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Without Missing a Beat

A letter from David Cortes-Fuentes & Josefina Saez-Acevedo serving in Cuba

September 2016

Write to David Cortes-Fuentes
Write to Josey Saez-Acevedo

Individuals: Give online to E200519 for David Cortes-Fuentes and Josey Saez-Acevedo’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507587 for David Cortes-Fuentes and Josey Saez-Acevedo’s sending and support

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

A few days until September rolls around; days are starting to cool and shorten. A new academic season (2016-2017) is upon us here at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba. The seminary campus has been quiet and calm since July. Now we can see and hear the hustle and bustle of new incoming and returning students. This time of year is always exciting and filled with expectation of what the new academic year will bring. A new Episcopalian family with a 1-year-old little boy has just moved in. All of us residing at the seminary have given this young family a warm welcome and much needed help as they settle into a new rhythm of life as part of our community.

These hot, humid and quiet summer months have been kind of slow and lazy. The rhythm of life does become slower as everyone tries to manage their daily living around the heat of the day. Shopping and outings are done as early as possible before the noon sun is high in the sky and beating down. Streets are mostly empty from 12 noon to 2 pm. At our nine-month mark in Matanzas, we have come to understand that we too have been changed from a rhythm of life that has been lived with a sense of hurry to one that is less rushed. At times this has been difficult for us. We are learning, listening, coming to new understandings and seeing Matanzas, Cuba, as our new home.

We returned to Tampa, Florida, in late July until mid-August to take care of some much needed personal matters that were impossible to attend to from Cuba. For some of those days we were invited as resources for the Annual Presbyterian Hispanic Leaders Gathering in St. Pete, which was part of the “Be the Light Go Disciple Live Conference.” This sharing time was filled with newfound friends and rekindling of dear old ones. Our time there, although short, filled us with energy as we shared our personal sense of call to mission and ministry to the different places God has called us to be. We were also blessed to visit with Peace Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, Florida, where David preached. Josey gave the time with children and shared our ministry call to Cuba.

Many unexpected opportunities came about during our short stay in Tampa. We were invited to a meeting of the certification committee of the Association for Hispanic Theological Education (AETH) in Orlando, Florida. David has been an active member of AETH for many years. The AETH’s mission is to promote and enhance theological education for Hispanic/Latino/Latina Americans in Bible institutes, Bible colleges, seminaries, universities, and other programs at the congregational level.

One highlight of our stay came when we were invited by the First Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Tampa. This congregation is composed of Hispanics from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Latin American countries. Rev. Alex Sosa, this congregation’s pastor, and his wife, Annelisse, are both alumni of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Matanzas. David had the privilege of preaching about the faithfulness and hope of the church in Cuba. Those living in exile from Cuba—for many reasons—have many mixed feelings about their homeland. Yet the Gospel of Reconciliation was preached. Tears flowed and much emotion was felt by many. We continue to pray for tender hearts that will open to the continued work of reconciliation between our Cuban brothers and sisters.

In addition David and I had two lovely surprises while at the First Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Tampa. We greeted once again our home church pastor, Rev. Hector L. Nieves from the Presbyterian Church in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico. We also met Rev. John H. Sinclair, who had served as coordinator for mission in Latin America for our denomination over 40 years ago. Rev. Sinclair worships regularly at the First Hispanic Presbyterian Church in Tampa. What an honor and pleasure to have spent time with Rev. Sinclair, receiving his wisdom and hearing firsthand accounts of the very difficult times faced by the Church in Cuba. At 92 years young, he is as sharp as ever!

After these whirlwind-filled days, it was time to return home to Mantanzas. Weird to even think of Mantanzas as our home, yet it is becoming so. We looked forward to reconnecting with our family and friends in the States, which we did and are so grateful we could. Yet the time comes when one needs to return to one’s “own place,” which for us happens to be Matanzas. Being welcomed back by friends, who have become like family, was heartwarming.

Without missing a beat, David immediately got to work on a class syllabus for the New Testament Theology course that he will teach starting in September. Josey has been involved in planning and teaching a three-day-long Vacation Bible School at both the “Matanzas Central” and “El Redentor” Reformed Presbyterian Church in Matanzas. We had a good group of children from the community and lots of great help from both church communities.

The excitement builds as a new season opens before us. Many exciting programs, events and projects are scheduled for the next several months. We will share more in our next newsletter. For now, may the Lord continue to bless the work of our hands together in faithfulness and hope in the communities where we have been called to serve.

We are already beginning to see what we can do when we work together. Let us continue to strengthen that. As we commit to the next three years of service with our partners in ministry in Cuba, we invite you to commit to prayer and financial support of our ministries here.

Trusting in God’s purpose for us here in Cuba, we leave you with information as to how you can partner with us.

Josey and David

Please read this important message from Tony De La Rosa, Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1b-2, NRSV)

Dear Friend of the Presbyterian Mission Agency:

Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support of David Cortes-Fuentes and Josey Saez-Acevedo this year, and any previous year. We hear from our mission co-workers how much your prayerful financial support has meant to them. Please know that you are a vital part of ministries throughout Cuba.

Even as I thank you, I want to let you know that this is a critical time for our congregations and all people of faith to commit themselves to support mission co-workers like David and Josey. Our global church partners greatly value their service, and you well know how important this ministry is in building connections between the body of Christ in the U.S. and Cuba.

We have historically relied on endowment interest and the general offering from congregations to sustain the vital work of all of our mission workers. Those sources of funding have greatly diminished. It is only through the gifts of individuals and congregations that we are able to keep David and Josey doing the life-giving work God called them to do. A year ago, in May 2015, we had to recall some mission workers due to a lack of funding. World Mission communicated the challenge to you, and you responded decisively and generously. Through your response, we heard the Spirit remind us, “Fear not!”

Today, I’m asking you to consider an additional gift for this year, and to increase the gift you may consider for 2017. Sending and support costs include not only salary but also health insurance and retirement contributions, orientation, language training, housing, travel to the country of service, children’s education, emergency evacuation costs, and visa/passport costs.

My heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support of our Presbyterian mission co-workers. In the coming season, we will celebrate God’s sending of the Christ child, the source of the good news we share. May you experience anew the hope, peace, joy, and love that are ours because “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18).

Thank you for saying “yes” to love.

With you in Christ,
Tony De La Rosa
Interim Executive Director, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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