An active and long-time member of Presbyterian Women, Jane Boxell applied for a Thank Offering grant to help our friends in Nueva Paz launch a new program – The Nueva Paz Presbyterian Church Breakfast Club. Thanks to the generosity of PW and their annual Thank Offering, we were awarded $2,000, the full amount requested!
Led by Saskia Santana and Yosbeni Ochoa, part of the young leadership of Nueva Paz’s Session, they served their first breakfast to several elderly members of their community on December 11, 2017. As we’ve noted previously, Nueva Paz is a relatively small rural community southeast of Havana. Many elderly people live alone in their family houses and the Cuban government allows them a very small pension, which does not cover all of their living expenses. This program helps not only with food, but with socialization, exercise and some spiritual education, as well.
According to Saskia (translated) “it is a very nice program to help, share and even preach the gospel, even without belonging to any religion, they listen to us, they pray with us and they never miss . . . on the contrary, they are crazy for the next one to arrive.” Also, “they are very happy with us, they do exercises . . . they pray and they bless the food, they hear us talk about God without being Christians and some without even believing but they share these things with each other . . .”
The “Club” gathers Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Attendance is limited to 20 and they have a waiting list, which they’re hoping to draw from soon. Most often around 10 people will attend in person and 8 meals will go home with someone (in a fabric bag crafted by a member of the congregation) for a neighbor or family member unable to attend. A typical breakfast generally includes eggs, ham, a roll and coffee – occasionally yogurt or juice.
In fact, during our April 2018 visit, Mindy and Kathy observed the breakfast program on Wednesday of that week and then were asked to lead the Bible study and offer prayers during the Friday session. On one occasion, we watched in wonder with Saskia and Yosbeni as an elderly woman from the neighborhood who had not left her house in months, made her now thrice-weekly slow trek, with the support of her husband and a walker, to the church. Clearly the breakfast club has made a significant difference in her life and health, as it has for the other members who attend. The food & exercise feed their bodies and the socialization, conversation and prayer feed their souls. And Saskia, Yosbeni and Carmen, the Cook with a laugh no one can resist, make them all feel like family.