The Moravian Church in Cuba began in 1997 with Armando Rusindo Hernandez who once was a Catholic priest. He established a relationship with the Moravian Church in Jamaica, and the more he learned about the Moravians, the more convinced that Cuba needed the Moravian Church. Many of the pastors have come from other denominations, especially the Reformed Church. Some have a Pentecostal background, but they all know what it was like to be church under a communist regime. Some pastors were forced to go to work camps, others were imprisoned. They could not have church buildings. When I teach them about the Moravian essentials of faith, love, and hope rather than Bibles, pastors, and sacraments, they understand. They related strongly to the first Moravian Church that broke away from an oppressive regime and tried to live according to the simple teachings of the New Testament.
Today was the first day I needed the alarm to wake me, and it took a while to get going. The senora at the casa made us coffee that was very strong and sweet. It was just what I needed. During our breakfast at the conference center they provide hot milk (leche) with sugar and spice, which is wonderful. I would love to serve that at a lovefeast! At break I had my first taste of sugar cane juice, which is very sweet, but refreshing. I think I will have to abstain from sugar for several weeks when I return!
As soon as we began class the power went out, and so we moved outside on the patio under the palm trees. That was much nicer, and the students seemed more willing to talk and ask questions. There was lots laughter when I describe the practice of using the lot to made the final decision on marriages and that sometimes spouses were sent to missionaries without even having met. The class suggested that this would be a good way to provide a wife for a particular pastor in the group.
I prepared three PowerPoint demonstrations for each day day, but yesterday we only did two because we ended early. Today we only did two because I talked some much beyond what was on the slides. And because the class had so many good things to say, especially about the early Moravian missions. I don’t think I have ever had a group of students so interested in these materials. They loved the painting First Fruits, which depicts Moravians from many cultures worshiping Christ in heaven. I told them about Rebecca in St Thomas and Magdalena in South Africa, who are matriarchs of provinces.
After that we talked about Zinzendorf’s theology of the heart, which they also seemed to understand intuitively because they have lived it. Except for a couple of people committed to Calvinism, there is little disagreement with Zinzendorf. I was very surprised by how well they understood his idea of the motherhood of the Holy Spirit. This is a Moravian Church that from the beginning welcomes women in ministry and values the gifts of everyone Christ has called. We talked about Zinzendorf’s belief that conversion should make us happy and joyful people. One older women, whom they call Saint Theresa, is a living example of a Moravian whose face shines. If I were a painter, I would paint her portrait to hang alongside of Mama Zinzendorf. We discussed Zinzendorf’s idea of childlikeness and they loved the Society of Little Fools.
Am I one of those fools for Christ? It seemed so foolish to make these long trip to a country where I cannot speak the language, where I have to depend on others for everything, where I cannot even drink the water. One day I in the Hilton Inn in Austin swimming in a rooftop pool and listening to music in a bar. A few days later I am in bar surrounded by mango trees and palms, teaching about Zinzendorf with a translator. Yes, a fool. A richly blessed fool who is loving every minute of this trip (except for transportation parts!).
It is hard communicating with people since I need an interpreter, but we saw much with our eyes and smiles. After lunch we met to talk about the 1957 Unity Synod and the Ground of the Unity. Everyone, including me, would have preferred to take a nap, but they tried to be attentive. Sam and I decided to go downtown for dinner and to unwind. Before we could, though, the senora at the casa gave us some of the rice pudding she had made for dessert. So good!
We tried to connect to internet, but I had less than success than Sam. I did get some emails and learned that it had snowed at home. Julie and the girls had to sweep the sidewalks while I was enjoying the tropical breezes. I try to feel guilty, but just can’t!