Wendy Knowles and Reinier Menendez Hernandez during service

I really wanted to go to Cuba, but had conflicts with the first 2 trips. So I felt this was the time.  I hoped to experience the culture, use my Spanish, meet the people, see how they do church, and figure out how they live under the Castro Regime.  I was reminded yet again that the Human spirit is indomitable, especially when people work together.  I experienced this in the church (Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Seminary in Matanzas), in people’s homes, and in family restaurants and other small businesses.

We did some regular “touristy” things like touring Havana, visiting the Castle/Fort (Morro/Cabana), public sculptures, historical sites, the beach and were even blessed by a Santeria priest.  I took part in the “older adult bible class” where most of the class were at least 80 years old, and visited church members in their own homes as a few of us accompanied one of the ministers on her “rounds” in the neighborhood. Everyone seems to have their own home or apartment, but many are very small.  I have a mental snapshot of a stately building with clothes drying on the balcony.

There were a few high or low points depending on your point of view:  I hurt my knee going down the steps on the bus and had trouble walking. Someone found be a wheelchair for me to borrow, and I got to experience how willing the people around me were to help and care. That includes most of the populace of Havana. thank those who pushed my wheel chair, especially Rev. David Telfort, but I know many of the others took turns as I would try to talk to one person only to discover someone else had taken over!

Then there was my “left behind” moment when I woke up from a nap and couldn’t find anybody.  I was rather miffed to be missed, until I found Ideal (another of Ebenezer’s 3 pastors).  My half awake brain told me that, surely, he would not have been left had the rapture occurred.

While we were at the beach I found what I called my sacred grove—several trees grew in a circle and their branches came down to the sand. I was sitting on a log trying to meditate when several young men who looked rather tough started to come in possibly to tell me to leave—until they looked at me again and then left rather hurriedly!?  I was a little surprised, but then realized I had been wearing all white, like the Santeria nuns (who actually are novices and must serve everyone, but not speak.)

I wrote earlier about using my Spanish. It turned out that most of us used more Spanish than we thought we knew, and it’s amazing how much communication can occur even when people can’t get the words exactly right! I also wanted to see how they “did church”.  Well, every member is involved!

I’m so glad I got to visit Ebenezer Baptist Church and Cuba and thank everyone who helped me experience caring people in a different culture.

Wendy Knowles