Just a year ago, Cuba was a mystery to me. Old cars and cigars were all I knew about the country. I didn’t even know where it was on the map. But one day, I decided I wanted to visit Cuba. Friends asked me why, but I didn’t have an answer, except that the trip could be an interesting adventure. I told them I would find out the reason once I got there. Little did I know that God was leading me there for a purpose.
I never intended to embrace Cuba. I’ve never been fond of tropical climates, and I’ve never met anyone from Cuba. I lived in Spain for three years more than 20 years ago, but my Spanish skills had almost disappeared. I’ve never gone on a foreign mission trip, but for some reason, God led me to Cuba. I’m amazed that the Cuban people have captured my heart with their love, their smiles, and their joy in the midst of trials. Cuba was never in my plans for my future, but God has other plans, and he is revealing those with every trip I take to this beautiful country.
I first visited Cuba in February 2023 on a 10-day tour with a small group of Americans. While visiting a state school for the arts – a place that lacked basics like toilet paper, running water in the bathroom, and even shoes for the dancers—I broke down crying. I knew at that moment that I wanted to help the Cuban people, but I didn’t know what that would entail.
After returning to my home in Virginia, I began praying about what God wanted me to do. At first, I thought I was supposed to help the arts school, since I love acting and have a daughter who has a degree in visual arts. But after more praying, God told me that He wanted me to do work in His name.
I began seeking out missionaries in Cuba, without success. After searching online, I came across Proclaim Cuba and contacted development director Andrew Wischmeyer. After a long phone call, he invited me to join a mission team from Texas to Havana just a few weeks later.
On that first mission trip, in May 2023, I brought about 150 pounds of food and personal supplies for families in need. The Texas team I joined was performing street ministry dramas, but I wasn’t a part of it because they had already rehearsed and prepared for it back at their home church. I began to doubt my reason for being in Cuba, so I prayed that God would show me His purpose.
While waiting for the first street performance to start, I began talking, in my very poor Spanish, to the children who were gathering. Soon, a little boy began picking hibiscus flowers and giving them to me, and then other children joined him, climbing fences to reach the flowers growing along the street. I had nothing to give the children but love and attention, but that was enough for them. I began to fall in love with the Cuban children.
Later, our team visited the Havana church where we had earlier put together food bags. The small, 8 ft by 15 ft church had been converted into a Saturday school called Aprendo Mas. Children who attended received a free meal, reinforcement of their public school education in a fun way, and stories and songs about God. And, most importantly, they received the love of God, shown through their teachers.
And it hit me: I wanted to help those children and that school.
I talked to Yaima Marrero Lau, the head of the school and the pastor’s wife, and asked her what she needed for the school. She started a list for me, and after I returned home, we continued to talk through WhatsApp, and the list kept growing – along with our friendship. I own a small general store, so I put the word out that I was seeking school supplies. The local newspaper wrote a wonderful, full-page article too. When I returned to Havana at the end of August 2023 on a solo trip, I was able to deliver three suitcases of school supplies for the 2023-24 season of Aprendo Mas and spent the opening day of the school year with the children. My heart was full and overflowing with love.
I also began a fundraiser to help the church with their efforts to purchase a new church building, which would allow Aprendo Mas to serve more children and the church to reach more people in their community. And I’m excited to announce that this dream was realized before Christmas 2023!
My relationship with Proclaim Cuba has grown, and I was able to host Pastor Carlos Alamino, his son, Andrew, and board member Alfie Pino in Virginia. They spoke at two churches, met with the Dean of Divinity at Regent University, and had a television interview at CBN. I’m excited to see how God uses this time in Virginia to grow the ministry.
My fourth trip back to Cuba is planned for early January to bring more school supplies, along with gifts to the children to celebrate Three Kings Day, the day the wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus. And this time I’m bringing a friend with me.
What does God have in store after this trip? I don’t know yet, but I’m excited to find out! I love the people of Cuba, and I am amazed with the growth of God’s church there!
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