November 9, 2022

As a journalist, I learned how to write quickly on deadline. Now, I must write quickly once again because the internet and electricity will go off at midnight – 40 minutes from now. Day 1 of our Cuban mission trip got off to a wonderful start. We learned at LaGuardia Airport that Cuba has more stringent regulations at certain times of the year as to what can be allowed into the country. Now is the stringent season. 

Hence, we were caught off guard. The two trunks containing the water filtration system that we were bringing with us were not permitted into the country for some reason to do with the container that they were in. We had brought similar water filtration systems before without facing any problems. Then we were told that the new large printer that we were bringing and donating also could not be allowed into the country because it was in a cardboard box, and Cuba during this time does not let items in boxes to enter their country. Go figure!

We hadn’t even left LaGuardia Airport and our mission looked like it was almost over. I started to pray that something would make this work out. Then three things occurred to ensure that all would be well. First, we had Dick Schulze on our team. I call him “the Little Prussian General.” He’s one of my heroes. Nothing can stop this man if he sets his mind to accomplishing something.

He was resolute. These items that we had raised money for and had purchased and promised to bring were coming with us. If you’re in a tricky situation, you always want Dick Schulze on your side.

Second, the ladies working at the American Airlines counter jumped into action. You would have thought that this was their mission trip! They were creative and resourceful and extremely helpful. We could not have asked for better and kinder service.

Thirdly, our great ten-person mission team became creative during this all hands on deck moment. We removed everything from a giant duffel bag and managed to put the printer inside it and transferred the items that had been inside it into an extra bag that one of us had brought.

We wrapped the two big tubs in giant plastic bags and voila! The AA workers let us put everything on the plane.

We flew from LaGuardia to Miami and onto Holguín, Cuba, where Fr. Gil – Rector of our companion church – was waiting to meet us and bring us back to our “casa particulares,“ which are basically bed and breakfasts lodgings. The one where I and several others are staying is nicer than the inexpensive hotels where I stayed in Spain and Portugal this summer while walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. They are clean and nice and very well-appointed.

We had time for a quick nap or shower before dinner. We ate at restaurant 1910, where we have had meals before and treated members of our partnership church to lunch. The food and drinks were wonderful.