The Salvation Army of Eastern PA and DE (Pendel) recently returned from Cuba on a special mission – to renovate the Salvation Army of Cuba’s current headquarters facility into a guest house. The guest house will provide income for the Cuba division and fund the construction of a new divisional headquarters. Additionally the group is engaging Cubans with music and arts ministries, as well as conducting the Sunday Services at the Central Corps.
The Pendel division has given tremendous support financially to this effort, including: donated linens for the guest house, laptops, instruments, uniform shirts/ties/socks, toiletries and assorted items which were stuffed in the luggage and horn cases!
This is part two of their journey:
As part of our time here, we also are helping to launch the Army’s 100th anniversary working in this island nation!
Although The Salvation Army officially had closed for a number of years following the revolution, a few of the Cuban born officers stayed. Because of this, the Army has sustained a century of service to the Lord and the Cuban people.
During the worship service, Lt. Colonel Moreno read a letter commemorating this milestone in Salvation Army history (a translated version was given to us, which Lt. Colonel Banfield is bringing back to the states). In addition, one of the senior officers was recognized by Lt. Colonel Banfield during the meeting, as he was one of the Cuban born officers who stayed when the Army was forced to pull out helping to lead during a critical time. His service, in addition to others, helped play a role in sustaining the Army’s work in Cuba during one of the most tenuous periods.
Service in Cuba
On Monday, the majority of us spent the day working on the service project. A group of us worked to clear debris out from the new DHQ building (across from the Central Corps where the new guest house is located), while the rest of our team assisted as much as possible on the guest house itself.
At the guest house, the local contractors were working diligently to push to the finish line. We did our best to assist by painting ceilings, prepping walls, patching holes and looking to assist wherever possible. It was a bit difficult because we had a large number of people trying to work in what ultimately is a very small place. In addition, resources are hard to come by here in Cuba, which puts a lot of extra challenge on trying to complete a project such as this.
As the work was continuing by the majority of the team members, the leadership team spent the day out with Lt. Colonels Moreno, continuing to evaluate needs and possibilities for partnership. One of the highlights was a meeting with the Cuban council of churches in Havana.
The Salvation Army’s Presence in Cuba
Following the meetings and work on Monday, Tuesday saw us taking some time out to visit just a few of the various Salvation Army sites in the country. Our first stop was to the small, but bustling corps located in the Old Havana part of the city. This corps which once shared their very limited and minimal space with the Cuban Officer’s Training School, now has the full use of the space occupying the second and third floors of a building on one of the busy an narrow streets of Old Havana. The officer’s currently assigned are from Ecuador, but clearly seem to enjoy the opportunity they have in this historic neighborhood of Havana. The small and difficult logistical challenges of a second floor (which is up a very narrow and steep stairwell in order to access) is not enough to prevent their small chapel from filling not only on Sunday’s, but throughout the week for different programs, particularly for seniors. The building is also the location of the officer’s quarters and what they hope will someday be the second Salvation Army guest housed in Cuba.
Our team took some extra time at the Old Havana Corps not only to tour the building and meet the Corps Officer’s, but to take a few moments on their very picturesque roof top patio space. It was a uniquely amazing view from atop the three story building sitting in the middle of a bustling local neighborhood filled with all the sights and sounds you would expect from a big city. After taking a number of selfies as well as our group picture, we took a moment out to pray for the work happening there in Old Havana as well as the Lord’s plans for the Army’s ministry there.
After departing from the Old Havana Corps, we then traveled about an hour into a much different small rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana to a challenging corps site. In this very unique community the Army’s mission is particularly challenging and critical as the local village is a practicing witchcraft area. Because of this the local Salvation Army Captains assigned there have a particularly unique and challenging task of outreach and evangelism within a difficult a at times tense surrounding. The small two room corps building (which houses a chapel and a very small meeting/storage room behind) is the setting for the Salvation Army ministry in this town.
After touring the corps, we proceeded a mere few steps behind the corps building to the VERY modest officer’s quarters a few doors down. In this very small and sparse setting the Captain shared not only pictures of people recently converting from witchcraft, but also the struggles of life in this community as a Christian and pastor. It was certainly a moving time for all of us as we heard of what is obviously a difficult appointment, but one that he and his wife are not only meeting the challenge, but in many ways exceeding it. As with our first visit, a time of prayer was spent before we departed praying for the officers, the community, and mostly for God to continue to work in people’s lives there where the Army represents a beacon of light and hope amidst the darkness.
After a long day of travel and preparing for what would be a long day of travel home, we spend the evening simply relaxing and in fellowship in anticipation of our final day in Cuba. As we were slowing down our pace mentally and physically, our friends from the Cuba Division were working tirelessly behind the scenes and through the night to finalize as much as was physically possible the guest house project.
On Wednesday morning following our breakfast we walked the short distance to the corps where we shared in a short, but moving dedication ceremony in the chapel of the central corps. After the 15-20 minutes together with our new friends from the Cuba Division, we walked back to the guest house where we saw the fruits of the hard work across the week, but particularly of the night preceding. The effort by our team and certainly our Cuban comrades was evident in the transformation of the space that once occupied offices, but not was looking very much like a place to rest and relax.
Reflections on the Trip
Although the work was not quite completely finished, the transformation across the week was evident. We left knowing there was completion on the horizon and in the capable and particularly hardworking hands of our local brothers and sisters. It will only be a short few days or weeks before they undoubtedly will be taking in their first visitors of The Salvation Army guest house in Cuba!
We return home tired and weary (particularly with our midnight arrival and days’ worth of travel), but with a feeling of being blessed and impacted as much or more than we may have impacted others. We know our time in Cuba and bonds are merely the singular moment in what we hope is a long standing relationship between our two Divisions, but knowing that regardless impacts were made for both them and us over our time there.
We also must be sure to thank all of you for your prayer and contributions from the states, both before and during out trip. The twelve of us who were privileged enough to physically make the journey could not have done so without the love, prayers and support of all of you behind the scenes providing various forms of support along the way.
The Army’s work in Cuba continues and we hope that what little impact we may have had in our 6 short days will be felt for years to come in the ministry and opportunities on the ground, carried out by the many dedicated soldiers, officers and staff working for the mission and ministry on behalf of The Salvation Army.
Remarks from Lt. Col. Stephen Banfield, Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army of Eastern PA & DE
“I want to express my personal thanks to my colleagues on the team for their partnership in ministry in Cuba. Every team member fully engaged in the mission – whether on the work projects, in the music and arts activities or in worship and the sum of our gifts was presented on the altar for blessing from the Lord – and bless us, He did! We will never be the same and I’m grateful to have shared this time together with my friends.
We realized this week that the final update did not go through electronically so it is attached below for your information. Bobby Myers did a great job reporting on our activities and capturing some of the exciting news of the Army’s work in Cuba. Thank you for your financial support and your prayers for the trip.”