Saturday, October 26, 2013

Church & State - Methodist group builds church in Cuba

Church & State: Methodist group builds church in Cuba
Posted: Friday, October 25, 2013 10:58 pm
By DANIELLE BANDA and ED ASHER Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — For the first time in 60 years, the bricks and mortar of
religious worship have been allowed into Cuba — and 12 people from
Wesley United Methodist Church in Harlingen were there to bear witness
to the historic event.
Wesley Pastor Doug Hinchcliff and his team of faithful helped build a
church, the first built in Cuba since the revolution that installed
Fidel Castro as the island's socialist dictator.
Hinchcliff and his team collected more than $30,000 to travel from here
for this special 10-day mission in mid-September. The group of 35- to
77-year-olds packed their bags and headed to the island 90 miles from
the U.S. mainland.
With dirt on their knees and shovels in hand, the builders dug 17
foundation holes to begin construction of the United Methodist Church in
Ciego de Avila, an urban area of about 85,000 people in central Cuba.
"As soon as we got there on day one, we dug six holes," Hinchcliff said.
They excavated for a sewer line and installed a water purification
system for drinking water.
Jim Valley, the maintenance supervisor for the Harlingen Water District
and a member of the Wesley congregation, helped bring water to the
building and to the people working on the project.
"There was no Home Depot," Hinchcliff said, "so we had to do everything
by hand." The only "hardware-like" store was very small, with limited
materials such as sacks of concrete, sand and rock.
The language and Cuban culture in general required an adjustment,
Hinchcliff said.
A guide translator helped the Wesley team communicate with volunteers
who primarily spoke Spanish. Team member Rosendo Rodriguez, who has
studied the Spanish language, said it sounds different from the Spanish
used in the Rio Grande Valley.

Actually getting to Cuba was a challenge.
"You can't image how many times we loaded and unloaded our materials,"
Hinchcliff said.
The group packed their bags and tools, and flew on Southwest Airlines
from Harlingen to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Then they loaded their gear into
vans that took them to a hotel.
The next leg of the trip was to repack at the airport for a charter
flight to Havana.
"The luggage had to be weighed, costing $44 for every bag, and so much
per pound," Hinchliff said.
The missionaries transported more than 2,300 pounds of materials to be
used in the building process, including sewing machines, microwave
ovens, clothes, mini-stoves, drills, baseball gloves and egg crates for
sound proofing the church walls.
"We took so many things and left with nothing," Hinchcliff said.

The Cuban community helped the WUMC 12-person team with construction.
"We had 5- and 8-year-olds helping dig, and even a woman in her 90s,"
Hinchcliff said.
Although locals helped with construction, there were small challenges.
The small hotel, with dusty furniture and blank walls, where the
missionaries stayed had only cold water from a hose, which they used to
"We pressed number two in the elevator, and would arrive on floor
three," Hinchliff states.
A good night's rest was interrupted by a dance club with loud music and
lights located above the 60-year-old building.
The team rose before the sun every day, ate the breakfast of rice,
beans, bread, fruit, avocados and bottled water. This was followed by an
eight-hour drive to the construction site, using a van provided by the
Methodist Church.

Vivian Woods, Children's Director at WUMC, taught classes to about 30
Cuban women, and helped with a crafts program where children made covers
for Bibles. After learning that one child had never heard of Jesus,
Woods worked hard to give all volunteers a more meaningful experience.
"The people were so thankful," Hinchcliff states.
The senior communist representative of Cuba, who had initially granted
permission for the group to build on location, thanked Hinchcliff by
presenting an official Cuban ceremony flag. The delegate visited the
site several times, taking photographs with the workers in support of
the mission.
Proud of the work done during construction and the Cuba mission trip in
general, Hinchcliff said, "I am really excited about what God is doing
in Cuba and that we here at Wesley United Methodist Church could be a
part of it."
He added, "As the walls of the old church went down, the walls of Jesus
went up."

Source: "Church & State: Methodist group builds church in Cuba - Valley
Morning Star : Local News" -

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