Monday, June 12, 2006

Cuba 2006 Highlights - Part 1

As you are all aware, I recently traveled to Havana, Cuba with 26 other singles from my church here in Houston, TX. We returned on June 3, but work kept me too busy last week to post anything about the trip. So this week, I plan to give you a day-by-day look at our trip by discussing my personal trip highlights. Today's installment will cover Saturday, Sunday, and Monday... my apologies up front for the length of this post.

Saturday - May 27th

Our time in the airport was an event in and of itself. This was the only place that I ever felt like I was in a communist country. I may be making too much of this, but being in the airport terminal we were in (the one for chartered flights) had a very "controlled" feel to it. I was not scared at all... I just didn't feel free at all either. But then when I got through customs and walked outside, our new Cuban friends were so welcoming. And they spoke English... so we could all talk to them with reletive ease. Elmer (the leader of the group that we would be meeting with all week) was the first person I had a conversation with. It was truly a great way to start the week off because I could tell right off that he loved the Lord and just wanted to honor him. And besides that, he was hilarious.

Sunday - May 28th

We worshiped in a Cuban church that morning and then had the rest of the day as free time. Worshiping in another language and culture always presents its own challenges and blessings. Catha reminded us to embrace and experience the blessings as opposed to being annoyed by the challenges. Unexpectedly, Elmer translated the message for us (I fully expected to sit through an hour long sermon in Spanish. Now this was meaningful because Elmer had just told me the day before at the airport that his dream is to be a translator for a preacher. Well, we got to see/hear him do that for the first time... and he did a fine job. The rest of the day was free time. Many of us spent it at the pool just relaxing. This was a highlight because it allowed some of us who didn't know each other to get to know each other... which is in the top 3 highlights of the trip in general (more on that on Friday).

That night, we went into Havana to have dinner and just see the city. There were many highlights to be had here, and I will just list them out:

1. Watching Bart just be bold for the Christ by witnessing to a guy in a store where we bought some small paintings
2. Two-steppin' with Lori Latham to Cuban music
3. Salsa dancing with Lisa Karabatsos
4. Just seeing how another culture spends a Sunday night

Monday - May 29th

The highlight for me on Monday, was the leadership meeting we were blessed to be a part of. The group we were there to meet with all week have their leadership meeting on Monday nights. Well, they wanted us to sit in on the meeting... and to introduce ourselves to them and vice versa. Our introductions proved to be funny (some things were "lost in translation"), but the best part of the night was when we sang worship songs with them. As I noted above, worshiping with other cultures and in other languages always presents certain blessings... and this was no different. This group loves to sing (and so do I), and we just got loud in that room as we worshiped our Heavenly Father in song. In addtition to singing with them, we asked if we could pray for their group... so we all split into smaller groups and prayed for each of the leaders present. Again... truly a blessing. We didn't translate our prayers - we just voiced our thoughts to the Lord with the understanding that different languages was His doing in the first place and it does not confuse Him in the least. What a joy to be unified in Christ...


Jen said...

So, it would be really fun to make up definitions of the word verifications:
a. (define it like it sounds)having pride in hocking (or selling) other peoples items, especially on ebay (*Buy it now!*)
b. (Google's definition) Puerto Rican Youth Development (pryd) run by David Ho at Oklahoma State University (hocj)

Todd Richards said...

What the heck? Where did that come from?

Jen said...

Ha, I had actually posted a comment above the randomness, but apparently it got cut. Oops. I'm excited to hear about your Cuba experience! It's fun to see what God did in different people through the same experiences.

(And for the record, my word verification on this one is fiztl. That could be a fun one to define :) )

Todd Richards said...

OK... now I get it. I didn't put together that you were talking about the "word" you have to type to verify that you are a person.

The trip to Havana was definitely an overall highlight (as mentioned already). But one thing I didn't mention was when our van broke down and the driver said to us, "My car is broken... give me 5 minutes." Oh... and he had a Cuban Mullet.

gL said...

Dude I forgot about the breakdown... Bart and I jumped out and were praying hard. I am glad it was a quick and painless fix and we were able to get on the road again.

Lisa said...

Hey, didn't we salsa too?

All for now,

Todd Richards said...

Indeed we did, Lisa... I have updated my list to include said salsa dancing.

Lisa said...

what great memories, huh! I feel so much better being on your updated list! he he