A Letter from David Cortes and Josey Saez, formerly serving in Cuba, transitioning to the Dominican Republic and the broader Caribbean region in 2019
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When we moved to Cuba in January 2016, we were thrilled about our first experience as mission co-workers. We were not invited to Cuba to change Cuba or the Cubans. We were there to bear witness to the Gospel. Little did we know that the changes and transitions we were to experience in Cuba would transform us forever. It is a well-known maxim: first impressions are important. After arriving at the Evangelical Theological Seminary (Seminario Evangélico de Teología) in Matanzas, we were welcomed by Carlos E. Ham (the rector of the seminary) and later by faculty members and several students. Our first impressions of the hospitality, friendship, faith commitment and dedication of our brothers and sisters in Cuba were very much confirmed during our time there. From the everyday living lessons we learned in Cuba, we moved deeper into understanding our shared faith. We learned about engaging a wider community of faithful Christians in ministry, finding common ground as we partnered with our brothers and sisters.
Cuba truly changed us.
Yes, our several years in Cuba partnering with the Seminario Evangélico de Teología in Matanzas, visiting more than 25 Reformed-Presbyterian churches, preaching, leading Bible studies, lecturing, engaging with church leaders and members of local congregations, getting to know the students and their struggles, and living the day-to-day struggles and joys of everyday life have been transformative. We were changed when we learned about their faith, their commitment, their inventiveness, their dedication and their hard work. We experienced their hospitality and learned about sharing what one has and caring for family and neighbors. We learned about friendship. We have been changed by the Cuban church that strives in the midst of difficulties to give children and youth spaces where they can learn to worship God. We have learned what it means to be a Reformed Christian in the midst of difficult social and economic times. Cuban Christians strive to serve, learning and worshiping in everything they do.
We have been changed by the seminarians’ sense of call to ministry that is so blessed, yet so sacrificial. In addition to being full-time students at the seminary, each is required to tend local churches every weekend to engage in hands-on practical pastoral responsibilities such as visitation, Bible studies, children’s and youth gatherings, and Sunday worship. Each student prepares liturgy and sermons during the entire four years they are at the seminary. Students are also expected to participate in the life of the seminary as choir members and in many other roles. These faithful students and seminary candidates have full-time jobs even before they become full-time pastors.
How very thankful we are to the Lord and to all of you, our supporters, for walking alongside us during our four-year partnership with the people of Cuba. The gratitude we have to the Cuba Partners Network members, friends, family and the many PC(USA) siblings who have hosted us as we traveled from state to state sharing the many stories of God’s people in Cuba will forever be in our hearts.
As we conclude our fourth year as mission co-workers in Cuba, we will be transitioning to new places where we will continue our ministry engaging with our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean. As of October 1, we will begin partnering with the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana (IED) in the Dominican Republic and other sister denominations in the Caribbean.
In his role as regional theological educator and curriculum consultant for the Caribbean, David will accompany PC(USA) partners in the region as they seek to strengthen theological education. He will consult with several partner theological institutions as they assess their curricula and other factors that strengthen or challenge the preparation of pastors and lay leaders for the church. He will also facilitate connections with Caribbean and PC(USA) seminaries and other potential partners. As time permits, David will offer short courses.
Josey will partner directly with the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana, serving as a resource for Christian education for the denomination. She will work as part of a team in developing and adapting curricula — particularly curricula for children and adolescents — based on the priorities of her partners. In addition, she will be connecting the Christian Education Unit of the Iglesia Evangélica Dominicana to PC(USA) Christian educators and to other potential partners that develop Christian education materials and might provide support for strengthening IED theological instruction and libraries.
As we transition to these new ministries, it is our joy that we will continue our partnership relationship with the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cuba, as well as other theological institutions and the church in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. We have most certainly been challenged and changed for the better as we experienced life alongside the people and the church in Cuba. It is our prayer that our new experience may be one of blessing for us, the Evangelical Dominican Church and others throughout the Caribbean. As we received encouragement and support from family, friends and churches when we served with the people of Cuba, we invite you to continue praying and supporting us in this new chapter of our ministry.
Please remember us in your prayers and invite us to come share with you what the Lord continues to do in what was our ministry context with the people of Cuba. Please celebrate with us this leap of faith as we move toward a ministry context with the people of the Dominican Republic and partners in the wider Caribbean region who bear witness as part of the manifestation of God’s Kingdom in this part of the world.
In Christ’s love,
David and Josey
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Tags: caribbean, cuba, dominican republic, education, Evangelical Theological Seminary, faith, growth, IPRC, learning, matanzas, partnership, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, Seminario Evangélico de Teología, seminary
Tags: David Cortes and Josey Saez
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