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Our Stories: Expanding Aprende Más and Facing Hardships

Cuba has captured my heart; I love the people and their huge hearts, and I want to continue helping the Christian ministry there with Proclaim Cuba and ELNAC as long as God allows me to do so.

I just returned from my fifth trip to Cuba in a little over a year’s time. The first trip was a small group tour of Western Cuba that had nothing to do with the ministry, but God called me during that trip to help the Cuban people. I found Proclaim Cuba, went on my first mission trip just a short time afterwards, and then started taking solo trips to help with the children’s programs.

My other mission trips were in the Havana area, but my most recent trip took me to Camaguey to participate in a national conference of children’s directors. This area of Cuba, far from the tourist areas around Havana, currently suffers from blackouts that last up to 15 hours a day. While I was there, the government turned the power off at 6 a.m. and didn’t turn it back on until as late as 9 p.m. The temperature soared to the 90s in March, students went to school in the dark without fans, and people tried to get their work done without power.

Along with the blackouts, Cubans struggle every day with food and medicine shortages, but even with the difficult circumstances, our Christian friends there continue to work hard with children’s programs, medical ministries, and sharing the hope that God provides.

Food is expensive in comparison to the average Cuban salary, and certain food items can be hard to find. Some of my ministry friends decided to make sandwiches for dinner on my last evening in Camaguey, and even with a vehicle for transportation (a luxury for most people), it took all afternoon to find all the items we wanted for our dinner. And then we had to wait for the power to turn on at 9 p.m. to make the meal.

But my Cuban friends didn’t complain; they just laughed. And that is one reason why I love them so much. Even with difficult circumstances, they find joy and are grateful for all that God provides. Because of their faith, I am inspired to work harder, complain less, and be more grateful for His blessings.

I felt honored to participate in the national teachers conference. About 100 children’s ministers traveled to Camaguey from all over Cuba to attend the conference, where they worshiped together, were encouraged in their work, and were introduced to the Aprendo Mas Saturday school project. The goal of Pastor Carlos Alamino (president of ELNAC) is to eventually have Aprendo Mas in all ELNAC member churches.

So what is Aprendo Mas? Early in his ministry, Pastor Alamino and his wife taught children about God during Saturday programs. More recently, the Aprendo Mas program was started in Havana by a pastor’s wife (and dear friend) Yaima. She has grown the program, and it has spread to several other churches in her area. The program tutors elementary school children in the subjects they learn in public school, feeds them breakfast, and teaches them about God through Bible lessons and music.

I’ve been blessed to see the work Yaima is doing through the schools and to see the joy on the children’s faces. Schools in Cuba suffer from a lack of basic supplies and teacher shortages, so the Aprendo Mas is a place where the children can learn in a fun environment with teachers who truly love them and encourage them.

The Aprendo Mas program is a great outreach to children, but it has also been introducing parents and grandparents to God’s love, and Yaima’s church has witnessed mothers and grandmothers being saved and baptized.

Most of my mission to Cuba has been supplying Aprendo Mas with supplies such as notebooks, pencils, markers, scissors, glue, and everything else our U.S. students and teachers use regularly. These items are treasures in Cuba since they are very difficult or impossible to find in Cuban stores.

I will be returning to Camaguey soon to bring supplies for the next three schools that ELNAC will be starting for the 2024/25 school year in the Camaguey and Las Tunas areas. I own a small store in Virginia, and I’ve been blessed to have customers and friends donate much of the necessary supplies for the schools by bringing them to my store. My prayer is that I can continue to bring supplies as more Aprendo Mas schools are started around Cuba.

In addition to attending the teachers conference during my last trip, I was able to observe the medical ministries that doctors and church members brought to small churches in poor communities. Children were able to participate in fun, special programs while the adults sought medical care. I always love bringing gifts and candy for the children, so I was blessed to be able to share this joy with them.

I’m looking forward to my sixth trip to Cuba, and I’ll have two friends coming with me with their suitcases packed full of school supplies. I hope they feel as blessed as I do to be a part of this amazing ministry in Cuba.

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