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Day 1 November 03 2018 Saturday:
There were some last minute changes but we managed well enough. In less than 24 hours we had Daniel and Natalie step up to fill two vacant spots. Dan who’s been to Cuba before and Natalie who was obeying God’s call to go. Early in the morning everyone was pumped and ready. You might say they were, “all in”. At London Airport our check in went smooth. I was thrilled to not have to pay extra for the extra Humanitarian Bag I was bringing. I estimate we had over 1,000 lbs. of essentials like Medicine, Medical things, Sunday school supplies, Messengers, things for the Puppet Ministry, Black light ministry, and so much more things carefully assessed and prioritized.
We were going to use the buddy system at Cuban Customs. Not everything goes according to plan. Two of our ladies were detained, harassed, intimidated but were eventually released thanks to a Cuban friend who worked on getting them out. It’s Cuba. It happens. We thank God he has seen us through but we are also reminded never to grow complacent. Every trip has its own thing. What’s most important is getting through.
We travelled to our Casa Particular in central Santa Clara. A place we have built a long term relationship. There are enough rooms to take care of all of us, all ground level, and well secure. Our rooms were ready so we registered which requires our passport information. Some went out banking, while others found a place nearby to pick up a supply of safe drinking water and we then shared one of many meals together.
Day 2 November 04 2018 Sunday:
The Lord’s Day
Every morning we have a routine of sharing breakfast together and everyday someone has the responsibility of giving a devotional. A prayer for the Lord to bless the day and the work he calls us to do. The drivers arrived at an agreed time to go out in two teams. Each team has someone to take pictures. Someone to hand out things to the children we may see during our visits. Today Belinda’s Team went to Pastor Yonail’s mission at La Pastora while my team remained at the 1st. Baptist Church at Placetas. What a difference. If it were not for the Spanish spoken the service was very well done with sound system, video, and a group of musicians and singers. Typical large city church filled to over maximum capacity. Very warm loving people. Belinda’s Team would be traveling way out in the boonies where the parking lot has horses. Where farm animals may interrupt the service with a “moo” instead of a “hallelujah”.
The afternoon had Natalie training her volunteers the art of puppetry in preparation of Pastor’s Day. We visited whoever we could locally.
At the end of each day we would be back at our rooms in Santa Clara were some would stay up a little later, while others went to bed early.
Day 3 November 05 2018 Monday:
“Sorting Day in Placetas”
This was a big day. All the material we brought to Cuba was placed in the Conference room at the 1st. Baptist Church. All the Humanitarian Bags were emptied, spread out on tables in groups, reorganized, and placed into specially marked bags specific for all the Pastors we support as well as extra for missionaries not on our financial support. Everyone on the team worked long and hard all morning and into the afternoon.
Afternoon we returned to fill food bags that was purchased earlier locally. The bags contained rice, beans, tomato paste, garlic, onions, and personal things as a bonus for all the hard work the Pastors do. Sort of a thank you. It’s always very much appreciated.
We also found time to visit Pastors who live in the city of Placetas. We find out how they are. What has been happening? How their ministry is doing. Eventually we ask, “How can we best pray for you?” (See Pastor Rodger, I pay attention) Before leaving we take turns praying for them.
Supper with Seryesky (Placetas)
Day 4 November 06 2018 Tuesday:
“Cienfuegos area visitation”
Usual breakfast. The drivers are very good in being on time which is very rare and cross cultural in Cuba. There is Canadian time and there is Cuban time. Guess which one is laidback and easy. Belinda’s Team went to Pastor Ariandys in Palmira and then Pastor Ramon who also is in Palmira. My Team traveled to Pastor Denis in Castano and then to Pastor Santiago in Carlos Caraballo. Very different places. Some places in Cuba people want to live while other places are places of constant transition. People coming and going. People trying to escape extreme poverty and hopelessness. Looking for a better way. Searching for some prosperity.
Both Teams meet and travel together to Pastor Raimon in Cartagena where we enjoyed visiting, some music and singing. A special time and sharing a prepared meal for us.
Our traveling back to our rooms is often in the dark.
