by Anne Stiles
Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. -Matthew 22:37-38
At the end of March, our mission team headed to Cuba with this verse as our theme. We went with leadership talks prepared and VBS lessons planned that would encourage the people we would be working with to love God and love others.
Our trip started with a visit to a large statue of Jesus that is found in Havana. We gathered in the shadow of the statue, held hands, and prayed for our trip, the work we had planned, and the people of Cuba. The following day, our team divided up and visited two house churches where we had our first opportunity to worship with our Cuban brothers and sisters. On our way to the churches, we were able to see the beauty of the land…the colorful flowers, green grass, the sunshine, and a cool breeze. However, we also noticed all the trash, stray animals, and dilapidated buildings. When we got to the house churches, it was easy to see all the ways the churches were “lacking.” There was no worship band, no comfortable seats, no air conditioning, and no cookies from the café (although there was coffee…very strong coffee!). All of those things quickly faded away, though, as we noticed the deep love the people had for God, their enthusiasm in worshipping Him, and the joy they had in hearing His Word! They knew how to love God! They also knew how to love others. We did not leave church that morning without getting hugs and kisses from almost every single person!
The remainder of our time in Cuba was spent encouraging pastors and leaders of house churches…pouring into them so they could continue to pour into the other members of their churches, their families, and their friends. Some highlights were teaching them about the wordless book (and providing them with bracelets, pom pom caterpillars, tiny felt wordless books, etc. that they could use to share the gospel with others), sharing with them the attributes of God, worshipping with them in song, teaching them how to use a flannelgraph, and providing them with an entire flannelgraph set to use when teaching Bible stories to their children.
We also held a VBS for about 60-80 children each night. We sang songs, shared Bible stories, did crafts, and presented the gospel through the wordless book. The children were so excited about all the fun things we brought to use with them…the art supplies, face paint, bracelets, etc., but one thing that brought us joy was the way the kids prayed! Multiple kids volunteered to open and close our evenings with prayer each night, and their prayers were so sincere! One of our translators said, “They pray like adults,” and they did!
On our final day, one of the pastors said, “We don’t have anything to give you, but we give you our hearts.” We went to Cuba to encourage and love on the people there, and we did that. However, they encouraged and loved us just as much, if not more!
Many of us are looking forward to going back to Cuba in the future, and we are excited to see who joins us!