Hola and bendiciones from our brothers and sisters in Cuba!  Our November 2018 visit to Nueva Paz was, once again, one filled with the love, laughter and generosity of our partner congregation.

As part of a small group representing the Presbytery of Chicago’s Cuba partner churches, and honoring the Presbytery’s nearly 20-year covenant with the Presbytery of Havana, Jane Boxell and Kathy Wennerstrum recently spent a week visiting churches in Havana and spent the weekend in Nueva Paz.

For context, there are 3 Presbyteries in Cuba.  Within the Presbytery of Havana there are 10 churches (including one very small mission church) and of those 10,  8 maintain active partnerships with churches in the Presbytery of Chicago.  All of the churches in the Presbytery of Chicago with Cuban partners meet regularly and we’re just one small part of a PCUSA network that now has over 90 Cuban partnerships at some level.

Over the course of the first few days of our trip, we visited 7 of the churches in the Havana Presbytery and met with Pastors, session members and members of their congregations.

We then travelled to Nueva Paz on Thursday of that week and stayed through the weekend.  Friday was a busy day, as we were able to participate in both the breakfast program and the organized distribution of purified water from the Living Waters system.

The Breakfast program celebrated its first anniversary on December 11, 2018!  The group of 15-20 “seniors” who regularly attend the program Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings has become a family.  Several are not members of the church, but spoke easily about how the program, the Bible readings, lessons and the related discussions have changed their lives.  They’ve even come up with a “team name” for their group.

The Living Waters for the World system has also been enthusiastically embraced by the church’s congregation and, perhaps more importantly, by the community.  Four trained operators open the system to distribute water for two 2-hour sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  We saw community members lining up with their empty plastic jugs and saw Jesús, a man in his late 70’s, a pillar of the Nueva Paz congregation, fill his bicycle push-cart with at least 24 large, heavy jugs of water which he delivered to home-bound members of the community four times that day.

We shared in Bible studies, birthday parties, worship, home visits, and a special day-long field trip to Trinidad and Cienfuegos, two uniquely historic Cuban cities to the east of Nueva Paz.

We spoke often about our partnership and ways in which we are all looking forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of our partnership in 2019.  For starters, we connected on our first video call on December 11!

The significance of this partnership is always made abundantly clear when we’re in Cuba.  We are treated as family and, like family, our brothers and sisters in Nueva Paz really do pray for all of us.  Daily.  And always ask about all of you.  And give so much of themselves to us while we’re there.  This is, first and foremost, about the relationship.  If you happen to notice two white, embroidered altar cloths in worship someday – know that these are gifts from their congregation to all of us and a physical reminder of the ties that bind us all, together.