Emma Thomson, Junior Elementary Education Major
I have lived in Miami, Florida for my entire life, with Cuba a little over 90 miles away from my home. When we were running errands or going shopping, I would ask where we were going and my dad would say “Cuba” just to be funny.
Well, this summer I finally made it to Cuba. It is hard to put into words what I experienced during my time on the island.
Our main purpose was to encourage the local churches. We were in Cienfuegos for three days and Havana for four days. In the first church, Templo Bautista, we worked with the youth group and helped with VBS where over 100 kids attended. In the church in Havana, Iglesia Bautista, we helped with a camp that five different churches came together to put on.
Anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about worship in the local church. I love music, play three instruments, and enjoy singing. One of my favorite parts of church is the worship service.
In Cuba, the worship is amazing. The people pour out their hearts to God with every song. Our group was asked to sing specials in both Spanish and English. We sang out and worshiped our great God in both languages. What amazed me the most was the freedom to worship. We sang freely in the church building. We sang and listened to a message on the hillside of El Moro, a fort in Havana.
Cuba may not be free, but there is much more religious freedom than the people have experienced in the past, and that was so encouraging to see. The Lord granted us safety and protection the entire time we were in Cuba, and I praise Him for that.
The people of Cuba were welcoming, humble, kind, gentle, and loving. They loved Jesus with all their heart, and spoke about Him with awe and wonder. They were fun and enjoyed life. They were thankful for little things like ice cream after an evening service or an afternoon at the beach. They were vulnerable and open about their life and struggles.
I only wish I knew more Spanish to get to know them on a deeper level. The few that spoke broken English became fast friends. They asked questions and we talked about God’s goodness and joked and laughed as if I had known them my whole life.
I love the Hispanic culture. I have grown up in it, and it is as much my heritage as someone whose parents were born in a Hispanic country. Being in Cuba was like stepping into a Miami that was very poor. It was like taking a step back into the 50's with the old cars and buildings. The food, people, music, jokes, fashion, and so many other things were all the same. I felt very much at home.
It really is a beautiful country, and although it is not in good shape at all, the destroyed houses and trash-covered beaches must have been beautiful at one time. It was astonishing to be in the country where the families of most of my friends come from and the place I have heard of all my life.
I also worked as a counselor at Circle C Youth Ranch. It is a day camp that is connected with my church and school. I counseled around twenty-five 9 and 10-year-old girls each week. It is a unique ministry because of the activities like horseback riding, archery, a BB gun range, and boat rides on the canal. It is also unique because the majority of the 300 campers are unsaved and have never heard the Gospel at all.
Throughout the course of the summer, around 100 campers came to know Jesus as their Savior. It was an exhausting and stretching job because of the relentless Miami heat and dealing with the behavior of so many campers, but God showed Himself to me in so many ways. I met so many young people and their parents and was able to show them Jesus’ love just by being patient and kind. On days when I felt I could not go on, I felt the strength of the Lord and was able to continue.
God is so good, and I am so thankful for the ministries He allowed me to be a part of this summer. They are life experiences that I will keep with me always and will never forget.
Glory to God, great things He has done.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.