Tales from the Sea – Cuba Update

Reflections Update From Jake Rempel

2020, It was an interesting and intense year to say the least. The year started off for me somewhat as expected. What was initially to be 3 trips turned into 2 trips to Cuba, one in January and the second in March, leading great teams and meeting with many pastors and missionaries, providing for many projects. The intended April trip was cancelled unfortunately. On my second trip of the season in March, Shelly was able to accompany me. We travelled without issue and the trip was a great success. Returning home, however, was a new experience. 

COVID-19 had dug its heels into Canada, and we were put into self-isolation upon returning home. The world as we knew it had changed and we arrived in a ‘New Canada’. Since then, my world has spun upside down. Nearly all my speaking engagements for 2020 have been cancelled. Some within days or even on one occasion, within hours of confirmation. Trips to Central and Western Canada were placed on hold more than a few times, due to different provincial or territorial lockdowns. It should have seemed as though my world was coming to a halt, but in all reality, it was just shifting gears, turning a new page. 

As things locked down in Canada the internet blossomed in Cuba. The internet can often be a dubious place but in this instance, it provided opportunities that were never afforded previously. Suddenly, under curfew restrictions, pastors  throughout the Cuban nation were finding Wi-Fi hotspots late at night, under the cover of darkness. As my Canadian conversations dwindled, my Cuban conversations flourished.  

Today most lockdowns in Cuba are lifted. Pastors and missionaries alike are E-Mailing, they are using WhatsApp, Facetime and most other social messaging platforms all hours of the day and night. To a world locked in isolation they are reaching out through the internet and becoming a beacon of understanding and encouragement. A faith that had nearly been silenced a few short years ago is now shouting out the Good News. One particular pastor and friend encouraged and challenged me not to let this time pass unproductively; encouraging me to dwell deeper into the word and spend more time in prayer and fellowship with God. I attempted to take up the challenge. So, when asked if 2020 was a bust, my reply is, “NO! 2020 was bursting at the seams, and a blessing in the midst of all this craziness!” If 2020 is a step-in time to 2021, I can only begin to imagine what God will accomplish in the year ahead. One of the things pressed deeply onto my heart is a need to physically return to Cuba. We have now seen and experienced firsthand, physical, and social distancing within the church in Canada. We know the church can survive and even grow online, BUT we also know there is a price to be paid for physical distancing. God has designed us to be a people united, Spiritually, Emotionally, and yes, even Physically. This has been a significant point of prayer and meditation for me. 

The work in Cuba is not limited to funding projects. I realize that it won’t be possible to take Vision Teams down to Cuba for the remainder of this season and so, I am preparing in Faith to take a personal trip to Cuba late in spring. It  will most likely be for an extended period so I can travel the island and meet with the Cuban church in different towns,  cities, and provinces. God is good and I want to follow where He leads me. 

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