Local Methodists return from mission to Cuba

Tue, 02/12/2008 - 3:26pm
By: The Citizen

Local Methodists return from mission to Cuba

When Americans think of Cuba, they usually don’t think of a dynamic, growing community of faith. However, from Jan. 18-28, ten members from Fayetteville First United Methodist Church and one member from Peachtree City United Methodist Church experienced first-hand what La Iglesia Metodista en Cuba (The Methodist Church in Cuba) is doing to spread the Gospel in that country.

The Rev. Mark Westmoreland, pastor of Fayetteville First UMC, said of the trip, “We saw a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.”

The group worshiped with and worked with Iglesia Metodista Nuevitas in Nuevitas, a port city of 40,000 on the northern coast of Cuba 350 miles east of Havana.

Westmoreland delivered the sermon during that evening’s worship service and again on Friday evening. Members of the group gave testimonies and sang in worship services at the Nuevitas church and at two of the five mission churches during the week.

On Friday afternoon, the women on the team met with the church’s version of the United Methodist Women to share prayer concerns. Each team member came away with the same thoughts — that both groups had the same concerns for family and friends .

On Wednesday night, Westmoreland met with the church’s young people, musicians, and interpretive dancers and discussed the differences in styles of worship between their church and ours.

“The most significant accomplishment was the interaction between our group and the youth of the Nuevitas church,” said FFUMC member Allen Harp. “Any church would be extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful group of young adults leading and directing the future of the church.”

It was feared that the language barrier would prevent members from connecting with the people of the Cuban church. However, everyone, both Cuban and American, had fun learning new words in another language and making connections.

“I was amazed at the common connection through our beliefs in the Methodist Church,” Harp said. “Even though we did not speak the same language or share the same freedoms through different governments, we still were very similar in our beliefs and faith.”

Preparing for later repairs, the group helped church members remove a portion of the roof and dismantle the brick walls of part of the pastor’s house, salvaging as many bricks as possible, since bricks are hard to obtain there.

The team also left the power tools and other hard-to-get items they had brought with them.

Tom Snyder, a member of Peachtree City UMC, summed it up by saying, “In a society where God was denied, and church was opposed for over 30 years, God worked with the faithful to have a remnant to spark the movement that may be the most positive influence in this country going forward. God was there before us, is there now, and will be there continuing to work.”

The mission trip was coordinated through United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction. UMVIM has been sending teams to Cuba for over five years, averaging one per month.

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