In all honesty, since I feel as you, my readers, are family, I knew nothing of Cuba going into my trip. I had heard of a man named Fidel Castro and my idea of Cuba was one of skepticism. That is all. I went into this trip completely blind.
I see this as an offering. The ability to have a completely open and new mind to learn and gather my own thoughts and opinions. My curiosity and eagerness to ask all the questions and learn as much as possible sat my heart in the hot seat.
I was desperate to find out about these people. Excited to dive into their world. I wanted to talk to them, walk into their homes and eat their food. I wanted to laugh with them and cry with them and put myself in their shoes, even if just for a tiny moment in time.
We did this and much, much more. We drank coffee with them, listened to their stories, broke bread with them, watched sunsets together, prayed with them, sat in their homes and simply loved each other.
The stories to come in the following weeks will tap into each heart and soul I met. But for now, I will state my facts, from the eyes and soul that I measure with. The reality of what I felt, in the path I followed to meet Cuba face to face.
1 Cuba is stepping back in time. You first see it in the buildings and the colorful 1950’s cars. It is like taking yourself back to Frank Sinatra and Valentino. You can visualize the movie stars, traveling to the luxury of a foreign island, dancing and laughing among palm trees and vast skies. Catching a late-night ride in a red Cadillac, top down, with yells of joy at the islanders passing by.
You can see the gorgeous architecture of palace style homes with large columns, painted in what was once white or bright, pastel colors of their Cuban roots. Exquisite marble interiors, complimented by colorful Spanish tiles. The steep hills of Havana lead you to the coastline, splashing against a cement wall or to downtown where the city people gather, for a tasty treat of ice cream.
There is a long line of hundreds of smiles wrapped around a building that looks to be a circus tent, in the middle of a park. Shades of blue and white, different from the red tents in America. I wondered if there was a ride inside. What could these people be standing outside for all day long, waiting for hours to enjoy?
For $0.25 you can enjoy a large ice cream for your self and buy a few more for your entire family. It is simple. And it is utterly fantastic!
We did not stand in this long line. For we were Americans, on a mission. No time in our day to stop.
1950’s Chevrolets of teal, yellow and pink, bounce up and down the roads, dropping people here and there and all over the place. Always horns, always hollering. But in joy and assistance, for Cuban people look out for each other.
This brings me to number two…
2 Cuban people love each other and look out for each other. They are not out to differ; they are out for peace. They all have places to be and things to do, and believe me, at times they are in a mindless hurry, just as we are. But they are kind. They do not point fingers or cause a fuss. They are a family. The entire island. For at one time, all they had was each other, so they highly value each one.
It is safe here in Cuba. They are also looking out for us.
They are kind and assistive and happy to have some Americans on their land.
“How long you stay?” one asks, as we stroll downtown. “We are happy to have you here in Cuba. Would you like to come to our Salsa Festival tonight?” My heart skips a beat. Oh, the fun of a real, Cuban Salsa Festival. The man is honest and inviting. He smiles and begins to give us directions. I break the news that we cannot attend because of plans. He just smiles back in gratitude.
“Thank you for visitng Cuba. I hope you have fun,” which was said with his best English pronunciation but with a beautiful native tongue.
Everywhere we go is like this. Into their homes. Into their churches, their cars, their life. They speak with gratitude and eagerness, to share their past and for us to share in the hope of their future.
3 God is bigger than big in Cuba. You can see the Lord and you can feel Him.
God is making a wave of gathering up His people and sending them back into their community to find those that seek life. They are a Holy people. They are true disciples, meeting in homes and tiny churches and desolate places we would never find ourselves. They worship and sing and will anoint an American with oil in a New York minute. Then they depart. Full of power and joy to do the good work God has called us to do, to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
If God is so present there, and we are in the Land of plenty here, then why is it harder to see Him?
What if plenty isn’t what we have, but what we hold?