The purpose of our visit was to check on the projects that ARMF is sponsoring and investigate other needs that our Cuban brothers and sisters have identified. We also installed a clean water solution in Santayana.
Please see below updates on our activities with our Moravian churches across the island.
We participated in the dedication of our new Moravian Church headquarters. The facility has been completed and looks wonderful. At the dedication service, Bishop Sam Gray preached the dedication message to over 50 Cuban brothers and sisters. A meal was prepared for all in attendance. The next Sunday on our return trip from across the island Joe Jarvis delivered the message.
Our team also visited the Comenius Center and got updated on the facilities ongoing construction. Great progress is being made and it looks like it can be occupied by late spring 2016. After visiting the facility we traveled to the current community house, and celebrated with over 60 children that the Comenius Center will ultimately support. Clothes donated by our Winston Salem community were given out to each one of the children. Gideon bibles were presented to the community leaders to support their efforts with the children.
During our visit in Havana several needs were identified that have been added to our project list.
- The upstairs apartment in the HQ church will be available for purchase in the coming months. The lady has issues climbing stairs and Armando is looking for a one story house for her. Once located we would buy the 2nd floor apartment and she would use those funds to purchase her new house. This would give our HQ church the entire building and add additional meeting space and bedroom for the pastor or visitors.
- The Comenius center is being constructed with additional supports to prepare for a 2nd floor addition.
- Because of space limitations we can install the water solution just installed in Santayana at the Comenius center as well as the Church Headquarters. This would supply clean water to both facilities and its neighbors.
- It was also determined that members of our Canadian Moravian Church can visit in the spring of 2016 to work in the Comenius Center to help with final painting and last minute detail of the center.
We visited and worshiped with the fellowship in Mayabeque. This church is at the pastor’s house and had some 20 members at the service. Bibles and clothes were given out after the service.
In Jaguay we visited with the Pastor Obed, and his Church board for several hours, getting updated on the hospital, farm, and building projects.
Jaguay is the largest congregation in Cuba with 3 additional fellowships close by that Obed manages. Jaguay, the largest consistently worships with 100 – 115 people. Bolondrone up to 30 people, Agrimonte, up to 20 people and Quemado Grande up to 25 people.
As we drilled down into the needs of the church in Jaguay, it was apparent that the immediate need is worship space. Currently they operate out of the pastor’s garage for worship that often spills out into the street. Sunday school classes are held in all the bedrooms and office areas within Obed’s house. Obed and his team have located a house directly across from his house that is vacant and available for purchase. The ARMF team was able to inspect the facility and came away very impressed with the potential. Members from Obed’s board have contacted the owners to make an offer to purchase. They are currently asking 20,000 CUC and the current offer is 15,000 CUC. ARMF will be working closely with the church in Jaguay to hopefully come to agreement and purchase this facility. ARMF will aim their fund raising efforts to help purchase this building. Renovations to this facility will include the building of a second floor for additional space. Obed’s children who are architects in Miami will be able to help with the design and preparation.
The children’s hospital continues to be a focus for the Jaguay church. We visited the hospital and agreed on supporting them with additional ceiling fans for the building as well as some arts and crafts materials. We were also presented necklaces and wall hangings that the patients had made for auction items at our fund raisers. That money will of course go right back to the hospital.
The farm project is going well and understands that it is supporting the church with vegetables and fruit as intended and beginning to support some of the local schools at reduced prices. With our financial support, they have planted 500 coffee plants and just completed digging a well for irrigation at the farm.
The team worshiped at the family farm in Quemado Grande. They had previously been worshiping under a large tree on the farm, and have now built a large outdoor covered “tiki hut”. We participated in the dedication service with 30 members of the congregation. At Quemado Grande we spent time with a young man named Yonai. At 38 he has inoperable stage 4 cancer. He built the congregation building as a lasting tribute to his family and his desire to see the church grow in his community. What an inspiration!!
