Every year on the 14th of November, Cuba Yearly Meeting celebrates the arrival in 1900 of the first Friends missionaries to the island. For the last few years, Friends United Meeting has been sending Living Letters to join in the celebration and to experience the life and witness of Cuban Quakerism. Our 2019 Living Letters trip to visit Friends in Cuba was co-led by Rausie Hobson of Rocky River Friends Meeting in Siler City, North Carolina, and Janine Saxton of North Valley Friends Church in Newberg, Oregon.
Both Friends offered their reflections on their experience:
Rausie Hobson writes:
"As FUM Living Letters 2019 to Cuba, we became a part of their joyous celebration remembering the arrival of Quaker missionaries in 1900. As “letters” we carried the greetings, news, support, hope and blessings to our Cuban Friends. The apostle Paul wrote letters of the same type, but we used our voices instead of the written word, to carry to our friends our admiration and joy when they worship God. Letters, when they are true correspondence, go in two directions – back and forth. Each person in our group represented a letter from God, each one of us has that of God within us. In this way, we were not the only “Living Letters;” we carried greetings to Cuba and then back to our families, local and Yearly Meetings, and Friends United Meeting. We sang songs, gave messages, prayed and carried many small items needed in daily life (especially over-the-counter medicines), some school supplies and things needed for building repairs.
"In our ten-day trip we shared Sunday morning worship and lunch with Miami Friends Meeting (FUM), many of whom are Cubans. During our travels in Cuba we joyously shared with members of seven Monthly Meetings and a couple of Preparative/Worship Groups. We saw remarkable progress with various building projects, many children and young people and beautiful music. Their enthusiastic sharing of talents, worship times and meals, was definitely a God-filled experience.
Janine Saxton writes:
"Every time I return from a trip to Cuba my heart and Spirit feel reignited with hope. As one Friend said during this trip, 'Daily life feels pastel compared to the vivid, colorful experiences here. I wish I could bottle it all up and take it home.'
"Despite a lack of everyday resources that we take for granted in this country (medicine, fresh vegetables, household supplies, toiletries, cement, toilet paper…), their worship services and friendly conversations overflow with abundance. Joy, love, compassion and gratitude pour out of them into the surrounding neighborhoods.
"The Cuban Quaker church is only 119 years old. Similar to the early church described in the book of Acts, Cubans live under military occupation; their religious freedom is barely tolerated; church property is tentative and can be easily be revoked; personal rights and protection are not guaranteed. Yet in our Living Letters trips we never observe resentment or anger. On the contrary: joy, love, compassion and gratitude lift Cuban Quakers above their difficult circumstances and enable them to live fully with very little. They rejoice in belonging to a God who suffers with his people, and to a family who shares one another’s burdens.
"I return home wanting to reconnect with my community in a way that anchors me, uses me, sustains me and binds us all together as God’s family. I am weary of pastel living. I long for big splashes of color across the canvas of our life together—the golden saffron of gratitude, the deep indigo of peace and the sparkling crimson of joy. Thank you, Friends in Cuba, for kindling the fire of hope within me again."
This one-week intervisitation trip is gentle enough for older Friends, and is focused on sharing in worship and fellowship. If you’d like to travel to Cuba in 2020, please be in contact with Ben Snyder, North American Ministries Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.