Cuba – Wednesday – 3.28.18

The ladies who are cooking our meals continue to go way above and beyond. Last night they took our orders for omelettes and this morning they presented us with 23 omelettes exactly made to order. We had four options to include: ham, churrizo sausage, veggies, and queso. They were amazing! We also had fresh bread from the gentleman that rides around each morning shouting in the road about bread for sale.

We loaded the bus around 8 and headed back to Jovellanos ready to serve. The hair braiding at the market really inspired this group…so there was a lot of braiding and singing on the bus! We arrived to find several moms and their children that have a variety of physical and mental challenges. Our group immediately began making new friends. Both groups introduced themselves and then started singing songs. The people at the center are learning Psalm 91 and wanted to share it with us. They have memorized almost the entire chapter. What a blessing to hear them quote these verses that promise that God is our refuge and fortress!

The Moms went to one room for their Bible study while their kids stayed with our kids. Sarah and Christina went with the Moms to help them make bracelets during their Bible study. The rest of the team started handing out crafts and coloring sheets to build relationships and enjoy each other’s company. After a little while, some of our kids started sharing Bible verses in both English and Spanish and shared Bible stories.

Before we left, the lady in charge of the ministry found a cake in town so that we could surprise Erika Garcia for her birthday today. Everyone at the center all came back together and sang Happy Birthday in both Spanish and English and then prayed a prayer of blessing over Erika. What a special way to celebrate Erika’s 17th Birthday!

We loaded up around noon and headed back to the farm to meet up with Willie and to learn more about our plans for the afternoon. When we got to the farm, they also had prepared cakes to surprise Erika and we all sang to her again. Willie prayed over Erika continuing the celebration of God’s blessing over her life! Then we dove into lunch…Cuban Chinese fried rice, croquets, fried plantains, potatoes, salad, and lots of birthday cake. We also enjoyed fresh mango juice from the farm. The fruit juices here have been amazing and the team has loved them!

After lunch, we loaded up to purchase supplies for the people in need in the community. Our first stop was at the home of a farmer where we purchased rice. Interestingly enough, his family also has one of the largest snakes in Cuba! Let’s just say that some were more interested than others 🙂 We purchased 300 pounds of rice and enjoyed talking with the farmer. As we were leaving, we learned the farmer had recently had some surgery and was having trouble recovering. When he learned that Mrs. Epp is a nurse and that Señor McDonald spoke Spanish…we were able to have a really good conversation. I was just there for moral support 🙂 We are hopeful that someone in our group may have just the antibiotic this gentleman needs when we get back to the guesthouse. Will you join us in praying for Tito and his family that he would fully recover?

When we arrived back at the farm to sort the rice, we took the 3 100-lb bags and divided them up into 10 cup individual bags. There were also several large hams delivered that will accompany the rice to the people in need. After we divided everything up, we loaded back up to head out to distribute the food to the community.

The first house we came to belonged to a woman and her 26-year-old son. Her son had a traumatic brain injury when he was little that caused him to be deprived of oxygen so long that he has not recovered. He really lit up when the group sang and prayed with him. We took his family a large bag of rice and a ham. It was an honor to be in their beautiful home and to pray together. Gabi Merced prayed over this sweet family.

From there we went to the home of another woman and her 30 year old son. Her son has Down’s Syndrome and is full of enthusiasm! He walked into the living room wearing an Atlanta Braves shirt…great first impression! His mother was also very happy for the gift of the food. After we sang and danced together, James Gnann prayed over this young man and his family.

We visited one last home on our way back to Matanzas. The mom and her two sons were so hospitable! The older son has autism and just celebrated his birthday yesterday. We had fun singing Happy Birthday to him. This has been a day full of celebrations! We brought rice and ham to this family as well and then Purity Gitau prayed over them. What a privilege!

The ride home has now become a familiar one each afternoon as we head from Jovellanos back to Matanzas. We know we are getting close when we begin to see the waterfront. The cool breeze in Matanzas from the water has been a huge blessing this week! We’ve talked about adding sweatshirts to the packing list for next time!

When we arrived back at the guesthouse, we dropped off our stuff and met on the back patio to hear from a guest arranged by Experience Mission. We had the privilege of learning more about the state of the church in Cuba from Dr. Daniel Montoya from Matanzas Seminary. He grew up in Christian schools in Cuba before the revolution and then received his master’s degree from Cambridge (England) and his doctorate from a university in Barcelona (Spain). He held the attention of our group for well over an hour as he traced the historical, political, and theological history of Cuba. Dr. Montoya told our group some fascinating stories about the ways that the evangelical church is growing here in Cuba. He and his wife (the president of the seminary) have traveled the world teaching at seminaries and conferences and he talked about how much he loves coming home to Cuba. He also shared his thoughts on the “already, but not yet” theological discussion on the kingdom of God. When he finished, our kids asked some great questions and went above and beyond in showing their appreciation for his investment in our group.

Dinner was fantastic again! We enjoyed black bean soup, rice, potatoes, and chicken. This group continues to eat very well! After dinner everyone played cards, talked, showered, braided hair, and made bracelets. Mrs. Epp led our devotion from 1 Corinthians 12 about the gifts of the Spirit in the body of Christ reminding us that each part of our group plays a part in what God is doing in and through us this week. She shared some excellent points about how prominence doesn’t always equal significance…and the converse is true as well. Several team members took the opportunity to share what they have seen in others this week. Such an encouraging time! We closed out our night praying together…and then practicing salsa dancing for the Cuba dance competition tomorrow night!

Looking forward to what God has in store for us!

Megan Strange, Cuba Team Leader

Our week in Cuba has far exceeded all of our expectations. Despite some tough living situations for some of the people we have met, our team has witnessed such lively and joyful spirits amongst the Cuban people. We were amazed by the sights of Old Havana, but even more influenced by the kindness of those that live far outside the city. Our team has learned this week that the Lord can work through critical situations and shine through the lives of the Cuban people.

Gracie Johnson, 12th grade

One thing that stood out to me this week is how patient the people are despite the language barrier. We did our best to adapt to them, but they also did the same to us. It was very warming that the people used every bit of English they knew to make us feel welcome and make us feel as if we were able to be understood. Over time, speaking to the Cuban people became easier and easier due to their patience and kind hearts, and allowed us to practice without worrying about mistakes.

Kyle Pierre, 11th grade

This week overall has shown me how blessed I am to be living in the United States as I have seen much poverty. Having hot water, a nice roof over our heads, toilets that flush, air conditioning and plenty of food is something we as Americans take for granted. Despite all this, the Cuban people are very proud and always have smiles on their faces. They are very appreciative and thankful to God for all of their blessings. No matter what, they remain faithful and live each day for the glory of God. This experience has opened my eyes and given me the opportunity to be a light for others despite the language barrier.

Erika Garcia, 11th grade

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