Waiting in Christmas Hope from Cuba

A letter from Josefina Saez-Acevedo serving in Cuba

December 2016

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Waiting in Christmas Hope from Cuba

For most of us, waiting is not very easy to do. This is one of the lessons David and I have continued to learn during our 11 months in Cuba. The cultural context we come from has taught us that waiting is an unproductive use of our time and resources. A sign of efficiency is to have a fast turnaround, think quickly on one’s feet, and get results. David and I come from a “results-oriented” context. You can imagine the cultural shock we have had! We have all heard the phrase “hurry-up and wait.” This is an everyday reality here in Cuba. “Hurry up” is not a way of life here in Cuba, although “waiting” most certainly is. Waiting is what everyone does in Cuba.

The art of waiting must be learned with much grace and patience. Cubans wait in line outside stores, they wait for Wi-Fi connectivity, they wait in hopes that basic staples such as sugar, eggs, powdered milk, toilet paper, soap, hygiene products and medications become available. They also wait in hope for a hospital bed and a doctor to see them or their loved one. And so they wait with much persistence…

Our first-year anniversary will be coming up soon (January 26, 2017), and the greatest lesson we have learned is How To Wait. So, my dear friends and family, if we seem changed once we return to the States, it’s because we have been deeply changed by our experience living in Cuba. We have been waiting with the people of Cuba, waiting with our brothers and sisters in the midst of many internal and external uncertainties. Yet life continues in the midst of much waiting. Together we wait in this season of Advent, trusting that the Christ child born again and anew on Christmas morning will gift us all with the courage to wait in Hope. Yes, our Cuban brothers, sisters, and friends have taught us patience in the midst of waiting. To breathe and know that everything will work out in its own time.

I’d like to share one experience of waiting. A visiting professor came to teach a course during the spring quarter at the seminary. He wanted to contact his family via email to let them know he had arrived safely. He was set up on one of the computers but was frustrated and overwhelmed by the waiting to connect to e-mail. He clicked the “Enter” button several times in hopes that it would shorten his wait time. This only made things worse! He just could not believe the length of time waiting for internet connectivity. Once again he clicked the “Enter” button several times more, until I suggested he stop. I gave him a suggestion that Jo Ella Holman gave me: “Sit on your hands and wait.” He looked puzzled and a little angry. He asked, “What good will that do?” I answered him: “It will help you wait without the temptation of thinking that by clicking “Enter” you’ll get a faster connection, because you won’t.” We laughed, waiting together for his message to go through. It eventually did, the wait was over, at least for the moment. Now we wait for the reply…

In the midst of waiting for whatever we might be waiting for, we have had to learn not to be so hyper-focused on the wait. We have tried to take the time not to lose sight of what surrounds us, beckoning our attention while we wait. In this last quarter of 2016 we came together with many others in the long-awaited celebration of 70 years of continuous ministry of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas. Being part of the Cuban Partners Network’s long-awaited visitation of more than 20 Presbyterian-Reformed churches in the three presbyteries in Cuba, we met groups representing the Presbyterian Outreach Foundation, Living Waters for the World, the Presbyterian-Cuban Partners Network and Witness for Peace.

We also participated in the meetings of the Mission and Evangelism Commission of the World Council of Churches. David led one of the worship experiences and presented a meditation on the topic of Mission and Reconciliation in the Church today. It also has been a busy time of teaching both in the License of Theology and the Master of Theology degree courses, and in a one-week workshop for Cuban Pentecostal Pastors on the book of Revelation. I am preparing to teach Theological English in the next academic semester to first-year seminary students. David and I look forward to the new opportunities and challenges for next semester, which starts January 23, 2017.

Waiting will never end, and yet it is how we wait that makes all the difference. May this Christmas season and the New Year to come gift us with a hope-filled wait. God waited for the precise moment in history to subversively have angels appear to lowly watching shepherds on the hillside of Jerusalem. Those shepherds, while waiting for daybreak to complete their night’s work, became the first bearers of hope-filled good news from God for us. How will we continue to share the good news of God’s Hope for us with others? We leave you with this prayer by Rev. Claire K. McKeever-Burgett: “God incarnate, Child who comes to save, continually show us where love lives so that we can join in the work of redemption now and forever. Amen.”

Dearest family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, it has been an honor and privilege to have you all walk alongside us this first year of our mission service. Each of you is a bearer of hope for us and our ministry here with the Iglesia Presbiteriana-Reformada en Cuba and the Seminario Evangélico de Teología en Matanzas. Your prayers and financial support have reached and touched us. Thank you to so many who made it possible for David to receive his books, making his teaching easier. Thank you to those who have been so gracious in asking if they can bring us things we have been homesick for (such as chunky peanut butter, raisins, chocolate, gum, oatmeal, Dove soap and even a toilet seat)—Gracias! Thank you as well for the many email messages reminding us that we are not alone on this journey of faith and ministry. These continually fill us with great joy, reaffirming our call to serve in Cuba.

One way we want to make our journey together more tangible is through opportunities of sharing our experiences in Cuba. In the coming summer of 2017, David and I are scheduled to be in the States from June 15 to September 3. It is our hope that we will have the opportunity and privilege to visit with each of you. Our Mission Interpretation Assignment will be an exciting time to share in person our experiences and our common hope of our historic partnership with the Cuban church. We hope to be able to visit with as many supporting churches and individuals as possible. If you are in the discerning phase of supporting a mission co-worker, we would love to have a conversation with you about our partnership with the Reformed-Presbyterian Church in Cuba, the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, and our ministry here.

If you would like to schedule a visit while we are home, please contact David Cortés-Fuentes at either (or all) e-mails: David.Cortes@seminario.co.cu; DCortes44@live.com; or Josey Saez Acevedo at Josey.Saez@seminario.co.cu; and/or Jsaez958@gmail.com to discuss possible scheduling. Because there are a limited number of weekends and Sundays during our time in the States, we hope to also find ways to meet and share at times outside of Sunday’s worship activities. Please keep in mind that we will need assistance with travel expenses as we make our travel around the country. This assistance can be shared with others in your geographical region such as other local congregations and/or presbyteries. We are trying to schedule our visits by region to enable us to get the most “bang” for our time in the States. We suggest teaming up and sharing the travel/lodging expenses with others in any particular region where we are to visit. We will most graciously accept staying with a church family and sharing home-cooked meals—we are also thankful for a more intimate time of sharing as well. Please be aware that our visiting with you does not require an honorarium to be given to us by any of our hosts. If in our sharing together you have been touched to support our ministry for the next three years of our appointment, David and I would be extremely honored.

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.


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