I’m calling this a blog even though we have had internet access only for a few minutes so far. Last night we went into downtown Camaguey and there is WiFi in the town square. So I was able to check email and text my wife, but could not post these blog entries I’ve been writing. We are going to a church service tonight, so no internet. Riddick and Thomas are leaving us tomorrow so it will be just Sam and me from now on.
I slept well last night and woke at 6:30 a.m. refreshed and eager to start the day. Around 8 a.m. we walked with the local pastor, Aldo, and Obed from Jaguay. Obed’s English is the best in the group, and he loves to joke around. He came to the Moravians from the Reformed Church. At one point he was the Reformed Church’s representative on the Council of Churches for all of Latin America, but he disagreed with his church’s opposition to women’s ordination. They asked him to leave. He had been impressed by the Moravians in Nicaragua, Jamaica, and Antigua, and so he learned more about them. He and his wife decided this was the church for them, and the Moravians believed that God was using him to open a door in Cuba. He and Armando disagree in love about many things, especially predestination, but they labor together.
We are meeting in a small resort owned by the government’s sugar company. It is not a luxurious, but it is very nice. There are rooms for families, a pool where people play volleyball, a dining hall, and other facilities. A member of the church convinced the government to allow us to use the facility for the conference, which really reduced the costs. We Americans cannot stay there because we are foreigners. We are staying in a nice guest house several half a mile away. The walk is doing me good. Since it is so warm, we decided to hold classes in the only air conditioned room, which happens to be the bar. We took a painting off the wall so we could project the PowerPoint slides from the bar. We pushed the tables together and eleven men and women sit on one side like the disciples in DaVinci’s Last Supper. Almost half of the students are women. All are working for the church. One woman’s husband is an electrical engineer who is in Ecuador doing work, but he is starting a church as well. She is studying to teach him more about the Moravians. One of the students is starting a Moravian church in Guantanamo, not far from the US base that is the center of so much pain and shame. He comes from the Pentecostal church and is eager to learn more about the Moravians.
We started with basic Moravian Church history, beginning with Hus and ending with the death of Zinzendorf. They asked very good questions, especially those with theological training. We project the slides in Spanish and Bishop Gray translates what I say, which is often only tangentially related to the slides. There is an interesting discipline and rhythm that goes with pausing for translation. The students were very engaged in the material. When I described some of the old Moravian practices, especially the kiss of peace, there was a lot of laughing. I made the mistake of asking who you kiss today, forgetting that in Cuba you kiss everyone!
We stopped about 4:30 p.m. and the Americans went back to our casa for a brief rest and then joined the group for a lovely dinner in the conference center. Rice and savory meat. It was nice to finally exchange money and we got a surprisingly good rate. Sam has been paying everything for me so far.
After dinner the whole class got into the brand new Moravian bus, with people sitting on top of each other. We drove down one of the worst dirt roads I’ve been on (and that is saying something), past the slaughterhouse, to a poor neighborhood where pastor Aldo and his wife have a thriving house church. Moravians in America helped to build a water filtration system so the people have clean water, and Bishop Sam is taking samples back to the states to test for bacteria. The service was led by women and was quite charismatic with much singing and praying. Those who know me well know that I have no rhythm, and it remained true. I hope people do not think that the Spirit is not moving me just because my body does not move. Thomas Baucom gave a very solid sermon, translated by Bishop Sam. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” A good end to a busy day.