A Historic Relationship of Mutual Growth

A Letter from Jo Ella Holman, based in the Dominican Republic, serving as World Mission’s regional liaison for the Caribbean Region

Summer 2018

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Dear friends,

I have made two trips to Cuba already this year. In late January, I traveled with our Co-Moderator of the PC(USA), the Rev. Denise Anderson, to attend the annual Synod meeting of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba (IPRC). The Synod considered and unanimously approved the new Mutual Mission agreement between our two denominations. Rev. Anderson spoke to the importance of the historic relationship between our two churches, dating from the 1890’s, and the new agreement as part of our ongoing walk together.

The agreement highlights our common grounding and heritage as part of the body of Christ and calls our two churches to work together in important ways in this new moment in the world with its many challenges, including environmental challenges, issues of racism and poverty in each of our contexts, and the need for reconciliation between our peoples and governments as well as ways we can continue to walk together in partnership. Our own General Assembly approved this new Mutual Mission agreement in St. Louis in June. You can read the new Mutual Mission agreement as well as the study we did together as churches, Un Nuevo Momento, at our Cuba Partners Network website site, cubapartnersnetwork.org.

In May, I returned to Cuba. Traveling with Ary Fernandez, current Moderator of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, General Secretary Rev. Edelberto Valdes, and PC(USA) Communications staff, the Rev. Jerry Van Marter and Mr. Randy Hobson, we covered almost 2000 km in a bus in the eastern part of Cuba! In all, we visited seven “mission” churches of the IPRC, five of which are outside the bounds of the established presbyteries. The current boundaries of the eastern-most presbytery, El Centro, extends through Sancti Spiritus. The mission churches extend to past Holguin, almost to the eastern end of the island. Each small congregation has its own distinctive “flavor” of church. In Sancti Spiritus, a fantastic music ministry brought in children in a marginal city neighborhood to learn singing, dance, and guitar. Another, in a rural area, met on the back porch of an elder’s home where 30 people gathered for worship and were engaged in feeding hungry neighbors. A city congregation brought in young professionals who are trying to discern their gifts to offer to their community.

In each place, we held worship, celebrated the Lord’s Supper, talked about what their dreams and hopes are, and shared refreshments. All of the members present talked about their dream of a fully-organized congregation with a pastor and making differences in the lives of their communities through beginning or expanding service activities. Three adults were baptized, and seven new members were admitted onto the rolls of the IPRC!

It was an inspiring, amazing adventure, and I feel so privileged to have been along for the ride. You can find several stories written by Jerry Van Marter about these churches and their people posted in Presbyterian News Service in the month of May. Share this good news with your congregations! God is at work in mighty ways through the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba.

Please keep these small, but thriving, congregations in Cuba in your prayers: may they grow in numbers and maturity. Remember also the leadership of the Cuban church as they seek to lead their church in another difficult time of transitions. Pray for the many congregational, presbytery and synod partnerships between our two denominations: may they share their lives and ministries together in new ways to meet today’s challenges.

Thank you, friends, for your prayers for me and my ministry in the Caribbean. It would not be possible for me and other mission co-workers from our church to serve without your prayers and generous financial support. I am grateful for your friendship and partnership in this ministry.

May God continue to bless you!

Jo Ella


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