Font Size » + | -By Kylie Calease A group of 17 people, mostly youth from Central Region, traveled to Cuba June 26-July 4 on a Global Connections trip.The purpose of the trip, led by Andrew Bates, the student ministries pastor at Waverly Open Bible Church in Waverly, Iowa, was to expose our youth to a different, restrictive culture and to minister to our Cuban brothers and sisters. FAITH The team assembles toiletry packages for local pastors.Our family’s adventure began about five months before we actually left. We had signed up our two kids, Madelyn and Tate, to go and had begun to figure out how we would raise the money for them. I happened to mention to a friend that I was excited for my kids and wished I could go too. The next thing I knew, my friend had signed my husband and me up as well! We had just doubled the amount of money we needed to raise. Normally I would have stressed out about what to do. Giving things over to God in faith is not something that comes naturally for me; I am usually very self-reliant. However, an overwhelming feeling of calm washed over me. I just knew it would all work out. Friends, family, our amazing community group, Journey Church (in Urbandale), and of course, my friend helped in so many ways. Our kids worked extra jobs and participated in fundraising activities. God completely had His hand in how this was going to come about. He brought people to help in ways we never expected. Once in Cuba we weren’t sure what to expect. We were not free to conduct street ministry like praying with people or sharing the Gospel. Nonetheless the Lord used divine appointments to make our trip successful. One of those divine appointments took me out of my comfort zone. I’m not one to share all the aspects of my life that have made me who I am. That’s very hard for me. But on the last night of our house church visits, I was asked to share my story. To expose one’s self is really scary when it can be used against you so readily. But stepping out in faith, I told my entire story. Team members play soccer with local men. Following the service, a woman who had connected with part of my story approached me. Even though she had also faced some tough battles, she did not convey frustration or anger, emotions to which I resort at times. She was such a beautiful woman; her complete love for Jesus showed. All she wanted to do was share more about Him and tell me how great He is and how He has blessed her life in so many ways. What an amazing person. She had faith and never let it go. (That’s how it felt with everyone we talked to at each of the churches – they glowed with Jesus’ love.) I ended up being asked to share my testimony two more times for the Sunday services. That meant more people knowing who I am based on that story! I realized I was sharing more than just my story; I was sharing how God is faithful and has made me new. I am not “that story.” “That story” is just how I got here. It does not define me. Faith has brought me here. HOPE Before we left for Cuba I had hoped we would share Jesus with the Cubans. I quickly realized that the people we met already have a lot of Jesus in their lives and an abundance of hope. When outside forces exert strict power over me, I begin to despair; however, hope continued to be a theme throughout the trip. They had hope in Jesus, hope in the body of Christ, and hope for each other as well. Our daughter Madelyn said, “These Cubans were worshiping warriors. They would come from miles by any means they could just to worship the name of God, and they did so wholeheartedly. [Although they may be] from a country where they have no freedom, they sure have found freedom through Christ.” LOVE We were also well taken care of. We went to Cuba to minister to our brothers and sisters there, but we always walked away feeling like we shorted them in some way. We always felt that they blessed us more than what we could ever do for them. The group poses in front of the monument to Jose MartiTheir churches, which sometimes met in buildings and sometimes in garages, were not air-conditioned. They usually had fans on the walls and some type of sound system. Occasionally they had a display system to project words or verses. Members at one of the churches made sure to stop the oscillating fan so it would blow directly on us during the service. Then a sweet lady behind me would try and fan our backs with a handheld, cardboard fan while she was fanning herself. That is love. We always felt loved – by the people at the house churches, by David and Rebecca Moreno, our field directors there, and by everyone at the main house church where we stayed. They provided things for us that they usually went without just to make us feel welcomed. I often saw one lady handing out slips of paper with verses written on them. Using paper that was hard to come by, she was continually sharing God’s words with everyone she met. One gentleman called me brave because I shared my story. I thought all the people we met were brave because they continued to have their faith, hope, and love in the face of being suppressed, dictated to, and pushed down. It takes a heart full of love to continue to be that brave! Our son Tate said, “This experience makes you want and need less so that the people around you who are struggling can have more.” How can we love our Cuban family? We can love them by sending supplies and financial support, but we must do so through proper channels. Even something as seemingly innocent as distributing toiletries can prove to be very dangerous for them. They are allocated only a certain amount of supplies. If more than that amount is found on them, they can lose it all. Our field directors there know how best to distribute necessary supplies. Field Director David Moreno, Jr. and the congregation agree in prayer for the team. We can also continually pray. We heard many stories of how God miraculously provided for them. Now that we’re back home I miss that feeling of “I just met you, but I accept you! You are a child of God and I will greet you as such.” We can bring that type of love and acceptance to those around us. Being involved with your church is a great way to begin. It’s easy for the enemy to control those who are separated and alone, but God does great things through those who stick together in community. The greatest of these is love – love for our family in Cuba and love for God, not because we loved Him first, but because He loved us first! If you want to be a part of the next Global Connections trip, please contact Global Missions by phone at 515.288.6761 or email at email@example.com Kylie Calease is a second grade teacher in Grimes, Iowa. She and her husband, Clint, attend Journey Church of the Open Bible in Urbandale, Iowa. The Caleases have one daughter and one son.