A Story to Share – Reflections on Cuba by Sherri Turner

Leading up to my trip to Cuba, I had many misconceptions. I thought American’s were hated and despised, and I feared that I may not return home safely. Additionally, I believed Cuba was a very poor country.

Upon my arrival to Cuba, I realized I was shamefully mistaken. My group was received with welcoming arms. The Cuban people seem to be invigorated by our presence. Not only that, I found the country to be in state of sustainability in culture, history, etc.

While there, we had the opportunity to meet with church leaders, seminary students, local members, etc. These interactions echoed a hope amidst struggles.

The Cuban church spoke of similar sentiments about the US church. How do we become self-sustaining in a world where the historical climate is changing? Additionally, questions arose about changes occurring such as the subsiding embargo. How do we maintain our history and culture in light of the pressure to assimilate to another country’s culture?

Ultimately, I found their deepest hope was in the reconciliation of Cuba and the United States.  As we sat and listened in dialogue, I found that we became active participants in building a relationship with the Cuban church and with it future leaders.

The trip showed me God is alive and well in the life of Cuban church and with its people. Also, all of my misconceptions were laid to rest. I see Cuba as place of history, culture, people and love. This fact became more evident in the presence of the Cuban church.

I do know that ten days is not enough time draw a grander picture of Cuban people and church. But the time I was there allotted me the opportunity to see the lives of people as inspiration of healing and hope. That is a story I can continually share.

Unpacking the Dominican Republic

We’ve been back in the states for about 5 weeks and there’s still so much to unpack- metaphorically that is. I wanted to share a few of my ‘souvenirs’ of some of the ways I’ve been impacted from the experience with you.

‘God, show me what you want me to see; open my eyes to your presence that surrounds.’  -This was our prayer for the week along with a challenge to get close to God so as to leave the DR closer to God than when we arrived.

And He did answer prayers and bring openness through the nearness of experiencing His presence more fully and deeply.

Through our devotions and teaching for the week, we were reminded of the importance of our orientation to the vast and majestic God of the Universe. Where are our hearts turned and upon what are our eyes fixed? A daily turning and opening up of our posture towards this loving Father is absolutely necessary for our realignment yet it’s all enabled by grace anyway of the one who pursues us first.

He showed me His abundance through the vibrant faith of his people.  God is working in this beautiful country amidst a passionate people who live in visible and vocal daily dependence on God. The testimonies of His people that we heard tell of how they were following His voice even in the midst of intense suffering, and to places of difficulty.  An American missionary woman, Dana, shared with us when we went to visit her school that she heard the call from God to start up this school for deaf children in her seventies; she said yes to God. The tear-jerking stories that she told us of children who were literally chained up, had absolutely nothing, little ones who’d been abused and outcast because of their disability – mute and deaf- were absolutely horrendous.  BUT their story doesn’t end there. She went out, found them and brought them in to the refuge of this school. There are about 20 children receiving education because of this school.  Additionally, God, who sees them, loves them and provides, is healing their lives.  Isaiah 61 rang in my heart during this visit to the school, seeing the fruition of the mute speaking, in finding their voice so as to communicate and connect with other human beings. Love has no language barrier. Stories like this one were especially powerful for me.

I got to see students studying communication disorders and Spanish come alive as they leaned into their giftedness to be agents of restoration by breaking down communication barriers with deaf Spanish speaking children in order that they may know connection. These students were also gifts to our team as we relied on them to help facilitate communication with the children we visited throughout our time in the surrounding Hato Mayor area.

One big muscle that we were prepared to exercise in all aspects of the trip was flexibility. Man can lay plans but God ultimately works out His plans in our life and they are far superior to anything we could begin to facilitate. For example, part of our team had planned to put up a roof to expand church space, but when it was met with local resistance, spent more time showing God’s love to the children of the village. Flexibility was emphasized to us before and during the trip, especially as cultural norms more readily dictate this reality and the need to flex the flexibility muscle as plans continually change.  There is a deeper level of surrender that happens in yielding to the will of a Sovereign God even and especially in the daily, details of life.

Living in continual surrender has made an imprint upon my heart, which brings greater peace and a deeper level of trust in a good God whose plans are good, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. Since being back in the states, I’ve been able to practice this in tangible situations where what I want hasn’t happened, but I’ve been able to yield to those realities, trusting that God has greater purposes than what I can begin to comprehend and simply say yes to the Lord and move forward.

