The many faces of Cuba

 As I spent time in Cuba and met many people, I was struck by how we are the same.  We all have hopes, dreams and desires of a better future.  I saw my childrens’ faces in many children there.  I kept thinking of the song From A Distance by Bette Midler.

From a distance you look like my friend,
even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
what all this fighting is for.

I hope as you scan these faces, you’ll also believe that we’re all the same made of the same stuff.

 

A wrap up “sermon” of Cuba

Just before dinner on the last night in Cuba, I was laying on a bed with all these words running through my head.  I knew that I needed to write down my thoughts at that moment.  So I wrote.  I actually didn’t reread it until I typed it here.  The words came out as if I was speaking to the folks at my home church about this experience.

Cubans.  The Cubans I met get it.  Religion – actually God – has always been intellectual for me.  I give God one hour each week – if that.  Outside of this building of St. Matthews, God takes a back seat.

The people I met are not like this.  They get it.  I am blessed that for the first time in my life I have felt God.  Nothing has ever touched me so much as having a church lay their hands on you and pray so hard that we both cried.

As Mark later said, he stood there standing in a puddle of tears as they filled up our spirit.  It was empty when we left home at 3:30 that morning heading to Cuba.

We thought life was hard.  Cubans have a philosophy: God is busy.  He will provide for us when he has time.  Our mission trip was the vehicle of God’s grace.  With us arrived the permits for them to build.

The rebar was bought two years ago because Yordi knew God would get there and he wanted to be ready.

You sent us.  You made that happen.

God touched me.  It was not intellectual.  It was emotional.  On that last night that we were in the church, I stood in the church alone and cried.  I wanted to soak in as much spirit as I could but I was lacking.  It was like standing in front of a fire hose trying to fill a cup.

The Holy Spirit brought the gift of tongues to the apostles so all would understand.  It was not words that tongues brought but feelings.  I did not know what Yordi said but I did not need a translator.  It held so much power that I felt His power through the force of Yordi’s emotions.

Pastor Yordi is a powerful man.  He picked me up on his shoulders and spun me around.  He visions how the church will look and is strong willed enough to get them all there.

But that is not his greatest strength.  It is his faith.  Yordi is not a man of the past, but instead looks to a blessed future.

He minister to a man in prison.  He knows not how the man got there.  He knows not why he was released.  Yordi knows the man found God.  Yordi knows the man found a wife and child he didn’t know he had.  Yordi knows the man looks to a blessed future.

How do we bring this home?

I could stand here and exclaim and show pictures but you won’t feel what I felt.  I cannot make God touch you.  He will come when he has time.

When we said our good byes, I said that we will see each other again but I did not know when.  The response was simple: We will see each other in heaven.

We do not look the same.
We do not speak the same.
We do not live the same way.
But we all have the same God.

We do not praise him the same.  I’m not saying better or worse, just not the same.

However, if we want the angels in heaven to look down on us and say that we’ve put our whole heart in it, we need to step it up a notch.

One hour on Sunday may keep the bogey man away but it will not do much more in terms of reaching all God’s children.

That’s the church’s motto, right?  A home for all God’s children?

It’s time to get out of the house and bring them in.  I call on you to look inside and recall when God has touched you.  Find your spiritual center.  Get there.

And if you haven’t truly felt God, step out of his house and call others to join you.  God’s love can only touch you through others.  Only by others can you feel God. 

God is all around you everyday.  When your heart is silent, it is not empty.  God is waiting for you to call others.  Be the voice you need to hear in your heart.

Amen.

Cuban religious music

One of the most immediately striking things that I’ve witnessed is how the Cubans have integrated a very lively music to their service.  Once they get a hold of a song, they add more life to it then the original source.  I listened to a few of the songs after visiting Cuba and I just couldn’t take how slow it was.  Here are some videos just to give you a taste of what I heard.  Some day I may get around to adjusting the audio quality to bring up the treble.

 

 

 

The following clip is bad video so just listen to the audio.  One evening, Mark was asking Isabelle about how the Cubans make their music.  Specifically the song “Lord I lift Your name on high”.  Two people sat down at the piano and performed the following after one quick run through on the standard slow version that most people are familiar with.  Look closely at the keyboard and you’ll see the shadows of four hands.

My devotion while in Cuba

All the members of the mission trip were asked to prepare a devotion to share.  I had a rough idea of what I was going to do, but it didn’t hit until Sunday service.  The service was in Cuban Spanish – obviously – and I did not understand most of it. 

I am used to services that are done in quiet and contained reverence.  I have not really experienced a service where God is celebrated by exploding with full life.  The service was loud.  The service was fast.  In every way the service was as reverent as any other that I have been in.  Continue reading My devotion while in Cuba

Pastor Yordi

Pete (l) and Pastor Yordi (r)

Pastor Yordi is a man who has a vision, a will to make it happen and a faith that it will happen.  I was told that the Cuban people have a philosophy of “God is busy. He will provide for me when He has time.”

Yordi bought the rebar for this project two years ago.  He was criticized for the purchase since he did not have government approval for the project.  Yordi’s response was simple: when we have the approval, there will be no rebar available.  He was right.  Approval for the project was granted the week before we arrived.  All the materials were waiting for our arrival because of his forthought.

Yordi provided some insight into his past.  His father believe in the communist/socialist way and was training him to be in the electrical or construction trade.  Yordi didn’t take that path and became a Minister.  His father was very angry and said “God stole my son.”  Yordi left all that behind him and doesn’t carry the baggage; he looks forward to a blessed future.

The Bishop asked Yordi when he will stop building.  His response is that he’s a reformer and will fix everything he sees broken.

I was also told of a story of a young man in jail.  He was sentenced to a long prison time.  The man’s mother asked Yordi to minister to him in prison.  Yordi prayed with the man every week.  The church did a collection to give him a phone card so the man could call his mother.  They prayed for him.  One day, the young man called Yordi for money to go home.  Papers came through to release the man.  Yordi never asked why the man was put in jail.  Yordi never found out how the man got out.  Yordi only cared for the man’s future.  The man has since found God.  He found a woman and child he never knew about – and married her to start the family.

Pastor Yordi is a strong man.  He lifted me up on his shoulders like a shepherd does to his sheep; and proceeded to spin me around.  This has never been done in my adult life.

We will all meet again one day.  I hope in Cuba so I can share his home with others.  Definitely in heaven.

Cuba: Introduction

I was given the chance to participate in a mission trip for an eight-person team from St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Virginia to go to a Methodist Church in Santa Clara, Cuba.  We were told that it was a little painting and some masonry work.  It turned out to be heavy work busting reinforced concrete out with hand tools.

I’m going to devote a section of my blog to writing about my experiences.  There are too many little stories that I don’t want to lose and want to share.  These are all my perspective and how I feel from a limited exposure to the people of Cuba.  I will try to post these as often as time allows.  The experience was wonderful and look forward to the day of open relationships so I can bring my family to meet Pastor Yordi’s family and the work I did.

Today, I can say that I have gone to Cuba, touched the foundation of a church so it can expand, and been touched by God in a most unexpected way.