In spite of the pandemic, our sister church in Cuba and we have been able to continue sharing news, greetings, and prayer requests through emails, Baltimore Presbytery connections, meetings with other U.S. partner churches of Taguasco Presbyterian Church, and two live Facebook Messenger visits. The town of Taguasco and the province of Santi Spiritus have had several cases of COVID. The government reacts quickly and church services and small gatherings are prohibited whenever there is a chance of any spread.
Taguasco Presbyterian Church has been shuttered and reopened for small gatherings several times this year. Their feeding and laundry programs for the seniors have also been closed, but our small band of faithful friends have found ways to continue their care for those who are in need. In the past, lunches and informational programs were offered at the church several days a week, with food delivery for those who could not travel. But now there is not enough food and rationing is in effect. People are lining up at the markets daily hoping to find food. Our sisters and brothers somehow gather enough food to cook and deliver hot lunches for the seniors. Walking to deliver so many lunches was overwhelming, so they have invested in a moped to transport the food.
There is no longer detergent available for their laundry program which has made this service difficult. There are also shortages in medicines. They still have some over-the-counter drugs that our Presbytery took down last year. In order to extend their drug supply, they are sharing the medicine in small amounts with the townspeople. Other medicines are hard to find. For instance, Lore’s sister has a parasite in her kidney. They found one dose which helped but is not enough to completely cure her. Many of you will remember Lore, a member of Taguasco church, who visited us in June of 2018. However hard life gets, the Cubans give thanks to God for what they have, for each other, and for their partner churches in the United States.
Good news has come in the form of a young graduate from the seminary who was sent to Taguasco to work in the church. This congregation has been without a minister for many years. Edelberto, a minister in another city, visits once a month to preach, give communion, and meet with the session. All other work; preaching, missions, education classes, outreach to youth, cleaning, building repair, and yard upkeep is done by the community. They are relieved to have someone to help them with the work. Edelberto will continue to come once a month since the student is not yet ordained.
On a recent online visit with Lore, he shared these specific messages which he wanted our church to know. First, we are in their hearts everyday and in their prayers. They have been very worried about us because they hear how bad the pandemic and the violence in Baltimore have been. Secondly, “Thank-you! “ The money we sent to them last summer finally arrived in Taquasco. The moped is part of our church’s generosity. Thirdly, they want us to know how much they love us. Our past visits and continued visits by social media have deepened our relationships with each other and our understanding of God’s community is ever growing.
The Mission/ Education Committee has brainstormed ways to nurture our partnership and are excited to start a dialogue project between our churches. Common questions will be asked of each congregation. Each church will ask a few members to contemplate the questions, write a few paragraphs in response, and then we shall share these thoughts with each other. Our committee wrote three questions to get the first exchange started: 1. What is one challenge that God has seen you through? 2. Where do you see God working in your community? 3. If you could meet one Bible character, excluding Jesus, who would it be and why? Volunteers from First and Franklin have been found to respond to this first round of questions and we will share the responses from both churches when we receive them.
How can we each of us remain active in our partnership? Here are a few thoughts: 1. Please continue to pray for our loving community in Cuba.
- Following is information concerning a bill to abolish the embargo on Cuba and restart relations between our two countries. Please write to our congressional leaders as you are led. 3. If you would be interested in being involved in the dialogue project with Taguasco please let the Mission/Education Committee know. What questions do you have of our sister church? What questions of faith have you been contemplating?
- Join the Mission/Education committee. We meet every first Monday of each month at 7:00. 5. Eventually we will be able to visit Cuba in person. Consider spending a week in Taguasco to meet our beloved community.
The Mission/Education Committee
Corena Bridges, Dorothy Janzen, Sarah Lloyd, Diane Newman, Ruth Paradise, Betty Schroll, Sabrina Schumann, and Ann Silverman
|Dear Friends in Christ,
The Biden Administration and the 117th United States Congress are turning their attention to foreign affairs, and it is time for us to reach out to our elected representatives to share our experiences in Cuba and speak out for ourselves and our Cuban partners.
The new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), has introduced this new bill to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba and establish normal trade relations between our countries. Joining Wyden on the bill are U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
The Advocacy Committee asks you to write your U.S. Representative and Senators to ask them to support improved US-Cuba relations and to support new legislation in the U.S. Senate, the U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2021.
A sample letter is below. Please review it, edit and add your own stories if you wish, and email or mail it to your U.S.
Representative and both of your U.S. Senators.
February ##, 2021
Dear LEGISLATOR’S NAME:
As a member of CHURCH NAME Presbyterian Church, which has a partner church in CITY, Cuba, I wish to express my confidence in your work in the Congress.
In this spirit, I would like to respectfully request that attention be given early under this new administration to returning U.S.-Cuba policy toward continued reconciliation and negotiation as pursued under the Obama-Biden Administration.
Our congregation is part of the Cuba Partners Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Presbyterian Churches throughout the United States and Cuba have had a continuous, uninterrupted relationship since the 1890s. In 1985, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba signed a Mutual Mission Agreement that spawned over 90 partnerships between churches, presbyteries, and synods.
As a result, U.S. Presbyterians have been visiting Cuba for decades—as Cuban pastors and congregants have visited the U.S.—giving us a unique experience and insights into the daily lives of Cubans and the hardships they have endured as a result of U.S. policy restrictions. During this time, we have witnessed not only the strength, resilience, and inspiring commitment to God’s Word of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, but also of the unnecessary hardship and deprivation caused to the Cuban churches and people by U.S. policies of travel restriction, embargo, and other forms of economic sanction.
OPTIONAL: WRITE ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES HERE
I therefore ask that you consider signing on to the U.S.-Cuba Trade Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, along with Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont, Senator Richard Durbin, Illinois, and Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon.
We request these U.S.-Cuba policy initiatives not only for our church partnerships but for the Cuban people for whom we advocate. Together with our Cuban brothers and sisters in Christ working together in mission, we seek, as stated in Micah 6, to “do justice and walk humbly with our God.”
We implore the 117th Congress to take early and substantial steps toward reconciliation and justice between the U.S. and Cuban people.
YOUR CHURCH’S NAME