Day 5 November 07 2018 Wednesday:
Usual great breakfast shared by the team with devotional and prayer time to start the day. Later Belinda’s Team were off to visit Pastor Shandry in Baez in the morning while my team visited Pastor Janio and Pastor Yanel both in Santa Clara.
What I discovered a common thing besides a variety of health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, and stress is the responsibility of taking care of elderly parents whether the pastor’s or his wife’s or both. In Cuba, “family takes care of family”. The Pastor must manage their time so carefully. Difficult would be an understatement.
On our way to Placetas to join up with the other team, Lucy asked to stop by the place where COM first came to Cuba some 23 years ago in a camp near Oliver. Well then, when she went out of the car to reacquaint with people she had not seen in over ten years. I could not keep up with her and chose to wait in the shade of a tree until the visit was over.
Many Suppers we enjoyed were prepared by Pastor Seryesky who is a very good cook. They wanted to show their appreciation to us. I must confess the meals were so well prepared I had to be careful not to have too much or I would feel the need to ask the Lord for forgiveness. The more we loved on our brothers and sisters in Cuba, the more they returned their love on us. A humbling experience.
Day 6 November 08 2018 Thursday:
“Pastor Appreciation Day”
Starting at 10:00 a.m. at the 1st. Baptist Church in Placetas we found almost all our Pastors coming together. A tradition started some years ago to help encourage one another. There is always a time of worship and celebration with a time of learning later. In the past we have had Marriage Enrichment, Family Fun time, Training, and the Pastors take turns each Pastor’s Day sharing out of God’s Word.
They look forward to a time they can relax and be on the receiving end for a change.
We all got to share in The Lord’s Supper this time after Pastor Wilmer preached his message on it.
Lucy demonstrated, “How to use flannel graph”. Something that is really taking off throughout the area in children ministry especially out in the boonies.
We got to see Natalie demonstrate (with helpers Laurie and Sharon) a puppet show. The how to do and how not to do.
Dorothy showed how to use chalk in drawing scenery on flannel graph and how to preserve it by spraying hair spray on it when you’re done.
After everyone shared noon meal together. There was a social time learning to play new games, enjoying treats from Canada and their favourite popcorn.
Eventually everyone had to return to their home leaving the team some afternoon free time in Placetas to shop…sight see…visit.
Another late night getting back to our rooms.
Day 7 November 09 2018 Friday:
“Remedios area visitation”
After the regular morning routine, all teams visit Pastor Wilmer in Vega de Palma. Also there are three missionaries Salvador, Ishnel, and Yerandy. We all got to visit. Enjoyed a local band called, “Alpha Omega” We shared a special celebration for baby Abraham who years earlier our team then met. Abraham was so young with a heart defect that threatened his life. He could not cry. After a serious operation, he is showing improvement. He still has a way to go. So we celebrate how God is continuing to keep him.
Next we traveled to Remedios to visit Pastor Jorge’s mother-in-law Angela who has been battling cancer. She has being an angel taking care of others while a nurse and her own mother until her mother died at the age of 90plus years. Now she spends most of her time with chemo and radiation treatments. While there we had an opportunity to visit with Pastor Jorge and his wife Sadys.
Returning to Placetas the team got some down time swimming at Osvaldo’s home. Sharing many stories. Everyone said they had a good experience. Some were having a hard time going home. Some have found very close friends in Cuba.
Day 8 November 10 2018 Saturday:
All continue according to plan. With most all of our stuff gone there was little left. It was easy just to put our carry on into our suitcases with some hockey bags we used originally for carrying the Humanitarian things. The hockey bags can carry more stuff because the bags are strong and light. They can easily carry 50 lbs. The only down side is they are oversized.
Aside from a few bumps along the way home, we are all thankful, to be home, safe and sound.
Plans are now in the works for Spring of 2019, Lord willing.
Our mission trip was to Encourage, Equip, and to Evaluate. I believe we were successful by God’s grace.
Everyone on the team this trip have my admiration and respect for their willingness to glorify God, through their self-less service, sharing their time, talents and abilities demonstrating that they are indeed, true soldiers of the Cross.
May God abundantly bless his people.
Respectfully submitted
Walter Jakimczuk