February 29, 2012
“Cuba will always have a piece of my heart. I have been on short-term mission teams throughout Central America, to South America and to Africa, but my favorite place to go remains Cuba.”
- Pam Buzbee, Marietta, GA
In the early 1990s, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams led by Betty Whitehurst traveled to Cuba to reestablish ties between the United Methodist Church in the United States and the United Methodist Church in Cuba that had become slightly torn after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Out of those initial trips, a new covenant was developed to begin to send UMVIM teams to assist the growing church community. UMVIM was allowed by the Government in Cuba to send one team every month to support the development of new congregations.
In an interview with Aldo Gonzalez, the UMVIM National Coordinator for Cuba, he stated, “In 1995, the church in Cuba had dwindled to a remnant of 2 or 3 thousand members. Today this vibrant church has over 35,000 members and more than 350 churches throughout the island.” He continued in noting that the church “has experienced an average membership growth of 10% per year and expect this growth to continue in years to come.”
After speaking with a few people who were on UMVIM teams to Cuba in the recent past, both Pam Buzbee, who was quoted earlier, and also Dave Wilder from Hermitage, TN, the overwhelming response was a sense of love and a sharing of hearts.
Pam noted, “the love and acceptance of Americans by the Cuban people is beautiful. One can walk down the streets of Havana with no fear. As you already know, it’s like stepping back into the 1950s with all the old cars. The evidence of the difficulty of life is seen in the crumbling sidewalks and facades of buildings.”
In this recurring theme of love, Dave stated that the experience was unique and special to him because he was “working side by side with the people who attended the church” that his team was helping to renovate. In the interview, he repeated multiple times that the experience was “very, very special.”
Aldo Gonzalez also pointed out that through UMVIM, the church in Cuba has built a retreat center, Camp Canaan. This camp, with enough space to house as many as 750 people, is used for annual meetings and church gatherings. In the past seventeen years, there have been more than seventy-five UMVIM teams who have worked at the camp. UMVIM teams were also involved in the building of a new Methodist Seminary in Havana.
In the coming year, the church in Cuba along with UMVIM teams will be working on an additional dormitory that will house as many as 250 people for Camp Canaan, the renovation of existing churches and the building of new churches.
We are excited to see the growth of the United Methodist Church in Cuba and proud to see that it is an effort of love by our Volunteers in Mission teams working alongside the Cubans.
To read a detailed history of the Methodist Church in Cuba written by Aldo Gonzalez, please click here. It is an excellent article and we are thankful for his love for the growth of the church in Cuba.
We have two video interviews on YouTube that are specific stories of Cuba:
Click here to watch Aldo’s story.
Click here to watch Carl Presley’s story.
If you are interested in leading a team to Cuba, financially supporting the work that is currently going on, or would like to pray for specific requests pertaining to Cuba, please email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you.