... and other stories from Summer Ministries 2015
As the wheels touched down, the plane burst into an explosion of cheering and clapping. Last year, this was an unexpected phenomenon for our family. This year, it was a welcoming herald that were back in our beloved Cuba. As we looked around the cabin, many passengers were weeping tears of joy, their hearts dancing in anticipation of seeing the loved ones they had been separated from for decades. For us, there was also anticipation for the great adventure that God was preparing on this mysteriously beautiful island nation just 90 miles off the southern coast of Florida.
The Pino family was once again blessed to participate in the summer ministries programs of Empoderando Las Naciones (Empowering the Nations). This year we had the opportunity to bring along dear friends who had never been to Cuba. Our friends, along with their two adult children, did not know what to expect. While only 90 miles from the U.S., we might as well have been 10,000 miles away. Cuba is a spectacularly beautiful land in ruin with equally beautiful people, both inside and out; however, it lacks in the very basic infrastructures and a stable economy. The needs are obvious at every turn. Cubans are very industrious and make due with very limited resources.
Our mission for this trip was twofold. First, we were tasked with helping to support Vacation Bible School. Anyone whose ever been to VBS knows that one of the highlights of the day is craft time. Our team had worked for months planning, ordering, packaging, and transporting the materials for these crafts. More children attended this year than ever before. We had 425 children each day and left enough supplies to support a total of 1,000 children to be served in subsequent VBS that are going on as we speak across Cuba. Our second mission was to assist in the first-ever youth camp. Prior to this year, VBS consisted of children ages 2 to 16 or so. Last year, we found that the 12-16 year olds were not being reached effectively through this approach. We proposed separating this age group and creating a new event for them. So, while the morning consisted of VBS, the afternoon was filled with music, Bible lessons, sports competitions and dancing. Yes, DANCING! One of our team members had worked for a Christian camp in the U.S. and knew these great line dances set to Christian rap. The young people loved it! By the end of the week the whole group was dancing and enjoying themselves. We had over 280 young people for the first youth camp. For many, this was their first taste of church and Christianity. Many gave their lives to Christ during this week.
At the end of week, through the falling raindrops and teardrops, our van drove out of the encampment to the cheers and well wishes of the many kids who had been touched that week. Yes, there was much dancing that week, but nothing could match the dancing of our hearts in that moment!