A First Timer’s View of Cuba

A First Timer’s View of Cuba

by Emily Eberle

Cuba 1My husband, Mark, and I had never been to Cuba before May 16 of this year. What a treat we had in store. When we arrived at the Cuba airport, we were amazed at the very long lines of people waiting to answer all sorts of questions. Just ahead of us in line was a man from Miami. His wife and 24- year-old daughter lived in Cuba. He had not seen them in eight years as he had not returned to his homeland during that time. He was telling us how excited he was to be able to see his loved ones after so long a time. When Mark and I exited the airport to the throngs of people waiting to pick up loved ones and friends, we passed by the same man again. He stopped us and proudly introduced us to his wife and daughter. He had tears in his eyes, and so did we.

We drove through lffush green mountains from Havana to arrive in Varadero, and the Dora E Valentin (DEV) Presbyterian Reformed Church, which was to be our home for the next five days. The next day was a Saturday. We were supposed to attend a baseball game played by the youth from the area, but torrential rains prevented the game from being played. We had taken baseball bats, baseballs, soccer balls and pumps to give to the teenagers. A couple of nights later, we met these youngsters in one of the 10,000 home churches that exist in Cuba. We experienced a beautiful worship service in this modest home. A young woman who had her master’s degree in English and worked for a Canadian company translated so we Americans could understand. At the end of the service, we presented the young men with the bats and balls. We were told that they could really use a couple of catcher’s masks so if we ever go again, we’ll be sure to take catcher’s equipment. The session of the church utilizes sports as a means to engage young people in the church. We thought that was a clever way to reach the teenagers.

We later discovered that there are very few men who participate in worship in Cuba. We learned that both the church and seminary that we visited, are trying to find ways to engage men in the church. Even the session of the DEV Church is currently comprised mostly of women.

The Sunday church service was special indeed. To start, the children’s Sunday School was as well organized as any children’s Sunday School anywhere, then the beautiful church service touched my heart and soul with the love of Christ in ways hard to explain. It was a deep love of Jesus that was constantly being expressed.

Cuba 2Another meaningful experience was visiting the pastor, his wife and young daughter at the Juan G. Hall Presbyterian Reformed Church in nearby Cardenas. The pastor’s wife had broken her leg, but had no crutches and was forced to navigate with only one cane. We told the pastor and the session of the DEV Church about Andrew’s Purse, a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Association, and their distribution of wheelchairs. We explained if the Billy Graham Association were contacted, they would likely attempt to bring wheelchairs to Cuba.

One day, we visited the Presbyterian Women of the DEV Church. We gave them pocket prayer shawls made by the women of FPC, Nashville, and a prayer cloth from one of our children’s Sunday School classes. Each person there including the nine folks on the FPC team was asked to introduce themselves and tell their favorite Bible verse. I loved hearing each person’s involvement with the church and their favorite Bible verse. Most of them emphasized how much Jesus loved them. As we were leaving, one of the Cuban ladies asked to speak with me. I did not understand Spanish, but fortunately, Andrew Winstead, team member from First Presbyterian Church, Houston, and the grandson of Amos Wilson, did, and he translated. This lady asked me to call her son who lives in Miami and ask him to send her a picture of her granddaughter whom she had never met. This, too, brought tears to my eyes…

Read more of this article on the missions page here.

Mark Eberle, Wayne Pelaez, Randy Pelaez, Sandra Randleman, Pam Shampain, Mike Shampain, Amos Wilson and Andrew Winstead


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