International Ministries

Cuban Coffee with Sue

February 3, 2012 Journal
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Cuba: “caliente”, complicated, convertible currency, and churches

Actually, Sue and I usually drink tea, but I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for “café cubano” at the end of February.  Sue Hegarty has been serving as a missionary with International Ministries in Eastern Cuba for over 12 years. When I found out that Cuba visas were taking several months to process, I asked Sue, who is living nearby here in Pennsylvania for the moment, to serve as my mentor and teacher on all things Eastern Cuba.

Our meetings have been critical in my preparation for ministry in partnership with Cuba. Some of you may recall that when I started ministry in El Salvador, I had the luxury of a nearly 6 month orientation during which I spent time in each and every church, stayed with countless families, and generally had time to just hear the stories, learn to negotiate the sensitive areas, and make friends and acquaintances who would later serve as key resources and advisors. In Cuba it seems that pretty much everything will be different so orientation looks a little different too.

Curious about Cuba? For those of you who are as intrigued about this sunny little Caribbean island as I am, below are a few of the interesting nuggets that I am learning.

“CALIENTE”: The climate is hot, tropical, and beautiful from what I hear. It has also been a bit of a political hot potato over the years. From this side of the ocean mystique, misinformation, and suspicion are common perceptions. I’m excited to walk with brothers and sisters of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention to learn more about what has them fired up: reaching Cuba for Christ!

COMPLICATED: While I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler in Latin America, each conversation with Sue reminds me that all of my combined wisdom only partially prepares me to be a sensitive and thoughtful colleague and visitor. Day to day life in Cuba is lived at two levels, and learning to understand Cuban reality will put my skills at cross-cultural ministry to the test.

CONVERTIBLE CURRENCY: Two currencies are used in Cuba. The traditional Cuban peso, and the newer convertible peso (peso convertible). One is worth more than the other. Some places accept pesos, others only accept convertible pesos. Currency is only one of many unique Cuban dual realities.

CHURCHES: One of International Ministries partners in Cuba is the Eastern Cuban Baptist Convention (CBCOr). With more than 110 years of history and recognition today as the second fastest growing churches in Cuba, there’s a lot happening amongst the Baptists in Cuba. Cubans are enthusiastic evangelists and committed Christians and have an important story to tell the faith community about perseverance, self-sustainability, and unity.

Today I am purchasing tickets for my first trip to Cuba I’ll be arriving in Santiago on February 24, along with colleague Mary Weaver and a delegation from Upper Merion Baptist Church. Please keep us in prayer as the delegation spends time with El Cristo Baptist Church and I begin to build relationships with pastors, convention leaders, and the Baptist Seminary team.

And thanks Sue, for some of the most interesting cups of tea in my life.

Together on the journey,