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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    My faith transformation during my Mission of Peace trip to Cuba

    March 12, 2018 / By Gavin Hill, Eden United Methodist Church

    Editor’s Note: The Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Cuba, Dec. 28, 2017-Jan. 12, 2018. Fourteen youth went on the trip, of which four were from Upper New York.

    The day before we left for Cuba, I felt super scared and I made this prayer that was inspired from Psalm 91:1-12. I wrote, “Lord. My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. I ask that you deliver me from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. I ask that you cover me, and I will find refuge; your faithfulness is a shield and buckler. I ask that I not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day. Thank you.” This prayer made me feel very comforted. And this, was only the beginning of my faiths transformation

    Upon arriving to Cuba, I was nervous because we walked out of the airport and a crowd of people are staring at us. I immediately had a bad feeling. Then, we walked to the parking lot and my emotions completely changed. Our transportation was a painted school bus with writing that said, “love” and “End the blockade on Cuba.”

    On the way to the house of Farfan (the place we stayed) I saw the immense beauty God had created in Cuba with the vast fields and palm trees. Also, the crystal clear blue ocean. When we arrived the owner, Ricardo made us popcorn and told us about the house. He was so friendly and right then, I knew that Cuba was a place of community and love.

    Throughout the trip, we visited pastors and churches.

    One of the days, we were visited by a professor by the name of Daniel Montoya. He told us about the history of Christianity in Cuba and asked us a very deep question. He started by quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Junior. “I have a dream but with open eyes.” He then proceeded to ask, “what is your dream?” I was completely stumped. I thought my dream at that moment was to go to the Olympics for track and field. I was then proven wrong over the course of the trip. My dream is to go to the Olympics when I am a senior, so I can show people the great things God has done to me. However, that is not the end of my dream. God has been calling me to be a pastor for quite some time and this trip helped me accept it. I hope to go to the Olympics 1-3 times; however, my true dream is to be a pastor and change people’s lives.

    We spent much of our time at a place known as “The Farm.” The Farm works with the CCM (Cuban Connectional Ministries). We ate most of our meals there; we played a lot of frisbee, taught people how to juggle, cleaned up rubble, found tarantulas, and we really connected with the Cubans and the differently enabled children.

    One thing I learned at The Farm is that you don’t need to keep purchasing more luxuries for yourself. One of the men, Armando, had a “Frankenstein car.” Under his hood were parts from different makers. Some of these were, Chevy, Hidi, Suzu, Toyota, Yelee, and a lot more. The reason for these different parts is because he can’t afford a new car.

    For New Years, we had a huge celebration. A bunch of people came to The Farm for a bonfire. At that fire, we talked about how it is a new start and we need to leave the bad and the good behind. And something that I shared with everyone was Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I wanted to remind people that in the coming year that no matter how dark things get, Christ will strengthen you, and you will rise up and complete the task.

    One of the most special moments of the trip was when all the guys met in our room and we had a Bible study. It was so great because it was an impromptu Bible study. No one had planned it, I just asked Gabe what his favorite verse was and then, all the guys are in the room and we are all sharing verses.

    We also visited two orphanages. It was really great to visit the orphanage with older kids because they told us their whole process. When a kid turns 18, they are supposed to leave. However, if they don’t have a job or a house then, they can stay at the orphanage until that happens. There was a woman who was old enough to leave; however, she had a baby, so she could stay to make sure the baby gets enough food.

    The last time we visited the differently enabled children, I worked with the children. I mostly worked with this one girl that I never got the name of but, I will never forget. I colored with her for most of the time and then, one of the volunteers made an origami boat and gave it to hear. The little girl then gave that boat to me. For that reason, I will never forget her.

    Upon leaving it was very sad. The night before we looked at photos to recap the trip and we said goodbyes. There were so many tears, which illustrated how close we became to each other. The friends that I made on this trip are friends that I never will forget. I will never forget this amazing experience and all the people that helped shape me into a better person.

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."