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David Cortes and Josey Saez

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Mission Co-workers serving in Cuba
Serving at the invitation of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba

Contact: David Cortes
(david.cortes-fuentes@pcusa.org)
Contact: Josey Saez
(josefina.saez-acevedo@pcusa.org)

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David and Josey will be in the U.S. from mid-June to early September, 2017, and available to visit congregations. Email them to learn about their schedule and invite them to visit your ministry.

About David and Josey’s ministry
The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba, prepares ministers for Cuban churches, including the longtime PC(USA) partner church, the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba. Not enough Cuban professors are available to meet the demand for seminary instruction, so the seminary has invited David Cortes-Fuentes to teach New Testament and Greek. Josefina Saez-Acevedo is looking forward to using her experience in Christian education and ministry to further their work in Cuba. The Evangelical Theological Seminary was founded in 1946 by Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopal churches. In addition to offering the basic degree for those called to pastoral ministry, it also offers BA programs in Christian education, Bible and Theology, and Christian Service for lay leadership training. Two Master´s degree programs area also offered.

Country context
The opening of the US embassy in Havana and the Cuba embassy in Washington in July 2015 signaled a new day for US/Cuba relationships and hopefully opens the door for even more partnership opportunities between Presbyterians in Cuba and the US. The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1960 at the height of Cold War tensions. However, the lack of a diplomatic relationship between the two countries never severed the bonds of friendship between US and Cuban Presbyterians. Presbyterians began working in Cuba in 1890, and until the Cuban revolution in 1959, Presbyterians in Cuba were part of the Synod of New Jersey of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, a PC(USA) predecessor denomination.  In 1967 the Presbyterian- Reformed Church in Cuba was established as an autonomous denomination.  Despite the icy relationship between the US and Cuban governments, several US Presbyterian congregations and presbyteries developed partnerships with counterparts in post-revolution Cuba. The 15,000 member Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba ministers among a population of 11 million. Most Cubans are Roman Catholic, but only a small minority attends mass. State-sponsored atheism took its toll on religious life in Cuba in the decades following the revolution, but beginning in the 1990s restrictions on religious activities have been eased.

About David and Josey
David and Josey sense a strong call to help people gain a deeper understanding of Christ.

“Our earliest memories of our sense of call to ministry have been in the area of education,” says David. He has about a decade of experience teaching seminary students, while Josey has spent nearly a dozen years as a Christian educator in congregations. David says they go to Cuba seeking to “engage, equip and inform church leaders in ministry grounded in a healthy biblical and theological foundation.”

David and Josey grew up in Puerto Rico and began their higher education studies there. It’s a background they hope will help them as they begin work in Cuba. “Our sense of call to Cuba gives us the opportunity of teaching and learning together in a setting of cultural and ethnic affinities we share in common,” Josey says.

They also feel a kinship with Cuba through people they have known. “Our many Cuban friends and mentors,” David explains, “have given us a sense of being in touch with some of the realities of the Cuban people in Cuba and in the United States.”

David and Josey say their work in Cuba will be guided by a sense of purpose they find in 1 Peter 3:15, which says: “but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” They want their teaching and equipping to “enable leaders to fulfill the charge” found in the verse, David says.

The couple is optimistic about the future of the Cuban church.  “The new openings of opportunities that have been emerging in the church and the country of Cuba has given to many a new emergence of hope for the future,” Josey observes. “We hope to be part of that hope.”

Prior to entering mission service, David served for four years as pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana Emmanuel in Claremont, California. From 2000 to 2009, he was director of academic services and associate professor of New Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary’s Southern California campus. He also has been director of the Hispanic Ministries Program at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and pastor of Ceiba Baja Presbyterian Church in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

David earned a BA degree from the University of Puerto Rico, an MDiv from the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, a Th.M. from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, and a PhD from Northwestern University/Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

Josey comes to mission service after serving for seven years as director of children’s ministry at La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church in La Verne, California. From 2003 to 2007, she was interim director of Christian education for children and family ministry at Claremont Presbyterian Church in Claremont, California. She also has worked as a database manager, a college admissions office assistant, and a preschool teacher.

Josey received an A.A. degree from the University of Puerto Rico and did additional study at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California, and San Francisco Theological Seminary.