Visiting Grandparent Project
Fraternity board members
Hola from San José de las Lajas, Cuba,
The 2012 Summer Olympics have begun, and here in Cuba we’re watching along with the rest of the world. I hopped out of the car just in time to watch the countdown of the opening ceremonies, and then was whisked away for the next activity on my schedule. Even while some things here seem so familiar, like the Olympics, other things remind me I’m in unfamiliar territory.
Check-in at Sky King and the waiting area for my flight out of Miami was a mix of the familiar mixed with new. These flights take not one, but 4 check-ins before you go through security (familiar). Once through airport security, I found myself to be the only “yuma”, or non-Cuban foreigner, waiting for the flights that morning (unfamiliar). I was also just about the only female not wearing 3 to 5-inch heels on my feet (unfamiliar). Based on what I saw on the plane, I fully expected to see women here in Havana wearing the same, but it turns out instead they were wearing fishnets! Well, let me rephrase that, the women who wear uniforms use fishnet stockings. It’s a bit bizarre to get off the plane and see all the female airport officials in full uniform complete with fishnets. I later asked and apparently sometime after the fall of the Soviet block, nylons pretty much disappeared from the market, and women have been wearing fishnets ever since. The tall heels seem to be the fashion for many U.S. Cubans who are returning to the island for a visit.
So beyond the familiar and the new, it’s been an incredibly busy first 8 days of this trip. I have been with the good people of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches, and these first few days have coincided with a visit from a group from the Southeast PA conference of the United Church of Christ. We’ve visited 10 or 11 churches and some of their ministries. I’ve translated quite a bit although the Havana accent is taking some getting used to. I’ve preached some. I’ve also had countless meetings with Fraternity folks in the van as we’ve travelled from church to church. I’m inspired by the vision and creative problem solving I see in the churches and the leadership here. They have in the fullest sense found non-traditional ways to be holistic in their work with communities and individuals.
Yesterday I went to a farm where members grow food for a meal program for “grandparents”. Last night, in the middle of a boiling hot church building I heard one of the most gifted vocal quartets I have ever listened to. They are students in a music training ministry run by the church. In our visits we have travelled past some of the most beautiful places in Cuba, and have been warmly received into homes and hearts.
Today I said my farewells to the UCC group and to my Fraternity host, and tomorrow morning I will depart by bus to the east. There I’ll continue to visit Fraternity churches and projects. I’m hoping for a chance to post again in another week, but from here on out internet connections may be unavailable.
Thanks for your continued prayers. Please continue to pray for continued health, energy, and safe travels. Also pray for the Fraternity in all that they dream and aspire to.