The Cuba Mission Team returned from their mission trip Saturday, June 11. Below is a blog from the final day of the trip written by team member Avy Anderson.
Our suitcases were packed and brought to the courtyard area of the Methodist Center where we stayed.
Their need for everyday items and our abundance came together in the items we left behind. Generosity
begins where our comfort zone ends.
We learned early into our mission that God makes a way when there is no way. Plans for a preschool
with daycare are in the works and is set to open in September with Hyde Park’s Small Blessings as their sister
school, The Pastor and his wife not only rejoiced at a dream come true, but agreed that Pequeñas Bediciones,
which translates Small Blessings, was the perfect name. Diane will use a copy of the curriculum
and requirements used throughout the school system as a guideline. Elio, with the help of others upon their
return, will help with the lack of needed power tools at the construction site. God’s work done His way never
Diane Maurer, team member, holds a homemade cross and flame.
We enjoyed lunch with the Bishop at a nearby beach restaurant where team members were given the
opportunity to share with the Bishop and members of his staff what this trip meant to them. He expressed
his gratitude on behalf of the Cuban Methodist Church and the people of Cuba. Memories of God’s faithfulness
and those whose lives touched ours throughout the week will remain in our hearts forever.
From all of us, a special word of thanks to Drema for her love and passion for this mission, her leadership,
incomparable organizational skills and Godly attitude in every circumstance. She was prepared for any
situation that could arise, but always expected the best. When answering to the great commission, action
meets compassion and lives are changed. Please add the work of this mission to what should be your growing
The Cuba Mission Team continues their work in Cuba this week. Below is a blog from the past two days written by team member Avy Anderson. In her own words, “there is so much more that God is doing among the people of Cuba that I could write…el amor de Dios hecho realidad en Cuba (May God’s Love be Real in Cuba).”
Monday, June 06
We plan, we pray, and then we trust God. We were not able to work at the construction site due to the rain. As a result, we spent time together and learned more about each other. We went to the business center at Hotel Nacional where we were able to send the blog. While there we visited a room dedicated to Cuban history. Later, we drove to one of the largest Methodist churches located in Marianao. Along the way, we were made aware of a now deserted large plot of land that was once property of the Methodist church that at one time included a church, school, athletic center and other ministries. One of the buildings is now used as an institution of higher education.
When we returned for lunch heard the sound of a choir practicing at the church and were invited in to listen. Again, God knows fully and completely what we can never predict. The blending of the voices and harmonies of the choir were not only amazing, but led by 19-year-old Jacqueline, a recent graduate of the National School for Music and the Arts with a degree in choral directing and studies in music theory and other related subjects. She is also a member of Cuba’s National Choir which performs at official events. They were preparing for the church’s 60th anniversary. One refrain that was repeated several times in the hymn they sang was eres mi esperanza en medio del dolor, – you are my hope in the midst of pain. Later in the evening, we agreed on how the church’s youth is thriving and taking leadership roles.
Elio’s devotional centered around Ezra and how he was sent to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. He was first met with resistance which was followed by renewal. He tied this in to the faithful remnant in the Cuban churches that at first were met with opposition and years later with acceptance. As much as many would like to see things move forward more rapidly, our time is not God’s time. He closed by asking each of us to share where we though we saw Jesus in our day. We look around and see a broken world, but the Holy Spirit which is alive and at work in the church in Cuba is a reminder of God’s promise of redemption. Cherril was handed a card while walking today by a man who said he had found his calling as a Ping Pong professor. Let us continue to press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We might be pleasantly surprised at what we might be called to do!
Tuesday, 07 June
Psalm 27 verse 14 reads wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord. Our mission team began the day at the construction work site. It is a property that, when completed, will have homes for future seminarians. At this point, construction on five homes have begun. The goal is six two-story homes that will house twelve families. Before leaving, we took into account what was most needed, it was wire brushes and sand paper. Drema suggested to Laura, our translator and guide that we stop by a hardware store on the way back so we would have these items on hand when we return. After stopping at the third location, she was able to find a few pieces of sandpaper and the only wire brush available. So it is with much perseverance and help from mission teams the homes will be completed.
