In celebration of 10 years of partnership, we visited our friends in Nueva Paz in mid-November, 2019.  Attempting to leave Chicago on one of the snowiest Mondays of the year, Pastor Erik, Kevin McDermott, Mindy McMahon and Kathy Wennerstrum spent nearly 17 hours together in O’Hare before re-routing through Newark (arriving Newark at 2:30 am) to Miami (6-hour layover) and finally arriving in Havana a full 24 hours later than expected, but still in time for a uniquely Cuban birthday dinner for Erik.  Our baggage, however, was on its own itinerary – we were finally able to retrieve 9 of our 10 bags around 1:00 am Wednesday morning. 

Chicago weather woes aside, we made the most of the time we had in Cuba, quickly hitting some of the most iconic spots in Havana before heading to Nueva Paz.

We are happy to report that the Breakfast Club continues to feed the bodies and souls of the small “family” that has formed among the senior attendees.  Bible study, discussion, good food and a lively exercise session continued to bind this small group together and is a testament to the continued community outreach of the church.  As is the Living Waters system which continues to provide purified water to the community, even delivering water 3-days a week to those unable to make it to the church.

And, yes, we celebrated!  Throughout the week/weekend we had several opportunities to share in celebration of our partnership.  An American/Cuban food night brought out the best in Cuban food, and the best in our attempt at “American food that can travel” – mac & cheese, jello and . . . s’mores!  Erik’s s’mores, (with marshmallows cooked on sugar cane skewers over the keg grill) were a real hit with both kids and adults – you could just see it in their faces . . .

While our partnership is not all about the gifts, one of the highlights of this trip was sharing a few special items in honor of our 10-years together.  In addition to several suitcases of medical supplies, we were also able to deliver table linens, drapery fabric, plumbing supplies, a new printer, print cartridges, and several bags of Christmas lights, just for fun.  Nearly all of these items were donated by PCWS friends and families, and some were purchased with previous gifts to the Living Waters project.

We were also very pleased to deliver a special custom-made banner celebrating our partnership.  Composed of individual squares hand-made by several members of our congregation and assembled and finished in beautiful detail by Betty Banovic, this quilted banner captured many of the special milestones and personal remembrances from our first 10 years together.  We also received gifts from the youth of the church and a beautiful hand-made banner from the congregation as part of a special evening celebration.

One of the topics of conversation throughout our visit was the condition of their manse and their desire to return this valuable property to livable and usable condition.  A little over a block away from the church, the home has sat vacant for more than 2 years, during an interim period between pastors.  With the installation of Pastora Tirisay last April, the Nueva Paz session acknowledged the need to restore the manse and so began to source supplies and initiate some prep work.

As we met with the Nueva Paz session and talked about future plans, their primary request was that our congregation consider providing the funding necessary to complete re-construction of the manse.  Essential to their ministry not only as a home for the Pastor, but as a space for private consultation, small group gatherings and community outreach, this home is their top priority this spring.  Having gone through a recent restoration of our own manse, we pledged to explore our options and have notified PCWS session of our intent.

Soooooo . . . we’re going to help Make (another) House a Home!  With funds remaining from the Living Waters for the World project and recent donations to the Cuba Gifts fund, we have delivered the good news and sent the first installation of funding to Nueva Paz in early January.  Here are a couple “before” photos – we’ll keep you posted on the progress!