Mission co-workers cherish opportunities for teaching and learning
March 14, 2019
“The dishwashing detergent is lost.” In Cuba, one would say, “El detergente de lavar platos está perdido.” That means that you will not find dishwashing detergent in the store these days. As we enter our fourth year as mission co-workers in Cuba, we realize how easy it is sometimes to forget that we are strangers living in a foreign land. We still remember many embarrassing instances when we called household items a different name from what residents called them. Yes, we have spoken Spanish since childhood, and day-to-day conversations are easy. But regional nuances in the way people in Cuba talk to each other provide learning experiences for people like us.
This phenomenon happens in any country. Even in the United States, regional accents and idioms need to be “translated” for people from other parts of the country. In Cuba, there are many words and phrases that Cubans have developed to talk to each other that require some thinking if you are not from the island.
Day after day, our partnership in mission ministry teaches us that mission is a two-way street. We need to listen and learn as much from the people as they will learn from us. As we learn to listen not only to what people say, but also to what they mean, we engage in a ministry of partnership in which we also realize the many ways God is present, active and blessing the people in Cuba. Although we knew that as Presbyterian mission co-workers we were not bringing Christ to Cuba, it is another experience to witness how the Holy Spirit is supporting and guiding our brothers and sisters in Cuba to engage in God’s mission for the church and the community. During these last three years, we have learned about the sacrifices and dedication of hundreds of brothers and sisters in local churches serving the Lord and helping the community fight the root causes of poverty, creating opportunities for reconciliation and peace by breaking the circles of violence and empowering the church to witness to their faith even in difficult times. In our work at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas, we have the privilege of engaging and talking with Cuban church leaders from different denominations. They also experience the grace of God as they work in the ministry of the church. The Presbyterian candidates at the seminary are some of these leaders from whom we have learned a lot about ministry and God’s work in Cuba. Currently, we have seven residential students at the seminary preparing for ministry in the Reformed-Presbyterian Church in Cuba. They are examples of the dedication, commitment and resiliency that characterize the local churches.
Third-year students Fernando López Machado and Adriana Guerrero Enríquez are long-time leaders of the Church whose calls to ministry are grounded in their childhood learning and the pastors who nourished their faith. A common passion of their call to ministry is the desire to serve the Church and their communities as agents of mutual reconciliation, pastoral care and ministry to the spiritual needs of their congregations. From both of them we learn about resiliency, faithfulness and hope.
There are three candidates in their second year of seminary, Anays Noda Linares, Pedro Luis Laza González and Jorge Luis Díaz Rivera. They also have a history of church leadership and service. They express a deep sense of call to ministry, a clear commitment to the Church and the desire to see a better future for their communities. They show a variety of talents, such as expressing God’s presence through music, interest in children and ministry with youth. These three candidates are full of energy and commitment.
First-year students Susana Arévalo Barceló and Anier B. González Rodríguez are experienced church leaders as well. They have families of their own and already serve as witnesses to dedication and ministry in challenging circumstances. They both sense their calls to ministry as expressions of God’s grace that summoned them from their previous work to a ministry of hope, justice, praise and community transformation.
Learning humility is easy when we look at the faces and smiles of these students. We are reminded that our own sense of call is one among others, that our gifts and theirs are not in competition, and that together we are partners who worship the Lord and serve the people for the glory of God.
Our experiences with the Church in Cuba and the seminary in Matanzas have been a reaffirmation that we are not the ones “bringing Christ” or “bringing the gospel” to Cuba. On the contrary, it is a two-way mission ministry in which we listen and learn different ways to tell the story of the gospel. It is a real partnership through which we as members and leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are blessed by our partners in Cuba and are a blessing to the Church in Cuba and the seminary in Matanzas.
David Cortes and Josey Saez, mission co-workers serving in Cuba, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Mission Partners in Cuba
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
O Lord, uphold our brothers and sisters around the world. Use them and us to proclaim the good news of your kingdom, that people may be set free from their bondage to sin, and victims of sin from its ongoing effects. In Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.