In the afternoon, some returned to Martin Perez Methodist Church where we had worshiped on Sunday. Led by Diane, we met with the ladies that teach Sunday School, lead the praise and worship team and work with the youth. Among them was 73-year-old Maria Teresa who has been a faithful parishioner since the age of nine. Maria has taught and mentored many children over the years who are now pastors, youth leaders and missionaries. Her son is a pastor in Baton Rouge! She, along with the other ladies, stop by the neighborhood homes on their faithful Sunday walk to church, gather the children along the way whose parents to do not attend, and walk together with them to church, -never without their umbrellas in case of rain. They are the true missionaries! Diane presented them with three sets of bells and other items donated by a members of Hyde Park. Not only did they learn to play the bells, but they will continue to learn even more led by their pre-school teacher who is also a music major.
Maria Teresa told me one of her favorite passages of Scripture was Psalm 27, which she knew by heart. In those verses we are encouraged to: seek, live, behold, inquire, rise, sing, offer and believe. The last verse commands us to wait, not once, but twice. In my devotional this evening I shared how the Apostle Paul, despite having been imprisoned and despite his circumstances, never lost focus on his calling. He continually pressed forward, just as the construction workers. They will have to patiently wait, maybe one wire brush and a few pieces of sand paper at a time, but God’s work will continue. Missionaries will come and go. Along the way, some will plant, others water, while some will reap. But God gives the increase.
On Saturday, June 4 Avy Anderson and the rest of the 2016 Cuba Mission Team departed to make God’s love real in Cuba. Below is a diary of her experiences from her first two days.
Saturday, 4 June
On Friday we met as a team at Elio and Drema Mueller’s home for prayer, preparation and fellowship. We met with previous participants of the Cuba mission team regarding what to expect and cultural awareness. Elio shared his parent’s arrival to the United Sates from Cuba. He will be returning for the first time since leaving as a five-year-old. Together, we enjoyed a tasty dinner from Arco Iris. It is Saturday and we have arrived in Habana an hour later than anticipated, as our flight did not leave on time. Unpredictability, -we learned early into our mission that there are countless things on this journey we will never know with certainty. But, what we do know is that we serve a God that does. And by knowing Him we can be still and trust in Him.
After going through immigration and having our pictures taken (asked not to smile!) we retrieved our luggage. A young lady introduced herself having noticed we were a Methodist group and offered to help expedite the next few steps prior to meeting our driver. We were greeted by heavy rain, which some thought we might have brought from Florida. It quickly passed and soon we were on our way to the Methodist Center. After brief meeting, room assignments and an introduction to Bishop Ricardo Pereira and the many others who during the week will be serving with us in so many ways we enjoyed our first meal together. Some chose to go on a short walk, others retreated for the evening and others are working on the lesson plans for Sunday school with the children at tomorrow’s service. Our theme for the week is the parable of the lost sheep and God’s love for each one of His children.
God is already at work all around us doing things more wonderful than we can imagine to prepare us for what He has in store for us and His church in Cuba. True faith responds to the needs of others by making them open to God’s greater message that He sees their needs. Our continuing challenge this week as missionaries to Cuba is to open our hearts to those needs and respond through His eyes.
Sunday, 05 June
Everyone was rested and ready to attend church after an early breakfast and fellowship. Drema shared Vicki’s words of encouragement with the team. After going over the children’s church lesson we were ready to attend church. The children listened intently to the parable of the lost sheep, shared their thoughts on fear and God’s love for us and enjoyed a simple craft. But, in the body of Christ, God often wonderfully surprises us. He regularly uses unlikely people and circumstances to accomplish His purpose. This reminds us that God, in His grace, can use anyone to allow His work to be done. The sermon was presented by Sarai, a nine-year-old girl who spoke with the conviction of faith and authority that only God’s grace can provide. She encouraged the children to persevere in their faith and obey their parents. She admonished the parents to obey God and set an example by leading a godly life by making church an important part of their family life. Sarai reminded us how important it is to continue in the things we have learned from the Holy Scriptures. We learned that this church, founded in 1954, thrives today despite times of persecution because of four ladies that stood firm in their faith. To this day, these now elderly women and faithful remnant are still active members of this congregation. Strong afternoon showers did not stop many from attending the service.
We returned to our home for the week for lunch and later a short time at a local market. Later in the evening, Diane shared a devotional on the use of the word great in the Bible. Who is the greatest among us? The conversation went back to the sermon we had been blessed with earlier in the day. We were asked to share one word that best described how we felt. Among them were, joy, grace, humility, passion, praise, commitment and a child’s perspective. Elio asked us to keep our hearts and minds open as to how God is going to use the rain tomorrow. Our limitations to fully see and understand God’s plan remind that the Holy Spirit in us is greater that any afternoon rain.