Forever Captive in Cuba

Most Americans who travel to Cuba stay in a 5-star resort along the breathtaking beaches of the country’s north shore or at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. However, that’s not the real Cuba. I wanted to go on my most recent mission trip to strengthen my faith. While I’ve traveled to Cuba several times, my trip in 2024 revealed something I’d never witnessed.

Inflation averaged 30% per month. The Cuban Peso is nearly worthless in international markets, and the U.S. dollar is the black market currency. Gas is rationed, leading to long lines lasting more than a day. We experienced three random power blackouts. Most public water supplies are not potable, and some are not purified. Every Cuban works directly or indirectly for the government, earns about $30 monthly without inflation protection, and receives free beans and rice. Although healthcare is free, patients must bring syringes and other medical supplies to receive treatment, often preventing them from getting medical care since they can’t access or afford the supplies. Kidney dialysis patients share needles with two others. Standard over-the-counter medications are unavailable. Dentists perform procedures without Novocain, making visits unbearable for patients. Milk is unavailable to anyone over two years old.

Yet, amongst all of the brokenness, we experienced mercy and grace from every angle and were given more spiritual encouragement than we gave. We got to know our host family, who could not have been more accommodating, which inspired me to be more hospitable to strangers. The small house churches of the ten pastors we visited showered us with more hospitality than I felt I deserved. Each one greeted us with hugs and kisses as if we were long, lost friends. But that’s the Cuban culture. Every visit started and ended with prayers in Spanish and English. I’ve found that the experience isn’t about building houses; it’s about building relationships, even though they’re short-term. It’s sharing the Gospel and having the Gospel shared with us. Cubans have an uninhibited way of loving; it’s sincere and genuine.  

However, there’s a problem: Christianity isn’t supported by the government, and often, those who want to hear the good news of Jesus’ Gospel are discouraged from sharing it. As our trip ended, I thought of a verse in Bob Dylan’s song entitled “Like a Rolling Stone,” which says, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” Cubans have nothing to lose; ninety-nine percent are forever captive to the island. Yet they are very resilient, especially when it comes to living and sharing their faith, which can’t be taken away. 

We have so much to be thankful for in America, especially the freedom to worship. The trip fortified my faith as I continued to ask, “What do I have to lose?” I found that I have nothing to lose because “to whom much is given much is expected, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). I can live out that verse in the U.S. without ever going on another mission trip to Cuba. Since I’ve been on several trips, I realized that in the future, it may be more about helping others experience Cuba. But for now, I thank God for sending me to Cuba and for the experience of being temporarily captive in another country.

– Sandy W.

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