By Bradley Robertson
I’ve prayed many things over the years. Things for my family, my friends and people I don’t even know. I have learned as I’ve grown older, I must not forget about myself. For God too loves me just as much as “the least of these.”
I tend to think quite wildly and dream a little larger than I should. Perhaps this is something God set inside of me, to possibly be a beacon for someone or something. Maybe it’s the Lord’s will and the Lord’s way to use my “dreams and visons” for good and purpose. I honestly have no clue most of the time what I’m getting into, but strangely, I feel led to go.
I often wonder why. Why do I dream up these things? Why do I have no hesitation? Why am I so eager to get up and go on mission? Am I blind? Or maybe just willing.
A couple years ago, I began to pray things for myself like, “Lord, I’ll do anything for you.” “Lord, I want to dance through this beautiful life you’ve given me.” “Dear God, give me passion and give me truth.”
“Dear Lord, I want to share stories of your people.” And lastly, “Lord, show me the people who need to see you.”
And so, I ended up in Cuba. It’s no coincidence at all, not even odd. It was mapped out from the beginning.
I was asked to go to Cuba by a nonprofit organization, Third Lens Ministries.
Third Lens’ mission is to design and build environments of healing, empowerment and redemption. They bridge ministry to construction and design.
They take on projects locally, and all over the world in places such as Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Hondura, Kenya and Uganda.
Director of operations for Third Lens Ministries is Auburn native Brain O’Neil. O’Neil saw a small disconnect between the stories and impact Third Lens is having around the world, to the donors and people of interest that support and serve its mission.
My mission while in Cuba was to walk the path of impact that Third Lens Ministries is carrying out in Cuba and then to tell the stories of the lives and people it touches.
So, without hesitation, and with my husband along as my escort, we boarded a plane bound for Havana, Cuba.
The people I met, the things my eyes got to see and the voices of the Cuban people will tell stories for months to come. I could honestly write an entire book. But I will start in one central place, a pastor, in a small town, on a tiny island, sitting with me in the upper room of his church.
His name is Pastor Enrique. He is an ordained Methodist pastor and is leading hundreds of people in Patria and Gerona, Cuba to a fuller way of life. He is a jolly and happy man. He laughs a lot and has a fun demeanor about him that’s attractive to the locals, those searching for something better.
With the assistance of Third Lens Ministries, his congregation has a brand-new church that celebrated its first anniversary this past Sunday. The church from ground up cost nearly $30,000 USD.
It is full every Sunday. Overflowing actually. Its members are passionate and full of life.
Almost all of these people get to church by foot, bicycle or a horse-drawn buggy. There are children, elderly, teenagers, young adults and seniors. They smile and they sing with joy in a way that is not often seen here in the US.
They hold nothing back. Their filling of the holy spirit is clearly visible. No need to wonder if they are Christians. You see it on them.
The way their eyes light up and the way they hug and kiss one another. They way they pray with humble and earnest hearts out loud. There is no covering of faith here, it is open for all the world to see.
The children are in the front row, hands raised and dancing in honor and praise of what is before them.
Smiles and laughter and the most precious Spanish speaking voices one can hear.
It is nothing like church in Lee County, yet it is the same. A gathering of people, in a holy place to worship the one who holds their life.
When I sat down for the last time with Pastor Enrique before leaving the Island, I asked of him, “What is it you need that we can help you with?”
His small team of members looked at one another, trying to figure out how to answer. I was thinking it must be something big or extravagant.
“We need a hot glue gun,” Enrique said. “We need crayons and a little paint for the children. We need maybe a nice book to give our newly-weds about love and faith. We need needles and thread for the sewing machine for our senior women’s class.”
“Do you have crafting supplies?” he asked. “We have a children’s curriculum but nothing for them to do.”
I quickly ask if they have any children’s bibles or picture bibles. He asks in Spanish the same question to the Children’s director. She looks at me and smiles with bright eyes. “No,” she said. “The children sure would love that.”
I am in awe in my seat, on the verge of tears. Everyday simple items. Yet unattainable and nowhere to get them here in Petria, Cuba. It occurred to me that their goal and mission is praise and worship and prayer and loving people. The extra to-do to serve and love others with things and activities is on the back burner. They love and serve face to face. With passion and a realness that’s hard to find. I found it and I saw it.
The last thing they asked for was the purchase of the building next door with the hopes of using it for a children’s school and maybe youths as well. I asked him to give me a dollar amount.
“It is for sale for 6,000 CSC. It has been for sale for over year.” I calculate this to American money; the building would cost just under $7,000 in US currency.
These requests are small, mindless endeavors to our American people. Simplicity. Smallness. Faith and goodness pouring from their hearts. All in joy and gratitude. Expecting nothing but hopeful for their future.
I know for certain that God is in all things and God goes before all things.
They will have a children’s Sunday school, I see it and believe it. I see children painting pictures of Jesus in watercolor and I see them reading Spanish picture bibles, giggling and smiling and asking questions, just as my little Shep does at our home in the evening.
This is Cuba. A pastor loving his people and reaching out to better serve those who need to be loved.
This is Third Lens Ministries, connecting those that have much to pour their gifts and talents into those that have little.
Robertson is a local mother, wife and creative. She’s an Auburn University graduate, loves good food and getting outside with her family. Bradley enjoys feature writing, as well as southern culture and lifestyle writing.