First Christian Church, Bloomington, Indiana
Journey to Cuba
Reflections from November 2016 Pilgrimage to Cuba
Sunday - Cuba Is Becoming Real
We fill out papers for customs, then we’re off. Now I let myself start to become excited. We can follow our plane’s flight on the screen on the back of the seat in front of us. Soon, I see over the plane’s wing lights. They are outlining Cuba. Wow! It’s becoming real and not just an idea or dream. I’m so excited.
Another good landing, and now to get through customs. Baggage pick up is next and they have cute cocker spaniel like dogs jumping and weaving along the baggage. Now to meet our ride. Carmelo, our Global Ministries guide, is greeted warmly and then introductions are made all around. Our guide in Cuba is Sandor. He is in charge. Our interpreter is Vladimir and our driver is Sixto. Very friendly, welcoming, nice young men, and handsome too.
The drive from Varadero airport to Matanzas is a blur, weaving through dark streets. We unload and are treated to a snack. A cola, sandwich of whitebread, ham and cheese and a wafer cookie. We are staying at a Presbyterian church complex that has nice rooms, 2-3 beds, shower, toilet, sink, and some space for suitcases. All one needs. As we climb into our beds, it is now 2:00am. It’s been almost 24 hours that we have been up and tomorrow will be a busy day starting with breakfast at 9:30am.
We will continue posting updates to this page as they are received with the most recent news at the top.Read more
The Latin America Working Group has posted an in-depth article about US-Cuba relations in the past year since the announcement by President Obama and President Castro that they would be normalizing relations. The LAWG outlines what has been accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished for completely normalized relations between the two countries to be realized. They also offer suggestions as to what can be done in 2016 and ask members of the public to take action by urging their representatives in Congress to co-sponsor 2 specific bills.
More information and the full article can be found here.
Solidarity and Acompañamiento in Cuba
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Cuban Council of Churches, the Evangelical Seminary of Theology, the Pentecostal Christian Church and the Memorial Center Martin Luther King, Jr., warmly hosted the delegation of Global Ministries from October 2nd-6th, 2015. This delegation was composed by:
From the U.S. the visitors were the following: Rev. Julia Brown Karimou; President of the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the USA and Canada and Co-Executive of Global Ministries, Rev. Dr. James Moos; Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ in the USA and Co-Executive of Global Ministries, Rev. Angel L. Rivera-Agosto; Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean of Global Ministries, Rev. David Gaewski; United Church of Christ Conference Minister of New York, Rev. Catherine Myers Wirt, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Regional Minister for Oregon and South Idaho, Rev. John Vertigan, United Church of Christ Conference Minister of Florida and Rev. Juan Rodríguez, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Regional Minister of Florida.
And for the Cuban representatives: Rev. Eliseo Navarro; President of the Christian Pentecostal Church, Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico; President of the Cuban Council of Churches, Rev. Carlos Emilio Ham; Principal of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology and Rev. Raúl Suárez Ramos, Director of the Memorial Center Martin Luther King, Jr. The delegation was also received by Caridad Diego Bello; Director of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party.
According to the program planned by both parties, the visiting delegation held institutional encounters with Cuban organizations, where they learned of thier work, as well as holding an exchange on the following themes:
- The Cuban reality, the actualization of the social and economic model, diplomatic relations and the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, the challenges of the recent visit of Pope Francis to Cuba, to the U.S. Congress and to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Also, we remembered the historical relations between our Churches, the Cuban Ecumenical Movement and the historic Protestantism from the U.S.
- The U.S. delegation participated in joint services at the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Varadero, province of Matanzas and the Central Corps from the Salvation Army in La Havana.
We celebrated and gave thanks to God for over 30 years of accompaniment and solidarity between us. It is our hope that the dialogue between our churches and ecumenical organizations will contribute to open an intentional and serious dialogue to restore diplomatic and normal trading exchanges among Cuba and the United States of America.Read more
In Cuban Spanish jargon, there is a phrase they use to make bad things or happenings go away. For example, if in the middle of the night people listen to the song of the owl, considered an ominous bird by farmers, they would say without hesitation, "Solavaya!" Also, when passing a funeral, they would say "Solavaya" to chase away the death. I suspect that something bad stayed behind on Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama said the U.S. foreign policy to Cuba had been "a failure." I want to think that a new time has started for the relations between the two countries.Read more
One of the most important lessons that I have learned through traveling is that being open minded will open doors to so many more opportunities to grow and learn. This is often easier said than done, especially when traveling to a place like Cuba. As AmericansRead more
To get to know a friend you need to know her history to really know where she is coming from. It is no different for our Church’s partners across the globe, in this case, our neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean.Read more
During our week in Cuba we visited ten Fellowship churches. The ministries we saw included an arts and spirituality center, work in prisons, a music school that is just getting underway, a cooperative farm, patio gardening, and outreach to the gay and lesbian community in Havana.Read more