Emily Zeh

Missional Formation – Cuba Reflections

This is what I experienced during my 10 day trip to Cuba…

I saw… blue skies… clear waters… colorful buildings… trash littering the streets… propaganda… children playing with broken toys… tourists… contrast… paradox… people on every park bench… children playing baseball in alleyways… love… community… fellowship… family… churches engaged in their community… enthusiasm… seniors doing aerobics… people getting clean water… alcoholics receiving support… helpers at every meal… children running to come to church… Shalom

I felt… the sun… sweaty… like I stuck out like a sore thumb… disoriented… unable to communicate… like I had nothing to offer… discouraged… limited… confused… privileged… the warm handshake of a new friend… inspired… the embrace of a child… loved in community… affirmed… free to be who I am… joy… healed… like I was exactly where I was supposed to be

I learned… that I had many misconceptions about Cuba… that the people of Cuba and America are not so different… that nothing takes the place of showing up and listening to people’s stories… that my presence speaks louder than my words… that children are the same everywhere… that it can be harder to be a faithful Christian in a consumeristic society than a socialistic society… and that I have a lot to learn from my brothers and sisters in Cuba and around the world

Jeff Song

slow… gradual… patient… change

I was in contemplation the other day when it hit me that for a long time I have read books, went to church services, and had many conversations about how to change things about who I am. To try to be a better christian. A better american. A better human. To take some truth and try to “apply” it to my life.  As much as I believe a particular truth and want to fit it into the way I live my life, I usually end up forgetting about it the next day until I am lying in bed and realize that I didn’t fit it into my day at all. I go about my day doing what I’ve always done. Doing what is familiar to me. Doing what I know. The pace of my day doesn’t afford me the opportunity (maybe my brain is just really slow) to  stop and asses how I am using newly learned practices that are usually almost to abstract for me to grasp in the first place. 

So I often find myself frustrated by my inability to insert practices into my life that I believe to be life giving and holistic. Our readings and conversations throughout WCD have been rich, challenging and refreshing. Although to often I find myself doing the same things that I have always done, and I ask myself why it’s so hard for me to change my thinking and my life practices. However, in my contemplation, God has been showing me this truth, that new enlightenments are never easy to just  “apply” to our lives as though we have known them for a thousand years. We can’t just force them into our daily routine and expect them to fit. At least I can’t. As I continue that conversation with my maker, and as I continue to look deeper into my true nature and the nature of God, I begin to see a change in my thinking. 

Slowly, gradually my view of life and spirituality shifts a little bit. As I begin to really KNOW those truths, they go beyond memory or intellect. They seep into my soul and become a part of me without my knowing or trying, and if they become a part of me then the only thing I need to be day to day is…simply me. This is how God transforms us, by the renewing of our minds and hearts. Again my view of the nature of God and how he works is fundamentally challenged through such a simple truth as this. Little by little, as we listen and wait, we become who God intended us to be. Often we are unable to measure this change except for when we look back at who we were years ago and we realize how far we’ve come by the grace of God. We realize how many truths he has taught us and how it has effected and changed our lives. I am reminded to be patient with myself. I can change, but it’s going to take some time to grow. Immersed in the soil that is relationship with my maker, I can trust and be patient. I do not control how fast I grow.

Justin

(the quiet place)

From a young age I have known my soul.

And she has accompanied me through many wildernesses.

 

Sometimes I forget her.

And my being becomes void.

 

In these months

She has become the rhythm of my body.

In my shadow, my steps, my failures, and my truth.

 

She was my safe place of solitude in my depression

A comfort in the pain and the silent night watch.

 

She is clothed with strength.

Surrounded by courage.

And feels from a deep place.

 

Her undoing’s and her impoverished thoughts

Are not her definition.

But rather,

What defines her is the open calm of a realized possibly.

 

In this simple truth her peace is found.

She is all that she is.

And she is ENOUGH.

 

-elya showalter

inside of my wounds.

The things

that lay inside the relative

disaster of humanity.

That bring forth growth,

strength,

out of the desert place.

Of lonely souls,

Wasting away in fear.

What is the power

 of finding a voice with to worship.

As you stand at the feet of your Maker.

Broken.

Humble.

Saved.

Gaining the knowledge of what it is like to feel the earth move.

And resolve to witness the miracles of everyday living.

To not stand in silence.

or if you stand in silence

That even the silence speaks.

A groaning,

A longing,

A depth.

That many will never let go.

To simply trust that the bottom shall be found

and will settle beneath your feet

As I raise your body,

enlighten your mind.

And you learn to exist inside of my wounds.

This is not the answer to pain, for there is none to be found.

Child

Go and walk in the mountains of men.

And see what you shall find

For there I will be.  

 

– Elya

mindfulness, spiritual knowledge and true ardor…

How to kick butt in spiritual terms:

  • against forgetfulness: mindfulness of God (the cause of all blessings)
  • against ignorance: spiritual knowledge (awakens the soul)
  • against laziness: ardor (which makes the soul eager for salvation)

Check out Mark the Monk for more info!

<3 Bekah