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By: Beverly Nolte
Twelve Iowans from Lake Park to Bloomfield and from Gray to Wilton traveled to Havana, Cuba, to work with the Iglesia Metodista en Cuba. The group was assigned to Camp Canaan near Santa Clara, located in a rural setting about four hours from Havana. In this “land of milk and honey,” Methodist church meetings and activities take place as well as those of other denominations. Two new dormitories are being constructed so the camp can accommodate as many as 1,000 persons. Over 750 Cubans were present during the time our UMVIM team spent on the campus with Christian Cuban music blasting from the Temple.
Hurricane Irma had blown the metal roofing from an outdoor sports arena, so the group's major project was painting three coats on nearly a mile of tin roofing plus seven ridge caps. Once the painting was finished, Cuban workers began replacing the zinc/tin roofing.
With that project completed, the group painted three dorm buildings from window to floor level while inside the dorm, volunteers tackled a frustrating plumbing project. Even though a shopping trip to Santa Clara was disappointing in that a three-hour hunt for plumbing supplies proved fruitless. Undaunted, the plumbers creatively built parts for 6 showers, 4 sinks, 6 toilets and 2 mop sinks. A main water line was installed with a tap to each of these as well as a sewer/drain line.
UMVIM volunteers also completed the wiring and installation of electrical outlets in the second dorm as well as addressing other miscellaneous projects on the “to do” list including removing small frogs/ranas from their bathrooms!
One Sunday the group attended Manajanabo Methodist Church where Pastor Lori Shannon preached, and in Havana the group visited the Regla Methodist Church. On Wednesday evening the group worshiped with the Falcon Methodist Church congregation where liturgical dancing was part of the animated worship. Lay speaker, William Howell was the worship leader with translation into Spanish by interpreter, Alba Acosta.
Enroute back to Havana upon completion of the group's work, the small bus transporting the group hugged the coastline until reaching the famous Varadero beach with its turquoise blue water and swaying palms. While signtseeing in Havana, the team saw the famous restored vintage 1950's cars, many of which are used by tourists. Sightseeing in the Havana area, group members visited the Plaza of the Revolucion, the home/gardens of Ernest Hemingway, and his favorite coffee shop. A stunning city, old Havana is a showcase of museums, art galleries, cobblestone streets, and the beautiful Havana Cathedral on Plaza de la Catedral.
For those of us in the group, the highlight of the mission trip was meeting the Cuban people with whom we lived at the guest house and worked with at the work site. Magda, Nerbis, Madelin, Fifa and Rebeca prepared our daily arroz con frijoles with decorative platters of veggies at each meal. Miquel, Ramoncito, Eloy, Jorge, and Frank, with a jovial spirits, were on the spot providing work equipment and rides here and there. Camp Directors, Onel and Inervis, hosted us for a Super Bowl party with brownies baked by Dave Duffe. Evenings were filled with teaching the Cubans new card games (Uno, Crazy Eights (ochos locos). Hearing the Cubans share their personal stories about their lives and their spiritual journeys created a deep bond with each of these precious personalities. Our prayers are with them as they live a lifestyle and culture completely different from what we enjoy. Even though their lives are challenging, their strong faith sustains them and gives them hope. They richly blessed our lives, and for this we are very grateful. Dios es bueno, todo el tiempo!
Steve Bellon, Knoxville
Dave Duffe, Moscow
Amy Fuson, Indianola
Katherine and William Howell, Coon Rapids
Martha McCallister, Wilton
Beverly Nolte, Des Moines
Judy Olson, Gray
Linda Rowe, Bloomfield
Lori Shannon, Manning
Gary and Judy Taber, Lake Park