A Cuba Story

by - November 23, 2016

As I sat at the round kitchen table drinking a tiny cup of strong coffee made from beans grown close to where we gathered, I listened to the conversation being spoken between new friends. A few of the words I could understand, but most of them went beyond my high school Spanish comprehension. Not understanding the language never seems to matter much on these trips, and it didn’t this time either. The back door was open. A cool breeze pulled through the open windows and high ceilings and moved around some of the sweaty hair sticking to my neck. My bare feet rested on the faded, but still beautiful, tile floors that were laid in this home built well before the revolution that still shapes the landscape and character of Cuba. In many ways, it’s as if that revolution happened only moments ago. Occasionally, someone compassionately stopped to explain a bit of what was being said, but I didn’t really need to know. I was content to just listen, rest and sip my coffee.

We had just arrived in Havana, and even on the short ride to the home of our hosts, I was enchanted by Cuba. Enchanted is not an everyday word I use, but as I’m trying to think of a way to describe how I felt, that keeps coming to mind. It is kind of like stepping into the pages of 1950’s full-color storybook. Let’s say that storybook has maybe had a little coffee spilled on it. Maybe it was left open in the sun and some pages have become faded. Maybe it has been read so many times that it’s a little worn from the wear of the hands of readers. Pages creased. A few torn edges. It’s still a beautiful story that you want to keep reading and see the detailed pictures on each page because it is just so fascinating. Tragedy and triumph. Generals and God. Full of people. Full of life. Worn-in and vibrant.

Conversations were often qualified with “before the revolution” or “after the revolution” as we learned about the country, the people, and the Church. It all seems very current. I listened as one man who was present before and after the 60's, patriotically and vividly share details with us of life and culture “before and after.” Later, I heard a next generation family member of his use the very language he had used when talking with us about their homeland. Her second-hand account held much of the same passion as his. They love their country. There are things they want to stay the same, and things they would like to be different. Not unlike any other country in the world. They love one another. They serve a high order to be faithful in prosperity and adversity. The people we met are men and women of integrity that teach and follow the way of God in accordance with the truth. Not easily swayed. They respect and follow the governance of their citizenship. (Matthew 22:15-22)  I was so blessed to meet with them and hear their stories and to serve with them on the seminary grounds that is a sister seminary to Southwestern.  Many have gone before us, both here and there, to make our ministry today possible. God is faithful to the generations to come.

We discussed our faith, devotion, and ministries, and shared bits of our lives over the breakfast table (where there was always leche con chocolate), during our days of training, and in circled up chairs late into the night. We found our love for the Lord gave us a love for one another. For anyone who has ever had the opportunity to serve someone, or serve with someone in His name, you know this love that grows between you. That heart you get for the one with whom you share His hope, grace, mercy and Word. The Lord’s plans so far have given me the opportunity to drop in on these scenes in many places with many different people, and share glimpses of His creation and consistent faithfulness through stories. Some of you grow deep roots in an ongoing scene serving with familiar faces in your home, community, and church. I hope some of your moments with them are called to mind today: the people you have served and served beside, sat with in circles of chairs, the meals prepared and shared, the faith-filled conversations, and the Lord whom you first loved. Maybe you had forgotten?  Remember.  I pray you are reminded to be thankful for them wherever and whenever your story together took place. From Ponca to Cuba, and everywhere in between, I’m thankful.

Here are a few favorite pictures from my Cuban storybook.

Side Note:  Just this month American Airlines began routes into Cuba.  It is about a 45-minute flight from Miami. There are many resorts on the island and it has been a favorite holiday spot for people of other countries for many years. Just a thought, if you are looking for a new place to visit. 

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