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Cuban Welcome

A letter from Jo Ella Holman serving as Regional Liaison for the Caribbean region, based in the Dominican Republic

Advent, 2016

Write to Jo Ella Holman

Individuals: Give online to E200376 for Jo Ella Holman’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507535 for Jo Ella Holman’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery).

Dear Friends,

We don’t often have the “opportunity” to ride 2,000 kilometers in a 1980s, old yellow school bus. But that was what I did in October, in Cuba, with 14 new friends and 4 old friends. The trip was to introduce these new friends to the breadth of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, traveling through three presbyteries, visiting 23 churches, the camp and the seminary—in 12 days! These new PC(USA) friends represented four presbyteries and two congregations that are interested in pursuing long-term partnerships with our church partner in Cuba. With this objective in mind, we spent time discussing what “partnership” looks like in the Cuban context, learning about the different congregations and presbyteries—their ministries, their challenges, their strengths and their joys. We learned about the history of their church and of our relationship, the history of the country, the steadfastness of the Cuban church through many lean years, and the 500-plus students enrolled in the ecumenical seminary we support.

And everywhere we went we were welcomed: with smiles, with hugs, with snacks and with Cuban coffee at a time when everyone was having trouble finding coffee for sale.

October was, for me, a full month of being welcomed in the name of Christ. October 1 marked the 70th anniversary of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba, and to celebrate the seminary planned a symposium on theological education in Latin America and the Caribbean that drew friends from several European and Latin American countries together with friends from the U.S. and Canada. The seminary graciously welcomed us and, together, we joined a larger circle of representatives of Christ’s church that have supported the work of the seminary in Cuba, so that with one voice we might thank and glorify God together.

A few days later 32 representatives of the network of PC(USA) Cuba Partners were welcomed to the quadrennial Encuentro by 32 representatives of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. This gathering of the network of partnerships between our two churches took as its theme “mutual mission.” Together we explored how our two churches have lived out mission to each other and with each other since 1986, when our two denominations agreed to be in mutual mission together.

Those who know the history of the Cuban Presbyterian Church will know that our predecessor denominations in the U.S. were active in the initial stages of the Cuban church since the 1890s. Missionaries from both the northern and southern branches of the U.S. church actually worked together, in harmony, for the greater good of nurturing the fledgling church in Cuba. And after the reunion of our divided U.S. church, we once again went to Cuba to meet with the independent Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba and forged a Mutual Mission Agreement. It paved the way for presbytery and, later, congregational partnerships between our churches. It established exchanges of seminaries and of members, like Presbyterian Women and Presbyterian Men and this year’s International Peacemaker, Ms. Dianet Martínez Valdés, whom we welcomed into our churches and hearts.

Our history is long and our bonds are strong with the Cuban church. And our ongoing task and challenge is to help our two peoples reconcile one to the other, so that we might live in harmony together, welcoming each other, for the greater glory of God.

I thank you for your prayers and financial support during this year, for without either I would not be able to do what I am doing on behalf of our church. Thank you for that gift.

In this Advent season of expectant hope, it is my prayer that each of you will know the joy of being truly welcomed into community with others and will experience the peace that comes from the God of steadfastness and encouragement who calls us all to live in harmony with one another. To God be the glory.

Joy and peace,

Jo Ella

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:5-7).

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