Sunday, October 28, 2007

Methodists visit sister church in Cuban province

Methodists visit sister church in Cuban province
Members of a Plantation Methodist church made a goodwill visit to a
sister church in Cuba.
Posted on Sun, Oct. 28, 2007
Special to The Miami Herald

A recent visit to Cuba by members of Plantation United Methodist Church
began with a blessing three days before takeoff.

''To serve one another and serve the world, we make ready to leave this
place so that all our members shall serve our Cuban sister church,'' the
Rev. Timothy Smiley said during the official commission of the church's
mission team to Iglesia de Medotista in Consolación del Sur.

The city, founded in 1690 in Pinar del Rio Province southwest of Havana,
is home to many clandestine churches attended in private residences,
said Smiley's wife, Candy Smiley, who, with member Jan Hamilton, helped
establish the mission group and the ties with the Cuban church in 2002.

Hamilton said the Plantation church at 1001 NW 70th Ave., which also has
a prayer partner program with sister church members, made visits to Cuba
in 2004 and twice in 2005.

Members Misty Jacobs, Christy Allen and Steve Rivera, all Plantation
residents, left Florida on the most recent trip Oct. 10-15 with seven
suitcases packed with medical and personal hygiene supplies, school
supplies, clothing, books and other hard-to-get items on the
Communist-controlled island.

Hamilton said the team visited on temporary religious visas.

During their stay, Rivera said, the team experienced no resistance from
Cuban government officials and the sister church members were gracious
and welcoming.

'People are able to worship in homes as long as there is no preaching of
revolution. They are pretty much left alone, but like any Communist
nation, `big brother' is watching,'' Rivera said.

It was hardly a tourist's vacation -- no sightseeing, no trips to the beach.

Instead, mission members lived among the people, sharing meals, playing
with children, doing household chores, praying together and sleeping in
homes, some without windows and doors, most with poor plumbing and
electrical service.

''In some ways, it broke my heart to see the conditions they live with
day to day, but in other ways, it was beautiful to see how they are so
resourceful, how they recycle things to last and how strong their faith
is,'' Rivera said.

The team was moved especially at the group's love for the Plantation church.

''No matter what little they have, they take one day a week, every
Thursday, to fast and pray for our church and congregation,'' Rivera said.

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