Cuba Tag

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Fresh Perspectives

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A number of months ago I found out that I would be assisting my good friend Josh Lake in leading an outreach team from our January 2016 DTS and I could not have been more excited! I was ready for this, I had just finished my first school as DTS Staff and was about to start my second, the time was right and I was getting an opportunity to step into greater leadership and responsibility. I thought back to my DTS outreach to Papua New Guinea and how much fun we had there swimming in the river, preaching sermons every night and getting to know the locals without a care in the world. Of course I knew leading would be different but I had no idea just how different it would be. 


CUBA1March 26th 2016 We left base and headed out on our way to Cuba! Before we even left the island of Ambergris Caye our credit card gets swallowed by an ATM as we tried to withdraw money for the first time for our travels. BOOM. The weight of leadership immediately hits our shoulders as Josh and I scramble to figure out a solution in the next five minutes before our boat leaves for Belize city. No immediate solution so we just push on, trusting God has a plan to take care of us. 

The next afternoon we make it to Havana, Cuba and meet our contacts. Were staying at a Church and the family is great, were able to sit down and make a plan of attack for our next couple weeks, this allows Josh and I to grab a breath of air and get some answers before plunging back into the sea of unanswered questions that we were swimming in upon our arrival in Cuba. Questions like Where are we going next? How are we going to access the team money? What will we do for ministry? What are we going to eat? How will we get around? Will the government kick us out of Cuba if were found staying at a church? Can we legally preach? and the list goes on and on. 

CUBA2This is just a taste of what it’s like to lead an outreach team and let me tell you it is far different than the happy go lucky, worry free experience I had as a student. As a student It wasn’t my responsibility to feed myself and my 12 team members let alone get them all over Cuba and organize ministry times. But when we step into a situation we can not control, God is able to step in and save the day if we ask Him to. Lucky for us we did and he answered. By His grace alone we were able to not only survive but thrive in Cuba during our outreach. We traveled to 7 different locations, preached over 10 different sermons, conducted leadership training seminars for local pastors, and build lasting relationships with the Cuban church. God took care of us and lead our team trough an unforgettable experience full of personal growth, shared struggles, and finally, full reliance on Him. 

Donavon Ash

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Forever changed

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March 26, that’s the day that we got to Cuba, now nearly 2 months later I sit on a night bus heading from Cancun, Mexico to Belize City.

It’s quiet and dark on the bus, we have the whole thing almost exclusively to ourselves and I find my mind wandering, pouring over the last 2 months. In many ways the time seems to have flown by, gone in the blink of an eye. I can remember clearly stepping out of the airport in Havana, it seemed much hotter then IMG_3805Belize, maybe only because of all the concrete and asphalt. I remember following Hatniel (our contact) to a bus, our team was amazed by Cuba, we couldn’t help but comment on all the vehicles, cars older then our parents (sorry guys). This was only the beginning of our journey. We would see much of Cuba and meet many incredible people who we will not soon forget. Now it all seems like some sort of a dream as I sit here in the dark recollecting. While I can do my best to describe the emotions and the experiences, surely my words will fail to do justice to the true experience, none the less I will try.

13244899_10154093427437787_8974960081550566456_nI have never done an outreach before, but I will take a stab in the dark and say that this may have been a struggle to lead and the way in which Josh and Donny led the team was outstanding. For those of you who have never been to Cuba you may not understand, but Cuban culture is unlike anything I have experienced. I have been to other warm, Caribbean cultures where time is of little value, but Cuba takes it to the next level. Time is a means of only a very very rough estimate; for example you may be told a car will pick you up at 9:00am, but at 1:00pm you get a call saying the car had problems, but don’t worry another one is on the way, the car finally shows up at 4:00pm. While this may not have been an everyday occurrence, it is a good idea of transportation and timelines in Cuba. Now this casts a negative light on the culture and I most certainly mean to do no such thing. The lack of concern for time may be frustrating for someone from a western culture but I assure you there was much about the culture that our team loved.

Food. The food of Cuba was beyond expectation, we could be assured our daily intake of rice and beans but we would also be treated to many delicacies and fantastic desserts. It actually seemed that every new location we went to would have its own dessert speciality, a unique treat to get from street vendors. One place might be churros, the next night have guayba filled pastries, one thing you could count on was delicious Cuban coffee for one peso or the equivalent of 4 US cents. Far beyond the great food was the warmth of the people, no matter where we went we warmly welcomed. We would do house visits to pray for and encourage members of the church, they would often feed us and give us coffee or offer to slaughter a pig… They have a huge heart and reflect the love of Christ so well in this. In fact on one occasion I asked a vendor if she sold coffee, I was told no, but was then given a glass of coffee for free that presumably has been for her personally.

