Reflection of my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba
March 19, 2018 / By Madeline Klein, Baker Memorial UMC
I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Mission of Peace to Cuba. A few people I know had traveled to Cuba not long ago and from the descriptions they gave me, I envisioned dirty streets, people dancing, old cars, and colorful houses. While most of these expectations proved correct, there is so much more to Cuba than what they saw as tourists. They saw the outside of Cuba, the beautiful colors of the country’s cities and beaches, but our group was able to dig deeper to see more: the incredible people and their culture.
Before going to Cuba, I thought the language barrier we faced and the divisions between our governments might prevent us from really forming bonds with the people there. Despite these differences, we were united under our common belief in God. Through that, I was able to make friends that I’ll always remember, both Cuban and American.
One of my favorite places we went to was the church of Carlos Rojas. We visited once to meet the pastor, then again on New Year’s Eve to see their preparations for the New Year’s celebration. The love and generosity the people showed us there have really stayed with me. All we did for them was visit their church and sing a few songs, then they invited us to share in their New Year’s Eve. We were able to dance with them, play dominos, and they served us a cake. One of the women made each of us a paper flower, even though we’d never met her before. I thought this was amazing: she took the time and energy to make nineteen beautiful paper flowers for people she’d never met. That night was not only fun, but also, it gave us an opportunity to learn more about the Cuban culture.
Another thing I loved was the music. In church, people got so involved in singing and dancing to the music that it made our church services at home seem pretty dull. At the Methodist church in Matanzas, two younger girls came up to me during the last praise song to dance with me. As soon as the song started, they came right over and took my hands, something I was surprised by because I tried to avoid strangers when I was younger.
They quickly saw how bad my dancing was, so they showed me the right dance moves and when to spin, and it was so much fun to be able to dance with them. This was also a moment where I could clearly see in them the face of God. Music is a huge part of a country’s culture, so it was amazing that we were so surrounded by it. We always sang when we went to churches, homes, or orphanages, which people enjoyed. The Cubans couldn’t understand what the songs meant, but they embraced our music.
I learned so much through our experience in Cuba. I learned that Cuba has both tarantulas and crocodiles, despite our translator telling us that there were no dangerous animals in Cuba. I learned that “patience, flexibility, and change” (the MOP mantra) are important to make the most of the Mission of Peace. I learned about the history of Cuba, including their perspectives on the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs Invasion. I learned that people living in difficult situations, like many that participate in the handicapped children’s ministry, are happy despite their circumstances.
Everything I learned made this trip more valuable to me and made me appreciate everything I have so much more. For me, this Mission of Peace was about three main ideas: love, peace, and joy. The love our group saw in every smiling face and the love we were able to show the Cuban people. The peace I felt when we visited a quiet seminary on a hill overlooking the city of Matanzas. The joy we spread through our music as we met with the handicapped children’s ministry. That sense of love, peace, and joy is probably the most important thing I got from Cuba.
The friends I made and the memories we shared will keep alive the amazing feeling of fellowship, tranquility, and overall happiness that Cuba gave me. Learning about the Cuban history and culture was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t have asked for better people to share it with. I encourage any high schooler who wants to experience a foreign country while furthering their relationship with God to apply for the Mission of Peace.