Forty-Four Minutes

“This is your Captain speaking. We will be cruising at an altitude of 29,000 feet and will be landing in Santa Carla, Cuba in 44 minutes. The weather in Santa Carla is 85 degrees and with very high humidity.   Thank you for flying American Airlines.”  I hear this announcement six to seven times a year. 

 Forty-four minutes from the glitz and glitter in Miami with restaurants and houses full of food to Cuba where there is a tremendous food shortage.  In fact, on my last trip we were told if you want to eat breakfast you need to bring your own because there are no eggs or food for breakfast.  Endless number of shiny new cars, road so smooth you never feel a bump. Forty-four minutes to horse carts, bicycles, fifty-year-old cars and people walking everywhere.  

 Contaminated water not in one village, not in one district but the entire country, how could this be?  Twenty eight percent of all water going through the Cuba infrastructure is lost before it reaches the destination.  Nickel mines, sugarcane mills contamination this is not counting human waste pollution.  It makes you think is there anything good here?

Yes, there sure is! It’s the people!

 It’s Dani the little girl waiting at the curb for hours because she knows Dan is coming.

 It’s the nine-year old boy that was sleeping in a potato sack until we gave him and his mother blankets to keep them warm in the mountains of Guantanamo.

It’s the man that could not read because his eyes were so bad until we gave him a $2.00 pair of readers.

It’s the Pastor that thanks me so much for paying him a salary for the first time so he could buy his two-year daughter her first pair of shoes.

It’s the mother and father holding back tears thanking me because they now have clean water to drink and their son is no longer sick because of the water.

Are you getting the picture?  I could go on for pages, maybe it’s the lady that received a new Bible we were able to give her because she could not afford one. 

Maybe it’s the Galcom recorded Bible we gave a blind man, so now he can have the Bible read to him for the first time. 

Years ago, my wife came up with the phrase, “Cuba So Close, But a World Away.”   Yes, just 44 minutes.

 

Where to Begin? Part 3

This is the last of a series of articles written by Ginny Derrough after fifty seven years of being away from her birth country of Cuba.

I asked the pastor we visited what he felt people in the US needed to be aware of pertaining to Cuba. 

He said, "One must make clear the struggle of the Cuban people to the American public.  Things are not what they seem.  We live under restrictions that are not seen when people visit but we definitely live them.  We are constantly being watched. It is imperative for people to know the truth about Cuba and lend their aid."

 He talked about conditions and how challenging things are.  Between rules, lack of resources, lack of materials, not knowing who to trust --- it is so very difficult to get anything done in Cuba. 

I personally had been asked numerous times over the last few years to visit Cuba.  My reply was always, "No, thank you. My parents sacrificed too much to bring us here and they did not want to support that regime in any way, shape or form. It is still the same regime and I would feel I was betraying my parents in traveling there."  

 In sharing this sentiment with him, he replied, "When you come or send supplies, you are NOT helping the government.  You are supporting your brothers and sisters to continue to win souls for Christ.  The church is the only hope for Cuba."  He has mentioned this several times. 

Our friend does everything with an eye to minimize government attention.  You are not allowed new construction so, when they purchase a house that is to become a house church and they want to build an addition, they apply for a repair permit.  They do all the work behind the scenes not even wanting the church members to know what is being done as they don't know who or how many snitches might be in attendance. Even with visitors from outside the country, they have the mentality of trust no one.  It takes time to recognize just who you can trust. 

Cubans still have to use a ration card for monthly food allotment.  They are allowed, per month, per family member: 

  • 4 lbs of sugar, 5 lbs of rice, 1/2 lb black beans, 4 oz. of coffee, 1 roll of bread per day.  

  • Women are allowed 10 feminine hygiene pads/ month/ qualifying female. 

  • There may be more but these were the ones that they shared.

The taxi driver, a known and trusted person to our friend, who drove us to the airport at the end (and was NOT a fan of Americans) said he felt he had a good life in Cuba.  He had enough to eat and was content.  However, he shared both his daughter and his son have left Cuba for Switzerland and, in time, he and his wife may follow.  He said, "Just when we think things are going to get better, they tighten the screws on you and it gets tough again."  So much for having a good life.

So, IS change coming?

The government is taking steps to make changes to the articles in the Cuban constitution.  

 One of the changes is being spearheaded by Raul Castro's daughter and it pertains to the acceptance of instituting homosexual marriages. 

The churches have united and  created a movement called  "Original Design" (picture attached). The signs read, "I am in favor of the original design. Family as God created it. "  All denominations have  joined in this cause and, in one week, they collected over 179k signatures from church members and others to submit to the government in opposition to the change being proposed.  

Cuba has about 11 million people with approximately 6 - 7 million adults.  So, 179k signatures may not seem like much but, given the shortage of time to collect the signatures and the fact that the churches achieved solidarity on the stance is impressive.   Even more so, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTION ---- 59 years--- that any group has stepped up and gone against the government on any stance.  I take that back, it has happened before and those who didn't agree with the government's position were hauled off to jail, shot or just mysteriously disappeared.  

Education in Cuba is obligatory in schools sponsored by the state and, of course, they all follow curriculum dictated by the government. Should this change take place in the constitution, it would become part of the schools' curriculum.  The church has considered what its next step might need to be and they have positioned themselves and have already approached the government requesting that if this article passes, the churches be allowed to have their own schools and teach their standards.   

WOW!  BLOW ME AWAY!  THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED!

Again, no one, in the history of the revolution has come against the government making any demands and have lived to tell about it or prosper. Not only have they done this in writing but they have organized actually demonstrations to proclaim their "Original Design" position. 

Our friend feels with as much exposure as Cuba is getting, the government would likely not crush this movement in order to show the world that they are really open minded and allow freedoms in Cuba.  However, they may not necessarily grant any of the requests and bring stricter restrictions to bear on them. 

You can see very well why our friend says, "The church is the  only hope for Cuba."  It is the only organization that has dared to step up and make requests/demands of the government. This is HUGE.  

 Pray for the church in Cuba and that its leadership will not bend to the mind set of the political environment but will stay true and be energized for the cause of Christ.