Since 2014, the members of First Baptist Church of Asheville (FBCA) have been richly blessed by its partnership with the Iglesia Elohim in Las Tunas Cuba. This is one of 40+ partnerships between churches of the Alliance of Baptists and churches in the Fraternity of Cuban Baptist Churches. These partnerships are a model of a new way to approach missions and ministry. In place of the dependency-creating traditional model, these partnerships are based on relationship building, with each church recognizing it has resources and needs, wealth and poverty. These relationships will last for a long time because they are not just give and take, but are based on mutual support.
Annually, a group from our church travels to Las Tunas in January for dialogue and fellowship, and to celebrate the anniversary service with our Christian brothers and sisters at Iglesia Elohim. In 2016 we took the first Sawyer water filtration system and have been able to install the filters in several of the Fraternity churches. In the summer of 2017, 30 youth and adults from FBCA partnered with 30 youth and adults from across Cuba for a unique experience of traveling the Cuban country together. The 12-day Youth Mission Pilgrimage brought teens together from our two countries for shared meals, worship, service projects, and cultural activities. As they traveled together from Holguin to Havana, they were able to deepen their faith in God, broaden their friendships with one another, and expand their own understandings of Christ’s work and presence in the world today.
Mauricia Solo is the pastor of the Iglesia Elohim, and in June, 2018 we will celebrate her graduation from Seminario Evangelico Teologico de Matanzas (SET). In January 2019 a group of FBCA musicians is planning to travel to Las Tunas where we can mutually share music our traditions. Future plans also include a trip to Matanzas, for 8-10 young adults from FBCA to join with a group of young adults from Iglesia Elohim to study at the Kairos Center.
The members of First Baptist Church of Asheville consider it a privilege to be able to walk this Christian faith journey with our brothers and sisters at Iglesia Elohim in LasTunas, Cuba.
Vacation Bible School in Cuba
In July, our partner church, Iglesia Eloheim, in Las Tunas, Cuba had a Vacation Bible School for 50 children in their community. Maura is the pastor of this church, and she wrote to us:
“I want to tell you what a beautiful activity we had with the children this summer. It was great; 50 children participated and we took them out and they were singing and jumping as we say in Cuba. It was very good. Greetings to the church, I love you all. Greetings to the congregation – Maura.”
Haiti Medical Missions
It starts with a grand plan to see about 100 Medical/Dental patients per day, but there is a lot more added to this plan when God’s Spirit moves. It begins with Jenny Jenkins, CBF Field Personnel nurse, who has been in Haiti many years working and living among the Haitians in the Grand Goave area.
A typical week starts at Jenny’s place which accommodates about 12 Volunteers, but there is so much that happens during this week, beginning with going to a Haitian Church, sharing songs and communion with our brothers and sisters, and ending the week with communion of our own as we head back – refreshed and renewed.
In the in-between time, there are several trips up steep mountainous terrain riding in the back of a truck while joyful and relieved faces await our coming. Each day has about 100+ patients that are seen which includes medical/dental care, labwork, some limited eye exams/ giving of reading glasses as well as medications by our Pharmacists. A couple of nights had us shining our flashlights in the Pharmacy area for the last few patients at twilight, and then staring in awe at the beautiful stars shining around us on the trip down.
Yes, plans move and change as hearts and hands fill with love to help one another. It doesn’t end when we leave Haiti though…Jenny also has a vision and plans to build a clinic one day in the mountainous regions of Haiti. The clinic will also be expanded to include many other services. First Baptist Church of Asheville has plans also to continue to pray for and partner with Jenny through funding, and the provision of volunteers in the loving care of our Haitian brothers and sisters.
Peering at photos of crystal clear turquoise water beyond the beaches and plum colored sunsets settling behind Fort San Cristobal in Puerto Rico, you would think that we were planning an exotic vacation. Rather, we turn our sites inward, to an island that just seven months ago was devastated by Hurricane Maria. From this vantage point, we will see that there remains a lack of structure and foundation – from missing roofs to missing stop lights, broken roads to broken water pipes (leading to contamination), sporadic electricity to none at all.
How do people survive? How do they continue, push forward, eek out a living, an existence? These are the questions that have always driven me when there is a disaster, a need. I have thought to myself, “If they can survive and find it within themselves to keep on, then the least I can do is lend a hand.” For me, lending a hand has been literal – I must go. I feel blessed to say that 7 others in our congregation have been called to go as well. George Bashor, Carlos Collazo, Bill Loftis, Susan Loftis, Jeff Kirby, Cayla Slaughter, and Bruce Young and I make up Team 24 – Puerto Rico, of the Baptists on Mission. We have been enabled to fulfill our calling through your generous donations. As we work in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on roofing and more, may we lessen a burden along the way. We ask for your prayers for the people who continue to call Puerto Rico home. – Kristen Kirby, Team Lead