Grateful Hearts

Loving God,

Help us to remember the sights, sounds, smells and beauty of this place. Let us remember the extravagant welcome that greeted us again and again. Let us remember the joy and rejuvenation we felt being here with each other, surrounded by the graciousness of the Cuban people.

Allow us to continue to seek ways to develop our relationships with our Cuban brothers and sisters and to seek ways to stay in relationships with them based on respect, love, and compassion for each other.

As we return home today, let us keep our memories of Cuba and the Cuban people alive in our hearts and minds, and allow us to continue the work that we are called to do. Amen

With love,

Amy, Teri, Kate, Kathy, Kyla, Jen and Shelley

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Cuba Tastes of Love

We gracefully tumbled into our sixth glorious Cuba morning. We had a late start at 10:00 am. After our routine yet new practice of praying in the morning and before every meal, we enjoyed our breakfast of Cuban coffee, bread (may be a little old), eggs, and tasty fresh fruit.

Our official business began with a visit to the Council of Cuban Churches (CCC). The gua gua took us through some luxurious areas of Havana – crowned with stately homes and hotels near the oceanside. Nonetheless, the homes and buildings showed their own signs of struggle – to maintain their beauty.

When we arrived, Midiam and Ruth greeted us at the door to share the Good News of their work throughout Cuba. This people to people, women to women, interchange was robust. We learned that the ecumenical CCC was founded in 1941 and includes 28 denominations. We particularly were impressed with the policy which focuses on women. In Cuba, women started to become ordained in the 1950s with a groundswell in the 1980s. Their seven programs include not only the typical Christian programs, but also Women and Gender, and Ecology and the Environment!

While women have equal rights (and reproductive rights!) in Cuba, and are paid equitably, we found common experiences between our countries. Women are the primary caregivers, although most work outside the home. When children are sick or the elderly need care, they are the one’s whom take time away from work. This affects their salary, and their economic well-being. We could have spent hours more with these women, but our day needed to continue.

It is worth noting that in the 1990s, with the fall of the Soviet Union, life in Cuba became extraordinarily difficult. Food, housing, and other basic necessities were not available for many. We learned that in this time, people came together to care for one another in a way that stays with them today. Cubans are a resilient people!

We eventually ventured to Comita for our farewell dinner. We could taste the love in our souls with which it was prepared. We then learned more about the important work of ICPC. The ICPC has 6000 members, and 76 congregations across Cuba. Their mission is to create more disciples. Evangelism is often quietly disregarded in our own community, not wanting to disrespect others’ beliefs. What we learned is that sharing “praise” that comes from the pure of heart is truly a gift. While the words and the sharing differ across our communities, the essence is the same.

We felt this commonality, as we shared our good-byes with this family that has hosted us – including the President of the ICPC, Eliseo, and his wife, Reverend Marelis. After exchanging gifts and an offering for the ICPC and an additional offering to support their work in the recovery of Hurricane Matthew, we returned to our home in Cuba, Casa Flores. We anticipate returning home tomorrow but are not looking forward to our good bye with Dayana and Osmani.


Too Much for Words

We are gathered, as is now our custom, in the early morning to pray and welcome another day. The staff prepares a lovely breakfast that we share with mangoes, eggs, bread, juices, and the best café con leche. The waw waw, our bus, comes and picks us up and we were off to a full day of church and beautiful food served with much joy and love. We found joy and praise at all the churches, and we even have been singing our own songs. I guess it is called “taking our show on the road”. We are the Waw Waw Sisterhood and we are now a singing troupe. One of our sermons was from the book of Esther, dancing and praying were the norm. Theresa gave a beautiful talk and she spoke straight from her heart. She spoke for all of us. I have to keep this short, however I must say the extravagant welcome given to us traveling pilgrims is too much for words. We are very blessed. We love the people of Cuba.

Love to you all!



Gift of Time and Hospitality

Our first full day in Cuba with so many new sights, sounds, sounds, smells, and friends. We were excited that our breakfast included Cuban coffee with leche for some. Our guides Diana and Osmani were promptly ready for us at 8:30 am with smiles and “¡Buenos Días!”. Our shorter than expected omnibus ride to our first stop of the day brings us past bicycles with sugar canes, colorful covered bus stops, grazing cattle, roaming dogs, narrow town streets with lots of colorful buildings, cars, and people. We are taken to Caimito to meet with the women of the Iglesia del Presidente of the Pentecostal Church of Cuba. We are extravagantly welcomed with music and song, stories and gifts of their craftsmanship.

Upon return to the house of the Presidente of the ICPC, with all the women of the church, we continued to sing and learn about each other. We shared a beautiful meal, the bananas are sooooo good, as are the rice and beans, and fish. To top it off, we have ice cream for dessert. Our Cuban friends are so filled with joy. Music becomes the language we both speak. As we say goodbye, we ask for one word to describe our experience….peace, happy, love, family, music, friendship, same, heart and spirit. We are told that Cubans need more than one word to describe their feelings! Good bye new friends.

Our afternoon continues in Old Havana with sights and sounds of a busy city. Osmani brings us to his church, near the Cuban Chinatown, Templo Mt. Carmelo, where we are once again welcomed effusively by his family and other church members. Song and music join our voices and hearts. Amy did not inform us that we would need a song repertoire and practice. Despite this surprise, our group sounds robust and lovely with our versions of Sanctuary, Gathered Here, This Little Light of Mine and Go Now in Peace. Dinner was simple and after a full day, we came home tired to Casa Flores, our one constant this week in a sea of unknowns and trust. Our hearts are filled by the gift of time and hospitality shown by our hosts. We are grateful for our time in Cuba.


Loved and Welcomed

We all rendezvoused in Miami from Detroit, South Beach, and Salt Lake City. For some it had been a long journey, with scrutiny by the TSA, excited children going to Disney World and much CNN at the various airports. It was comforting to finally be all together to begin our Pilgrimage to Cuba.

We had one more stress moment when our visa situation was unclear, but we were set straight and arrived at Jose Marti Airport to finally receive our visas. All our luggage, including gifts, arrived and we met up with our hosts, Osmani, Diana, Marelis and the President of the Cuban Council of Churches. The old cars were abundant as expected and we were surprised to see many newer cars. The breeze was a wonderful treat and made our arrival welcoming.

Our arrival at Casa Flores was joyous when we saw the beautiful house that was down the street from the ocean with the second floor open to the breezes. Right away we knew that was the perfect spot for debriefing! We all settled into our rooms for a bit and then we were off for dinner. The restaurant was all open so once again we could enjoy the ocean breeze. We had delicious juices, stuffed potatoes, and a local favorite, malanga. After all the appetizers, dinner arrived and we had already had so much wonderful food that we needed to find more room for food. Diana was surprised when we told her that we don´t usually pray when at restaurants and then Amy led us in prayer before we started our entrees. We wanted to order flan or dulce de leche, however we could not eat another bite.

Many surprises so far on this trip. Our accommodations are more than adequate, with air conditioning, electricity, and hot water. We have been well fed and have not gone hungry. We have had plenty of drinking water. The people are warm, kind, friendly, and make us feel loved and welcome on this beautiful, green island. We are truly blessed to be experiencing the people and sights of Cuba.