knows how much of that change will materialise. The USA is trying to mend their relationship with Cuba, but how that will affect Cuba remains to be seen. Yet hope was in the air. And that is a good thing. We can’t survive long without hope or love. They are both important ingredients to our very basic survival.
We arrived in Cuba on Monday, and breezed through customs without any real hiccups. We were greeted by the local church pastor and Cuban Assemblies of God representative, who welcomed us to Cuba. His name is David, and our church has worked with him for some years already. Then we boarded the bus for our resort. Once there, we checked in, and got ourselves acquainted with our surroundings.
Previous years, the team spent the morning at the resort and headed out to visit some churches in the afternoon. This year, the schedule was changed up a bit. We were asked to minister to the pastors more, than to the churches. We still did churches, but our team also ministered to three different pastor’s presbyteries (pastor meetings). So where in the last 8 years, our teams had met a combined total of approximately 25 pastors, this year, between our two teams, we met roughly a 100 to 125 pastors.
So that changed our schedules this year. Made for longer days. Though we did get one extra day off to chillax at the resort.
Tuesday morning we piled our team of 8, our interpreter Heidi, and Pastor David, into the pastor’s car and his neighbour’s taxi car and set out on a 2 hour drive to our first meeting. In Cuba all cars are diesel since diesel is easier to get on the black market for less. The cars rattled, shook, vibrated, and smoked us to our destination. 2 plus hours and about a thousand horse and buggies later, we got to where the pastors were gathered and were waiting patiently for us.
Some had walked long distances to be there. We listened to some reports of what God was doing in their area and how the churches were growing. The Cuban church is experiencing tremendous growth. Then we sang and led them in worship as a team, and one team member preached. After that, we served them communion and we prayed for every pastor there. It was incredible how much God moved them and how encouraged they were to be ministered to by a team from Canada.
We gave them gifts, paid for by us but selected by the Cuban overseers, that they would appreciate. I think it was a roll of toilet paper, a bar of soap, a scrub pad and a few other small items. Can you imagine receiving a gift like that and be truly encouraged by it? A roll of toilet paper? You know, even though they hugely appreciated the gifts we brought, I got the impression that what mattered more was that we as the international church were there and worshipped with them. The Cuban church has been so cut off from the rest of the world, they appreciate knowing we care about them.
And God used some words given to our team members to speak encouragement directly into their lives, their situations, and their ministries. God was there just like He promises to be when two or three gather in His name.
After the pastor gathering, we set off to visit a project that had been funded by our church in previous years and see how they had gotten along. We visited with that pastor and his family, prayed with them, and listened to the dreams they had for the growth of their church.
We brought them some gifts, some clothes, and some school supplies as well as a soccer ball for their son. They were so happy to see us. And they served us with fresh fruit juices and coconut milk.
Then it was back to the resort for the day. Overall, a very satisfying day. I’m telling you, my old car drives like a million dollar Cadillac compared to that taxi though. Makes me happy for my old car.
The next day, half the team had the day off while the other half drove hours to visit a retired pastor couple we support. So we stayed on the resort and chillaxed, and sat by the pool. We had amazing weather the entire time we were there.
Of course the day after the relaxing day was a long day from 9 AM to about 9 PM though we only did one pastoral presbytery that day. Driving takes a long time in Cuba when you slow down for horse and buggies, bicycles and slow rickety tractors every few hundred feet. But the highways were pretty good even though we did encounter some pretty rough spots.
When we wanted to go to the bathroom at our destinations, we found toilet paper, soap and hand towels there, but if we went into the bathroom when they didn’t expect us, those items were gone. They treated us like royalty. We got the luxuries they didn’t allow themselves.
The food at their homes was awesome. They beat the resorts easily for the quality and taste of meals. It cost them a month’s wages to feed us one such meal, and they did it anyway. Trust me, I don’t love you that much. I am not going to put out a month’s wages to feed you like a king. Nope, not gonna happen. Bring your own dish, man!
But to them, having us in their homes was a big event that they prepared for very lovingly. Sometimes it made me feel guilty eating it, but we ate because they felt blessed that we were there. They love us so much.
… to be continued!