Our Cuba team met at school at 7:30am to load up and head to the Atlanta airport. We had a great group of parents there to pray with us and see us off! Everything at the airport went smoothly and we even had some time to hang out with the NCCS Guatemala team before they took off. Our flight left around noon and landed in Havana just before 2pm. Customs was surprisingly easy and then the folks from Experience Mission picked us up in their bus to begin the drive to Matanzas where we will be spending the week.
It took about 2 hours to get to the guesthouse and we learned a lot about Cuban traffic on the way. Our bus driver is awesome and we are enjoying getting to know our hosts! When we arrived at the guesthouse, we immediately felt right at home. The rooms are nice and everyone will be comfortable for the week. Our favorite part is the back patio area. When we arrived, our hosts prepared coffee and popcorn for us. We have officially been introduced to Cuba coffee and it’s wonderful! The entire team stayed out on the patio the rest of the evening talking, playing games, and just enjoying each other’s company. No one seems to have any cell service at all (including me) and it has been very relaxing so far!
We had a great dinner of roasted chicken, rice and beans, potatoes, and salad. Several of our students quickly jumped in to help with dinner cleanup while the adults passed out the money that one of our hosts very nicely exchanged for us. We are learning a lot about the Cuban peso! The exchange rate right now is around .9 pesos to the dollar.
The evening wrapped up with team devotions on the upstairs patio as we looked at Ephesians 4 and what Paul has to say about unity and the building up of the church…specifically focusing on speaking truth and living in peace with one another. We all talked for a little while and shared some highlights of our day. After that, some students hit the shower while other stayed outside looking at the stars before we all turned in for the night. After a long day of travel, the kids were awesome about calling it a day!
– Megan Strange, Cuba Team Leader
We were blessed with an authentic Cuban greeting by the local roosters bright and early Sunday morning. Both last night and this morning, we have enjoyed a nice cool breeze! The ladies at the house prepared coffee, boiled eggs, ham, and fresh bread. Everyone seemed to have slept well and woke up looking forward to a great day!
After breakfast, we loaded the bus looking beautiful and handsome for church and hit the road. We rode the bus for about an hour to get to church. Señor McDonald took one group to one church and Mrs. Epp and I went with Melissa (our hostess) and the rest of the group to another church. It was very special to be in Cuba on Palm Sunday to kick off Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. On our drive, we passed a group from a church walking down the road with palm branches and singing hymns. The churches that we visited had a variety of speakers, songs, dancing, and lots of prayers and testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Both groups really enjoyed church!
The bus returned to pick up both groups and then we headed for lunch at the sustainable farm we will be working at this week. A local church planter, Willie Santiago, welcomed us to the farm with a wonderful Cuban lunch. Many of us went back for seconds! After lunch, Willie gave us a tour of the farm to teach us more about the history of Cuba while showing us fruits and vegetables native to this beautiful country. It was a great way to preview the work that lies ahead for us!
After the tour, we changed into our beach clothes and hit the road for the hour ride to the beach. Don’t worry…lots of sunscreen and water reminders already! According to our host, the beach at Varadero was recently named one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Our group would agree that it is beautiful! The water is bright blue and the breeze was amazing! Everyone played hard and enjoyed some time to relax. We also wandered around the market next door and picked up a few souvenirs.
We are headed back to the guesthouse for the evening to eat dinner and rest up for our day of working on the farm tomorrow. This has been a wonderful Sunday and we can’t wait for the week ahead!
– Megan Strange, Cuba Team Leader
Today at the church the Spirit of God completely filled the room. People were dancing without caring about who was around. In American churches we tend to be more conservative with how we worship God, but in Cuba people were dancing without even considering who was around. They were all so hospitable with hugging, kissing us on the cheek, and dancing with us even though they had no clue who we were. It was beautiful. The church service went for over two hours, but time flew by because it was so unique. The most beautiful thing was seeing the body of Christ worshipping together, overcoming the social and language barriers!
– Corrin Cadle, 11th grade
Hey Nccs family, this is Gabi Merced. Today after church we had the opportunity to eat lunch at the Pineapple farm. They fed us an authentic Cuban meal of ropa vieja (pulled meat) rice and beans, plantain chips, and fresh pineapple and other vegetables. It was delicious!! After lunch we took a quick tour of the farm where they taught us about how they grow sustainable and organic food. Tomorrow we will come back and help work around the farm!
– Gabi Merced, 12th grade
Today’s church service was so fascinating. We started the service with Spanish praise toward the Lord. We could feel the Spirito Santo (Holy Spirit) move the entire Church. After we said our praises , we sang worship songs. Some of them we have heard before like “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin. The exception was that it was entirely in Spanish! The pastor’s sermon talked about how we have to open up to God in order for us to be used for his purpose. The Church service demonstrated to us that the Lord vive está en Cuba! He is alive and doing great work in this place! The passion that the people showed for Jesus was so inspiring! These people live under an oppressive government, yet they demonstrate more passion for Christ than what I usually see in the United States! I wished we could have stayed longer, but I will always remember this awe inspiring service. ¡Hasta Luego!
– Nicholas Byrd, 10th grade