It was 10:45 pm when Daniel prayed to close out a meeting with some elders and deacons. The evening began with an informal worship service (which I later discovered was both a going away and welcoming gathering), which began at 8:30 pm, just a few minutes after the airline Cubana finally delivered our two pieces of luggage which had gone missing since our arrival. About 45 people were gathered in and around the sanctuary. Children were playing and the little girls delighted over Ruby Gene, and she over them. The service consisted of a simple welcome song, which Daniel led on guitar: “venimos de lejos y de cerca, somos una familia, dame la mano, a ti te doy mi mano,” something like that. Enough to inspire us to go around shaking hands and on occasion some of the women would initiate a single kiss on the cheek. Not sure yet what the rules are on that exchange. Daniel said a few words of welcome, and then invited us to come forward to say a few words. I rambled on some about our past experiences in Latin America and about the church in Santa Fe. There were many things I wish I would have said or said better. One, the power of vision. I spoke of Dean Lewis, but didn’t connect it to what it means to have vision and from that vision God can make amazing things happen. Dean Lewis had this vision, and here we are in Cuba. I was a bit skeptical these first few days about what this experience would be like. The town is dumpy. Things are very different and it seemed the people were going to be hard to get to know—some of the names, thanks to Russian influence, were so hard to pronounce. Then, tonight happened. The church gathered. And in their greeting, their warmth, and their sincerity, I knew this would be a special experience for us. Old men called me hermano. Age contemporaries said this prayer/ poem for us:
¿Por qué tener miedo?
¿Qué sucede es qué acaso no tienen fé?
Respondemos: Estáis siempre gozosos. Este dice el Señor.
Nuestro buen Pastor
Señor, tu eres nuestro buen pastor, el señor de nuestras vidas. Jesús tu hijo compañero del camino nos promete su pomania consten fe y su protección invariable.
Pero hoy señor en nuestra iglesia aquí en la tierra donde tu nos has puesto llamados a hacer tu obra estamos nosotros y en especial estos pastores que son tus siervos los que han dado todo para servirte donde tú los pongas lejos o cerca son Bienvenidos y dice tu palabra que se encuentra en el libro de Números Cap. 6 versículos del 24 al 26:
24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Older women invited us to their homes. One woman, an afro-cubana, said if we could accept her humble home we were welcome there. “La mas grande,” as she called herself, was the shortest woman in the church. Pedro said we could count on him for anything. Junior would pick us up for an event the following Tuesday. Another told me she encountered God in this church 18 years ago, and has a reputation—attested to by others—for her great cooking. These are the stories we will begin to learn. The gathering of people, young and old, was impressive, very impressive. They came not only for the service itself, but also because they wanted to be with one another. They wanted to say goodbye to Daniel and welcome Trasie, Ruby Gene, and me.
Maria, Daniel’s wife, describes the people as sencia-simple. One of our hopes through this experience is to learn how to be simple again. I hope these people can teach us.
The leaders—elders and deacons—who attended the worship service stayed to go over some final details before Daniel and Maria were to leave. They met for an hour; no one was hurried even as the clock passed 10:30 pm. They took care of what needed to be done to ensure the exchange went well. Even after Daniel closed in prayer at 10:45 pm they stayed and took care of some still left unfinished “business”, and talked about other things. I don’t know what time they finally left, but I said goodnight to them at 11 pm. They know each other. They trust each other. They take the time to be with each other. They are empowered and confident that God has called them to be the church here in this place. For which I am very grateful to be part of at this time.