IMG_6626We got to travel all the way for Havana down to Santiago and then full circle back. Along the way we met so many cool people. For example there was our over qualified translator, Pablo, he could rap, play guitar, bongos, sing, do amazing wood carvings and even masonry work. Or there was Joani, he was 41, had been in wheel chair for 20 years. People told him he would be a burden to society, never amount to anything, now he is a carpenter that loves Jesus and he overflows with joy. Cuba was full of warm amazing people, people who loved so so well, like God calls us to. The passion they have for the church, for growing the body of Christ, for knowing the people was so encouraging. They truly are a beautiful people. We went to minister to them, to teach them, yet I know that we walked away with more than we left.

Cuba and all it’s hectic scheduling and random transportation had struggles and it had victories. We took 12 people, most having only been acquainted for 3 months and we went to Cuba. In some ways this trip was extremely difficult. We left with 12 people, and only returned with 8. It’s a hard thing to lose team members regardless the circumstances. I can however say with certainty that even though we may not understand it, God had his hand in it weaving it together for his glory. I won’t lie and say it was easy, it wasn’t, but we pushed through it as a team, leaned into God and grew closer because of it.

FullSizeRenderOutreach forces you out of your comfort zone no matter who you are, it forces you to ride in cramped cars designed for far less then your number, it forces you to sleep on a cold or hot floor. You get closer with your team members than you thought possible and perhaps then you would have liked. The inevitability of outreach is that you see people at their worst and thankfully also at their best. Like it or not you come out as a family, mess with one of us and you mess with all of us. We leave Cuba a unit, bringing light and freedom wherever we go, that is our mandate and right as heirs of the King.

Do I have regrets from this outreach? Maybe yes. There are situations I could have handled better, there are times I could have stepped up more. Would I change it if I could? Absolutely not. Our team killed it. We were refined by our struggles, we come out better and stronger on the other side. A team of warriors. Again I snap back to the present and I know there is no one on this bus that I would trade away, this team was hand picked and hand assembled for this outreach and it’s awesome. I am excited for what the future holds, I am excited for what’s next for all of us, but surely I will miss team Cuba. Spending 5 months with someone, being with them almost every waking minute, and sometimes every sleeping minute, creates an incredibly strong and unique bond.

I am beyond blessed to have been part of this team and forever changed because of it.

 

Val Dalberg

 

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Complaining gets you nowhere

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13133342_10209865383457141_2460739313009464696_nDuring outreach prep week, the first thing we are taught is to not have any expectations, because outreach will be nothing like our expectations. But despite the warning, I can still look back on the past 6 weeks of outreach and say that it was nothing like I anticipated! Even so, my outreach here in Cuba is more than anything I could have possibly imagined. It was because this outreach was nothing like I expected that I grew and stretched my faith so much. I discovered things about myself that I was never even aware of prior, and I now have a greater understating of the person I want to be.

Firstly, God definitely taught me a lot about trusting Him to make the good out of bad situations. We were thrown a curve ball about halfway through outreach, and it has affected our team ever since. It was a dramatic couple of days, but it was because of that situation that I learned to trust God, even in the midst of chaos. It would’ve been easy to be angry and upset with God and our team. Instead, I chose to lean on God, so I could allow Him to bring the good out of it. But, I didn’t pray to God and ask him to weaken my problem. I asked Him to give me the strength to fight against it. So this way, God was able to bring out the good in this bad situation. He was able to teach me the importance of humility, and He was able to give me the strength to help me open up to my team members, and therefore bring us all closer together. To top it off, the Lord even spoke to me and told me to preach a sermon on this topic the very same day!

13119046_1795371314024768_8905198744032966384_nAnother thing that God has been showing me during this outreach is how to tame my tongue. In the past, I have struggled with using my tongue for gossip, lies, and harsh words. Which are things that I will never be able to take back. But during one of our team bible studies, we studied the book of James, and read chapter 3 which specifically talks about taming the tongue. Verse 9 really hit home for me, which says, “with the tongue we praise our Lord and and father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in Gods likeliness”. I now realize that I no longer want to use my tongue to put Gods children down, but instead raise them up.  Encouragement leaves such a greater positive impact on somebody than put downs or teasing. Loving the way that Jesus loves is that way that I now strive to love every single person that crosses my path!

