A letter from David Cortes-Fuentes and Josey Saez Acevedo, serving in Cuba
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On January 26, we celebrated our second year living in Matanzas. It has been a learning experience. We are learning not only of Cubans’ struggles, faith and resiliency, but also of how they share their experiences, teach their children, learn from each other, and join hands with one another in hope and work.
After hurricane Irma battered the island last summer, sadness invaded the entire seminary community. Many trees were uprooted, palm trees were broken, and an almond tree and most of the vegetable garden were destroyed by the wind and water. One example of the damage to the vegetation was the uprooting of the laurel tree that adorned and shaded the administration building of the seminary. Many thought that this was the end of the beloved laurel whose shade provided a cooling shade to visitors, students and the entire seminary community. However, as the branches were being cut to make it easier to haul the battered tree away, the trunk tree stood upright all by itself! As if it were stating, “I still have life in me.”
The workers took that as a sign that the tree was not ready to give up. So, they prepared the soil, covered the roots, repaired the fence around the tree, and waited. What a surprise when the tree began to show new signs of life only a few days later. New leaves started growing. Several weeks passed, and new branches showed up. Now, the laurel is showing new signs of life, providing some shade again. Some had little faith the laurel would return. Now we all stand in amazement at its resiliency. The laurel tree at the seminary is a paradigm of the life of the Church in Cuba, the message of hope in our Lord, and a sign of where our future is leading us.
Every day, we walk by the tree, considering its new leaves and branches as a proclamation of the message of Easter.
We insist, and we believe, because we have seen it. We confess that even in the midst of many difficulties and tribulations, in the midst of limited financial resources, and in the midst of attitudes of apathy from the broader society, there is a Church in Cuba. A faithful, loyal, and striving community of faith who celebrate Easter every day. Who share the Gospel with their friends and families, teach their children and youth, and care for the elderly and the sick. As we continue our ministry with the seminary and the Church, we do it in the spirit of Lent, but with the hope and joy of the celebration of a new day, the day of Easter, the resurrection of our Lord, and the continuing ministry of the Church.
We are already celebrating that three of our Presbyterian students are on their way to graduate next June and ready to engage in full-time ministry in the Presbyterian-Reformed Church of Cuba. Tirisay, Dargel and Yailen presented their pre-defense of their senior thesis February 13. They look forward to engaging the whole Church as pastors and leaders. We feel humbly proud to have been part of their seminary education.
In addition to teaching, we continue to preach and worship at the seminary chapel and local churches, offer lectures, and make presentations at ecumenical gatherings and organizations. Last October 22, David preached in Havana at the International Christian Community as they celebrated their 27th anniversary of ministry. This is an ecumenical group of Christians who meet every Sunday to celebrate through English worship services, serving people from many countries in the Caribbean, diplomats and embassy employees. We never imagined that David would be preaching in English in Cuba!
While attending the annual IPRC (Igleisa Presbiteriana Reformada en Cuba) Synod assembly in January, we had the privilege of meeting the Rev. Tawnya Denise Anderson, co-moderator of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). Rev. Anderson spoke to the assembly, preached at Central Presbyterian Church in Matanzas, and met with the Cuban Council of Churches. David translated her greetings and message of hope and solidarity to the synod assembly. One of many important decisions of the synod was the ratification of the Mutual Mission Agreement between the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cuba and the Presbyterian Church (USA), which will be presented at the next General Assembly of the PC(USA). We believe that these are important and exciting times for the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba and the PC(USA) as we move together, as brothers and sisters, responding faithfully to God’s mission in our respective contexts.
We hope to do some Mission Interpretation while in Florida and the southern US this summer. We would enjoy visiting with you if our schedule permits. If you are interested, please contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to inquire about the possibility of our visiting with you and sharing our ministry in Cuba.
¡Muchas gracias! Thank you very much to our family, friends and the Presbyterian family who continually prays for us and supports us financially. We and our partners in Cuba are truly grateful for your continued partnership, grace and presence with the Cuban church and its people. Our prayer is that we can all continue on this journey of partnership together. If you have not done so, we prayerfully ask you to consider pledging your support for our ministry in Cuba.
Many continued blessings,
David and Josey
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