Clearly the projects that have been identified for Jaguay are moving forward and continue to be a focus of the church.
The needs that we are focused on in Jaguay would be as follows.
- Purchase and renovation of a church facility.
- Investigate and located a water solution that can be installed at the new church to support the community with clean water.
- Christian Education materials
- Computer Thumb Drives
- Laptop computers for his pastors
- Communion trays and glasses
We spent our time in Santayana worshiping with their congregation, installing a water solution for clean water, and visiting the farm project.
The worship service as usual was an inspiring evening. There were over 40 people in attendance and we all felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In our previous visit in May we installed a faucet solution in the pastor’s house and it was working fine. He advised that they were supporting over 20 households with fresh water from that solution. This new larger solution was installed on the roof and they anticipate supporting over 200 families with this new larger solution.
After installation and water testing we found the water was contaminated and not working as we had expected. The issue was the pipe that went into the house from the water filter was contaminated and after the water was filtered and flowed through that final pipe it became contaminated again. We have put in a fix and are working with Santayana to install the fix. We will continue to work with them so that they get the clean water we had intended. During our visit we were able to find another house in the village that we could install our medium size water solution and support another 200 families in the Santayana community. We left instructions of what needed to be done so we could install the water solution on our next visit in 6 months. They will need to a water cistern on the roof, a pump for the well and a pipe to the faucet. Estimated cost for this would be $300
The farm continues to grow. More areas are being cleared. They now have over 50 goats and the folks in Santayana are continuing to construct the infrastructure to support this 70 acre farm. The church has plans now to build a large house on the farm with 4 bedrooms, storage room and a barn for all the animals. Also looking to create a pond on the property to support a fish farm predominantly stocked with Talapia.
We also spent time looking at church expansion. Currently they have over 50 people worshiping with about 25 of them being young people. The church operating out of the pastor’s house is way too small. Aldo and his daughter Barbara have located a house next to Aldo’s home that is for sale and could be purchased for $9500 CUC. The team visited the facility and saw great promise in this opportunity.
After our visit to Santayana several needs were identified.
- 15 rolls of fencing would complete the fencing for the entire farm.
- Preparation for a second site for our medium size water solution.
- Funds to support the restoration of their tractor. The tractor would not only support the work on the farm, but would be a source of income for hauling and other farming opportunities within the community.
We left Santayana and traveled further east to Holguin. This congregation has been under a lot of changes from out last visit 6 months ago. 3 new lay pastors have been put in place and the congregation has grown quickly.
20 people ages 10 to 60 had requested to be baptized being fully submerged in the ocean. We attended this service watching Armando and Sam Gray go waist deep in the ocean and baptize each of those 20 people. What an inspirational time. Sunset, the beach empty except those being baptized, a few guitars playing music, it was certainly clear that God was right there on the beach. Breathtaking!
We went back into the village and worshiped with the congregation where 2 other folks in their 80’s were baptized as well. The service was uplifting as well.
The next morning we went to another house church in Holguin and worshiped with 35 people. At this service another 17 folks were baptized. As stated before, the church in Holguin is growing quickly and is very excited about being members of the Moravian church.
On the way out the leaders took us to a farm to show us what they are constructing to serve the church community. They have begun the construction of a shelter sanctuary so they can bring the various community Moravian congregations into one. They have dug the footings and advised they work when they have funds and then stop and wait until they have additional funds to continue construction. The property will be put into the name of the Moravian Church of Cuba.
The need identified in Holguin;
- Funds to complete the construction of the shelter sanctuary.
With the leadership of the church in Cuba we feel very excited about the growth of the church. We are also pleased to report that these same leaders are very well thought of within the hierarchy of the Council of Churches in Cuba. The president of the council could not say enough about Armando in leading the church and the support he gets from the Moravian church in America. We are very proud of the progress of the Moravian church in Cuba and feel confident that they will continue to grow and spread God’s word across the island.