November 11:

Adriana Riles told us about one of the owners of her casa particular that summarizes Cuba in a nutshell. This fellow had just returned from a gym which he had started as a side business. He was completely covered with sweat and explained to Adriana how his partners and he had made each of the weight machines by hand.

They needed a chain for one of the machines. So, he reached out to a friend who works in a factory that makes chains. His friend was able to steal a chain, which allowed them to be able to make this particular weight lifting machine. This story has three meanings.

First, few jobs pay enough so most Cubans work a second job. Often their second job pays better than their full time job. Second, the Cubans are very innovative. They’ve been dealt a very poor hand of cards. Many of them are very hardworking. What they need is hope. Hope is in short supply for the moment. Third, It’s all about connections. Those who foster many good relationships have a brighter future than those who do not.

The Episcopal Church of Cuba actually started in Cuba around 1903. It began when the Episcopal bishop of Minnesota was stranded on Cuba and learned that the island had no Protestant church. He set about to rectify that.

Fast forward fifty years and Bishop Blankenship was leading the Episcopal Church in Cuba until his children were menaced by fellow students. The Bishop had to leave Cuba for the safety of his family. A new Cuban bishop was elected. The Episcopal Church soon had to completely sever the ties with the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

The relationship between the government and the Episcopal Church of Cuba is not good. The government always looks at the Church with suspicion.

The parish that we visited today is the only church in Cuba with a kindergarten, because the government believes that all schools must be a vehicle for ideology. Hence all beds must be registered.

It reminded me of the Cuban man saying to us last evening, “Don’t take your freedom for granted. You can lose it.” He’s so correct. We in America have let others put our democracy at risk.

Inflation is killing Cubans. Everyone can tell you the exact price of a dozen eggs or a pound of meat. Most families and individuals cannot afford to eat meat and anything but the basic necessities.

Crime has also increased especially in the large cities because of the failure of the economy but also the destruction of community life due to the pandemic.

Fr. Halbert – the rector of the church in Santiago where we worshipped today – explained that the biggest challenge facing his congregation is lack of hope. “We can see it especially among the young people who are fleeing Cuba,” he said.

Ten percent of his congregation emigrated to the United States last year. A quarter of a million Cubans fled. Fr. Halbert estimates that 80% of them were young people who see no future for themselves in Cuba. The government doesn’t care as these figures are mostly young people who won’t be around to demonstrate anymore against the government.

There is a real fear that Cuba will become an impoverished island of old people.
Several Cubans told me that, “The government no longer cares about the people. They only care to ‘carry on the Revolution’ and keep themselves in power.

Over a thousand people were arrested and imprisoned for demonstrating against the government this year. The government came down brutally on them. I have never heard people speak so openly against the government and seem so dejected.

While gleaning an increasingly clear picture of the current situation in Cuba, we toured the Moro Castle and San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders changed the course of history.

We returned to attend and help lead worship at the church in Santiago, where I was told that I needed to preach just the day before. I preached a terrible sermon in very mediocre Spanish. May the Lord forgive me! For dinner, we underwrote dinner for the congregation. It was greatly appreciated