But easily the greatest thing that God has been teaching me about while here in Cuba is my own personal growth. Every single aspect of outreach has challenged me in so many ways. Being with the same people 13118907_10209865384777174_155274234851139150_n24/7, going places I don’t necessarily want to go or doing things that are out of my comfort zone, are just a few examples. But by looking back and self-reflecting, I can literally see and feel differences in my character, judgement, and the way I view life. I will take nothing for granted- simply even just running water is a blessing in itself. Hours spent filtering water, bucket showers and unreliable toilets have become the norm here. Hand sanitizer and baby wipes I’ve learned are necessities. Also, I’ve discovered that I want to rid complaining completely from my life. It gets you nowhere and does absolutely nothing expect reveal negativity. Instead, when I am tempted to complain, I will try and find 3 positive things about the negative situation. Next, I now know that no matter what I will 13061941_1795372430691323_3178561107873311100_nalways put others before myself. Even if it’s as simple as showering last, or taking the worst spot to put my mattress. My goal is to try my best to make other people feel comfortable, more appreciated, and loved. This ties into another thing that I’ve learned, which is the importance of encouragement and affirmation. As well, as much as I tried to avoid it, I’ve realized how necessary short accounts are. Confrontation can be scary and uncomfortable, but it changes relationships for the better. There’s nothing wrong with telling people how you felt in a situation or something that was done that you don’t respond well to. Finally, I will give everything I have to stay positive. It’s easy to get upset or be negative when things don’t go your way, but life becomes so much better when you choose positivity. Without being on outreach, I don’t know if I would have realized these things. I can’t imagine going back home and being the person I used to be. I’m so excited to see my family and friends again, and show them how much I’ve grown and changed for the better.

13001169_10209728817363074_7428733497928207321_nI thought I came to Cuba to change the lives of others and to show the Cubans who Jesus really is. Not only did I do that, but my own life was changed. I expected that after 3 months of lecture phase I would arrive to Cuba teaching, preaching, and evangelizing like I had it all together. But really it was pretty much the opposite. I am still just a student, just trying to figure out how to live my newly found life with God. Outreach is more just like your first test, and first opportunity to really apply everything that we have been taught. It’s no longer just taking notes in the sandroom and listening to speakers- it’s real life. But that doesn’t mean that I’m never going to make a mistake again. Or never going to mess up again. It just means that I now have the knowledge to make actions. To make a difference in my own life, and to make a difference in every persons life that I come across. I now know that I want Jesus to be a light in me, and I want to share his unconditional love everywhere I go. There’s never going to be any less of Jesus no matter if I’m on base, in Cuba, or back at home. I want to know Him and make Him known.

 

  • Saba Kashuba

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Perfect Love cast out all fear

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IMG_8331I have never been challenged this much and to such an extent as I have, being on outreach to Cuba. But in saying so, I’ve also never experienced family like I have with my team. We’ve had to go through some really hard situations where I thought our team was going to crumble and fall apart, but by putting God in the centre of our team and mission, we’ve been able to grow closer in unity. As an individual, God has been revealing so many amazing things while being here. Being in Cuba, we’ve been in 5 different locations so far, and I remember while packing up to leave one place, I found a bag with all my encouragement notes. I asked God to give me a note that I really needed to hear, and I pulled one out that said:

“1 John 4:18, PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT ALL FEAR. 

Daughter, there is no fear in me. I couldn’t be prouder of you. Thank you for letting me invade your heart! Stay present, and stay secure in me because I’ll always have your back. I love you darling.

-Papa”

IMG_8356That couldn’t have been better timing for God to reveal this note to me again. Prior to reading that, I was having a hard time here on outreach. I was missing my friends and family, I thought our team was falling apart which made me fear doing anything else to add to the issue and so I started to not be myself and to distance myself from my team members who were getting on my nerves due to our sticky situations. Everything seemed to be going downhill- because I was so zoomed in on my own life and my own desires and priorities.

IMG_8355When God placed this note in my hand, my whole perspective zoomed out and I noticed how I wasn’t living in the moment and how because I was starting to distance myself, I wasn’t allowing our team to unite and I wasn’t letting myself be secure in God and our team. I chose from that moment on to decide to put my 100% into this outreach in Cuba because I was here for God. Since then, I’ve stayed present and I’ve stayed secure in God because I know all things work for His good and I have enjoyed my time so much more. In doing this I’ve also felt more open and vulnerable with our team which has allowed for more unity and growth. It is just so incredible when you put love behind everything you do and staying completely present, knowing that God always has your back.

IMG_8354Recently, as a team we’ve been teaching many people at leadership seminars. One thing I’ve been speaking about is on filling yourself up with God and letting Him use you to overflow to the others around you. Preparing this on my own before teaching this made me look at my own life here and realizing how time with God is so important. Being here in Cuba on outreach is often quite difficult to find alone time, but each time I do, I find myself loving on people so much more easier because I’m filled to the brim with Jesus. And I find myself not only loving my teammates more but also the lovely people I have the opportunity to meet here. I’ve been able to build quite a few really great relationships with some of the Cuban girls who are my age and it’s so sweet to get to know them like I have. Being filled with Jesus and spending time in His presence has made me see everyone more like Jesus sees them.

Cuba is such a beautiful country with so many wonderful people who have impacted my life in one way another. It has been a crazy, unexpected, and fun past 5 weeks here travelling all over Cuba and I can’t wait for the adventures the next 2 weeks have waiting for us!

 

  • Allison Wiebe

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