To listen to an audio version of this post, visit www.covenantchurch.ca/podcasts/covenant-weekly
Hey there, Covenant family. I pray that wherever you find yourself today, you will feel or at least know that our loving God is present with you. Today we’re talking about a brand new and developing ministry connection for Covenant Church. It is a global ministry building on past work that has seen youth teams go to Nicaragua. And has seen us sponsor refugees from the Middle East. Today, I’m going to share about our desire to connect with a church in Santa Clara, Cuba. That is our topic for this Covenant Weekly for January 23, 2024.
Back in November Letitia Jefkins and I participated in a learning trip to Cuba to meet with some of our Be In Christ brothers and sisters. Hermanos en Cristo en Cuba as the denomination is called in Cuba is a family of over 100 small churches that stretches across the island nation. And to them, this idea of being family in Christ is really important. When we were there we were embraced in this way.
I’m not going to rehearse all of the details about this learning tour. We shared at a Coffee and Conversation gathering and I’ve already posted on our blog about this. (You can find the post at www.covenantchurch.ca/blog. The slides we shared as a part of the Coffee & Conversation Gathering are there to view.) Today I’m going to briefly share what our thoughts are moving forward.
- We are prioritizing a relationship with one church on the outskirts of Santa Clara, Cuba. Casa de Farez is a church led by Isbel and Maday. We had the privilege of staying with them and meeting their family, several other leaders at the church, and participating in a special church gathering while we were there.
- The purpose of the relationship we are pursuing is not primarily for us to provide aid and assistance to people there (although they do need aid and assistance right now). There are three things we would like to see happen in this relationship:
- Mutual Encouragement - Our prayer is that both Covenant and Casa de Fares will be encouraged as we get to know each other more and cheer each other on in kingdom service in our unique contexts.
- Shared Learning - As we interact with each other, we want to be open to learning from each other. Discerning how to understand the Jesus way. Learning about different ways God might be leading. Learning about things maybe we’ve forgotten along the way. Learning about issues we have never been aware of or have been able to ignore.
- Practical Service - We want to serve each other and be served. Because we have greater freedom for travel and greater access to resources there will hopefully be lots of ways that we can be of practical service to them. Over time, we would like to find ways that they can be of practical service to us, too.
What does this look like in the near future and for the long term? The most honest answer is that we don’t know for sure. But we do have some ideas and are looking to make some plans. Here are some of the things we’re talking about and dreaming about.
- We are planning to take small groups of people to Santa Clara to build relationships with people at the church there beyond Jon and Letitia. In my dreams, it would be great to see a small group of people go there once per year - maybe in the fall - to take some practical resources and build relationships with them. These trips wouldn’t be pampered vacations! I can tell you from experience that they would love to host us in their humble homes where the comforts we are used to aren’t paramount, but gracious service is boldly on display.
- We are praying and dreaming about some of our youth participating in visiting Cuba. We would love to have youth as a part of our regular teams, but Hermanos en Cristo en Cuba has a strong emphasis on youth/young adults in Cuba. Before Covid, they ran bi-annual youth events at the church and national training centre in Palmira (about an hour away from Santa Clara). When those restart, we would love to take some mature youth and young adults to participate in that event alongside the Cuban youth and young adults.
- We may be able to help with building projects. The church in Santa Clara has some long-term dreams regarding their facility. The work they do on their building is still largely done by volunteers. We may be able to help fund those dreams and send people to work alongside them to physically build them.
- As relationships are built, we would like to receive and share regular updates - both for ministry and personal updates. Their most common way of communicating is through WhatsApp and that is a resource we can use to remain in regular dialogue with people we come to know and love there.
- We could be the conduit for resources for people we get to know. If Covenant people are travelling through Santa Clara on vacation, we can send resources for the church to use in their ministry there. We wouldn’t put this expectation on anyone who wasn’t comfortable doing it. But if you were going and wanted to participate in this way, it’s something that we could help facilitate!
- Long term, we would love to be able to host some people from Santa Clara. This is a much bigger challenge because of the limitations the Cuban government has on travellers, but this would be an exciting way for them to get to know us! I’ve joked that we could host a group of Cuban young people in February so that they could engage in the ministry of snow shovelling!
So how could you get involved right away?
- Provide resources that will go to Santa Clara in February. Thanks to some overwhelming generosity, my family will be making a trip to Cuba leaving on February 18 and getting back on February 25. We’ll be spending a few days in Santa Clara before getting a ride up to the north coast to stay at a resort for a few days. I’m excited for my family to meet Isbel, Maday, their family, and other friends I made at the church in Santa Clara. And I’m excited for them to meet Angie, Micah, and Josiah! When we go, we want to take resources to give them. Any help you can give to provide these things would be great!
- Bibles - They shared this as a need when we were there in November. We’d love to take a pile of Bibles, but need to keep things consistent. Here is an Amazon link to a translation of paperback Bibles that we’d like to take. You can buy the Bibles yourself and get them to Jon and Angie before February 11 or you can give Jon and Angie some money and they’ll purchase the Bibles directly. If we get more Bibles than we can take on this trip, they’ll get taken on a future trip!
- Personal Items - Several personal items are hard to come by in Cuba. We can’t take everything so we’d like to prioritize over-the-counter medications and related items. Things like: Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, antihistamines, antacids, antibacterial ointment, bandages, sterile gauze pads, etc. We’d want all those items to be new and unopened. We may be able to fill this bag out with other personal items and some kids/youth clothes to wrap things in, but we may not be able to take everything people want to send.
- A video projector - This is a long shot, but if someone has a good quality used projector that they would like to donate, the church in Santa Clara would love to get one to show Christian movies for their community - particularly for kids.
- Another way you could get involved is to be a part of a team that will take the lead in helping us build this relationship. We need people to join Letitia and me in getting excited about this, planning teams to go visit, and discerning what practical ways we can serve our Cuban siblings. It would be especially exciting to have Spanish speakers join this team! My ideal would be to see a group band together to support or even be a team of people to go to Santa Clara this fall.
- A third way to get involved is to give financially. Our “Global” fund will be used to support this new ministry and help trips and resources get to our church family in Cuba to support and encourage them.
- Finally, a fourth way would be to pray for this ministry and to pray for the church in Santa Clara. They are underresourced and in very challenging circumstances. The US policies against Cuba have been harsher over the past few years than at any point since the early 60’s. As a result, income is dropping, expenses and inflation are rising, and it is impacting everything from medical supplies to gas to food. Even food they grow themselves often isn’t making it to the people who need it because gas shortages don’t allow it to be transported. The Cuban people are resilient, but millions of young people have risked their lives to flee the country because they feel there is no hope if they stay. Those who do stay often feel this hopelessness, but can’t escape their situation. All of these things impact the church, the church members, and the ability of the church to serve their community. Please pray for our Hermanos en Cristo en Cuba family.
Thanks for bearing with me as I share about something that I have become passionate about. I look forward to seeing where God may lead us in this relationship. If you want more information or want to meet for a coffee to see pictures and to hear me talk about this for a couple of hours, please let me know! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’d appreciate your prayers for my family as we go to visit our brothers and sisters in Santa Clara in a little less than a month.
God is at work in our lives, in our community, and around the world. It is exciting that we get to participate in answering the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”