“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8 NIV
“Some of the friendliest people. Eager to help. After we landed, my bags fell off a cart in transport. About four people ran over to help when only one was needed. The people of Cuba are very kind,” Gary Sager shared. A small group from Central had gone to help work on a building project for the Methodist church. Gary went on to say about the trip, “And worship, we could learn more about worship from them. Worship is focused on God. Here in the states we seem distracted, but the people of Cuba want Jesus.”
After hearing about Cuba from a salesman in the grocery store where Gary worked as a teenager, he became fascinated with the country. He read articles from magazines and newspapers which only fed his curiosity. Then years later while attending a Sunday school party, he listened as Julie Thibodeax shared about one of her trips to Cuba. The conversation closed with Gary saying, “Cuba, I’d love to go!” Julie remembered Gary’s words. She sent him an e-mail invitation to consider going on last year’s trip. That’s when Gary became part of the team.
The Methodist church has been present in Cuba since the late 1800’s. But it has been since the 1970’s that the church has seen substantial growth with members distributed across 350 congregations (including house churches) and 600 missions. The people of Cuba are hungry for the word of God.
The people of Cuba, although not lacking in faith, are often lacking in resources. Working with UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) Central UMC and churches all over the United States visit Cuba each year to provide financial assistance, help with resources such as tools and equipment, and evangelism outreach. “God is present in the revival of the church [in Cuba], things that we think may be impossible, like building a church with very little resources, are coming to fruition miraculously,” shared Julie.
When asked to describe the typical day of a UMVIM missionary, both Gary and Julie described very busy days. Gary mentioned rising early and getting to bed late. “When we traveled with the Arkansas group last spring, we were in Havana doing a construction project for seminary student housing. The Cuban people are very hospitable, and they love their coffee,” Julie elaborated. After “a generous breakfast and Bible Study, the mission team travelled to the construction site to begin a half day of work. Lunch was mid-day and the team returned to the construction site for the remainder of the day working alongside Cuban members of the church. Conversations throughout the day were spirit filled, rich, and focused on the love of Christ. It is not uncommon to hear praying and singing as you work. In the evenings, we fellowshipped with our Cuban brothers and sisters: That was my favorite part of ministry, the people,” Julie concluded.
John 17:23 reads, “I in them and you in me- so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” That is what is happening in Cuba. God’s people are working together, sharing His love so others can see God. As Gary shared, “God is very present in Cuba.”
Another team will be venturing to Cuba in March. Both Gary and Julie along with Greg Gibson will be making the trip. If you would be interested in future trips to Cuba contact Greg Gibson at ggibson@Centraltolife.com.