First Time

It does not happen on every trip, and it may not occur for several more trips. When you are going to a church or village for the first time the excitement of that experience is only surpassed by the actual experience. Plans are made weeks in advance by the pastor and church family to welcome their guests from the United States. What they do not know the same is being done in the United States at their sister church.

Items are being carefully gathered by church members to best meet the many needs in Cuba. As the luggage is being packed prayers are said, I pray the item reaches a person in need of this small token of our love. Please, Father if there is something needed to open our heart to that need so we can fill that void in Cuba.

Luggage is full of medicines, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soaps, crayons, color books, pencils, and endless other much-needed items. These are the treasures that will be delivered to a mountain village in Las Cuevas, Cuba. No one from their sister church has ever been here before.

Knowing the food is in short supply we have purchased a pig so the entire village can enjoy the pig roast with everyone.

We are aware we have a two-hour adventure ahead of us over mountainous roads covered with rocks the size of soccer balls. As sunrise broke our transportation for the day was sitting in front of the church waiting for its passengers or should I say (victims). Six of us piled into a 1954 Willys jeep. I was blessed to be in the front seat. The plus was it gave me more leg room, but the minus was I could see first hand the challenges in and on the mountain terrain roads immediately in front of us. I could also look up the mountain with this narrow winding path ahead of us. From the beginning, the road was straight uphill but to the credit of that old Willys never missed a beat as it conquered the rock-laden path beneath us.

The uphill portion of the trip was over and why is it so much easier going down. We could see the quaint little village nestled in the valley below. Years of anticipation were about to realize the meeting of brothers and sisters in Christ from Cuba and the United States.

Hugs of excitement followed as we were shown the house, church grounds, and the cooking pig. We walked up a slight slope to their church, it was open sided, dirt floor except for the two-tile path to the altar. They had picked hibiscus blossoms and arranged in a heart near the altar to greet their American friends. The setting was quite beautiful in its own way as the aroma of the roasting pig filled the air. We sat on the pews in the church asking questions eagerly to learn more about our Cuban brothers and sister in Las Cuevas. We were about to hear the harsh reality of living in a mountain village in Cuba.

The pastor told us of the lack of any Sunday school material to teach the children and to hold their attention; she told us they had no communication to the outside world because there was no phone service in the village; she told us about receiving contaminated drinking water through the pipes two days a week and during the dry season they had to carry water from a stream about a mile away; she told us about no eggs, no bread, no cooking oil and she held it together very well telling all these daily challenges; she told us that the children attended the local school here in the valley until they are eleven to twelve years old, but from there, they must go to a boarding school in Mayari two hour down the mountain. Once they see the outside world, they never come back to LasCuevas with that she was in tears and says, “we have no hope.” WOW.

We needed to change the atmosphere, so we went back to the house to open the luggage filled with goodies for them. The first items pulled out were children Sunday School material, color crayons, pencils, color books, which just a few minutes ago they had nothing, wow God had this under control. For the next forty-five minutes, all those carefully packed items cover a bench and then a chair, then the floor. Twenty-two plus pounds of much-needed medicines were now in the hands of the pastora in this isolated valley in the mountains of Cuba. Last but not least was a laptop computer. Individual gifts to the entire kitchen crew of necklaces, earrings, and makeup soon were in all their hands. Hugs and tears of joy were many this day as true brothers and sisters in Christ were one.

Romans 12: 5 So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

By this time the pig was ready, and the fellowship continued over plates filled with food for all. That night even the local dogs went to sleep with their stomachs full.

Somehow the long trip back to civilization did not seem so bad as each of us relished the thoughts of what we just experienced at God’s hands.

I want to thank; Trinity United Methodist of North Port, Florida for letting me tell this story about your sister church in Las Cuevas, Cuba. God Bless all.

Dan Christopherson

Southwest District Mission Program, Inc.