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Cuba Vision Trip Update

In April I had the opportunity to go to Cuba to meet with our church family there.  This is an update on that.    
As I prepared to travel to Cuba to visit Pastor Adan and Yanet I anticipated third world poverty. I imagined poorly constructed houses with tin roofs and wooden doors and windows.  Travel would be slow and tedious on dirt roads or paved roads with multiple potholes.  It would be hot and muggy day and night.  My concern was large for my safety since I was alone and getting my luggage into the country with all I was bringing to give them.  Boy did I have that all wrong.
What I found was the typical slow and tedious airport bureaucracy like expected but worse.  It took well over an hour to get my luggage.  Once I headed outside I was greeted by Yanet and Adan with big smiles and hugs.  We piled into the vehicle with luggage shoved in the back and in front of our feet and headed out of Havana for Cardenas.
The vehicles in Cuba range from the old school cars you may have seen on documentaries of Cuba to the modern Benz here and there.  There are buses made from converted old military trucks encased in metal with squares for windows cut out as well as modern buses that travel Havana and the charter type bus that travels from city to city.  Cost depends on the luxury afforded by the vehicle and length of travel.  The roads are well maintained and travel, while slower than the US interstate system, was by no measure slow. Unless you were one of the people on bike or wagon pulled by horse or donkey, then your travel was a bit slow.
Cuba was beautiful.  The fauna was typically scrubby but the coast was beautiful- blues in the sea that made me both want to jump in it and somehow hug it for the beauty.  There are fewer homes that I envisioned from trips to other third world countries and more concrete and painted homes than I imagined.  In the tourist laden area of Veradero Beach there were at least 8 large hotels that the rich or international traveler would stay in.  
Pastor Adan and Yanet were warm, funny, and inviting.  Their two children and family who live with them were kind, gracious, and welcoming.  While their home did get quite warm even with fans running I was surprised to find out that they had AC in the bedrooms.  During the night I fairly froze, the remote controlled all of them and wasn’t left in my room- I slept in my travel sweatshirt the second night!
Church currently is held in the back porch/garage area behind their home.  A small sound system with a podium and some fans.  It was requested that a projector be brought which would help for those who may not have a bible and those new to the church or unfamiliar with the worship songs could see the words.  I know I will be thankful for that when the team goes down- I knew most of the worship songs in English but for some reason when people are singing Spanish I suddenly can’t remember any of the English words!  It did grow quite warm during service and with the tired from no sleep the night before I left coupled with the warm I caught myself nodding off and writing notes that I can no longer discern the meaning off.
With some of the excess Scootybus funds given by the body I was able to take down quite a few over the counter medications as well as some other daily necessity items.  Goodie bags for each family group was made to hand out during service- toothpaste and toothbrushes, face and body cream, candy, magnetic bible verse bookmarks and some other items were included.  Adan and Yanet share that with funds they get from time to time they will hand out bags of beans and rice to each family group.  Necessities are difficult to find depending on the item and many are very expensive when they are available.  Prices fluctuate day to day and sometimes even within that day.  Something could be a dollar one moment and three another, and that is only if you can even find it available.  Their excitement and gratitude for toothpaste was humbling.  They were so glad to have medications and vitamins that they cannot usually locate- Tylenol, prenatal vitamins for a pregnant woman in their body, cold and flu medications, Vitamin E.  I was told that 30 pills of Vitamin E were $60.  Keep in mind that a Cuba doctor is paid by the government $5 a month.  The government’s thinking is “you have family, a home, a job, why do you need more money?” There are many who are not even going into studies for medical care and other highly skilled professions because they cannot make a good living in it.
As church finished up it began raining.  I got to experience first hand the water overflow that happens in their church space.  The metal roof doesn’t extend past the concrete block wall so if it had been raining during service those sitting next to the wall would have had to move or be soaked.  The water from the walkway outside also comes into the garage area and covers it about an inch or two because of the way the floor and surrounding area is laid out.  I have asked how much materials would be to improve this but they are hesitant to tell me due to the high costs of materials.  I have encouraged them to give me a guess so we may be able to assist with this- rain shouldn’t ever keep the body from gathering! Last week they finally gave me an estimate $2000.  Because of scarcity of supplies costs are extreme, but due to some excess funds from the scooty bus giving we are helping meet this need. They are hoping eventually to find a larger space to meet (rented) as their congregation grows. 
After church I was introduced to their team- finance, worship and even their “chef”. I was told he would be the one that would be cooking for the team when they came down.  It was encouraging to see the small congregation with specific members already in place to serve in leading those areas.
Due to the rain we did not travel down to the beach- I told them that meant that I would need to come again!  I did get to spend time with their dtr working on making bracelets.  She was so cute and kept stopping after about 3 minutes saying “I am so tired!.....” With this headtilt and drama of a ten year old trying to con the adult into helping her finish.  I told her if she can’t finish just one then all the bracelet material would go to waste! I wasn’t going to do all her work haha
That evening we did take the scootybus back over to the cousins house were it is stored and charged and spent some time talking.  I was blessed to spend some time there both nights (we went the night before to pick up the scootybus).  The cousin also has a small congregation that meets on their porch but he hopes one day to build on the small extra land he has that is his yard- it is uneven and they are working to fill it in then pray for materials as they may build in the future.  It was encouraging to see them talk about their churches and their community with no competition or jealousy.  Mutual encouragement and support was what I saw. 
During my brief trip I tried to ask lots of questions and write down as many answers as I could.  To understand the country, the community, the needs of the people and the church.  I wanted to understand the feelings of people toward “religion” and the church as well as their true feelings about political leaders and rules that govern them.  One question that I asked sticks out in my mind.  I asked them all while at the cousins house- do people have hope here?  The answer was simple- “No. Why would they have hope when life is like it is here?” There is no hope that education will give you a good life and nothing else will.  Basically their country is broken and hope for a better future lives in leaving.  They know that Christ is their eternal hope, but physically they feel that most people know without significant change there is not much of a prosperous future in Cuba.  Factories are run down and closed, there are few goods that come into the country, infrastructure for what trade can be done isn’t developed and the embargos are a way of life.  Covid has enhanced the scarcity of things over time and that may not improve a lot now that the pandemic is ending.  But time will tell.
The good news is that similar to other countries who undergo scarcity of goods and the increase in physical need there is a willingness and openness to hear things as they identify they also have spiritual needs.  Doors are being opened to the gospel being shared even door to door at times.  There may be little hope for physical change but spiritual needs can be met in the Father.  So the church has asked us to bring a team to partner with them for multiple things to further their influence in their community as they seek to serve and support their neighbors and the body of Christ that they call “the breath of God” English loose translation. 
More to come on that!  Enjoy a few photos from my brief trip below.
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1 Comment

Darlene Estlow - July 10th, 2023 at 10:37am

It was neat to read your blog about being in Cuba. Important things to know to add for the prayer list!