July 2018 Update: Adaptability!
Some words of wisdom I picked up from leaders on international missionary trips was that we might have a plan, but expect it to possibly be thrown out the window at a moments notice!
Our well intended plans for my next trip to Cuba in July to help facilitate a youth bible camp at a campground on the river while staying in concrete cabins with air conditioning (because July & August are extremely HOT in Cuba!)…. didn’t work out!
Unlike in the US, where we usually go camping without many comforts of home… in Cuba, their daily life is closer to what we consider roughing it at campgrounds. As a general rule, homes, churches, and gathering places are not air conditioned. However, at many campgrounds, there are some cabins available that are furnished with air conditioning, working bathrooms with stand up showers! Those are the prime cabins people covet to reserve during the summer months if they are lucky in the cabin selection process used to assign cabins to those trying to reserve.
Long story short, the process of reserving cabins dragged on so long and they did not get the desired cabins on the preferred dates, so the deaf ministry leaders settled on a date for the last 3 days of June. By the time they received the dates, the airfares doubled. They knew I could not make it then.
Thankfully, D2S is set up to support the ministry efforts of the Cuban Deaf Ministries and is not always dependent on Mike the Missionary to be there… instead the D2S Coordinator- Ayler, had adequate materials and resources that I brought on previous trips to proceed and run bible classes in the mornings of the youth camp.
This situation highlighted how blessed D2S is to have someone like Ayler who is dedicated & trustworthy in country to be able to represent D2S as we serve the Deaf in Cuba. We also learned that the summer months, logistically, is not an ideal time for us to provide programming support as most people go away for summer vacation, travel, or have no desire to go anywhere in the oppressive heat that is normal for Cuba during those months. This unfortunately impacted the number of youth that ended up being able to attend this event.
We are shifting our focus to traveling to Cuba 3 times a year instead of 4. (Winter, Spring & Fall). Every 4 months instead of 3. Ayler has proven to be good at networking and meeting with pastors and deaf ministry leaders in the regions where we can serve and partner with.
This allows us to be more effective in knowing what ministry materials or assistance D2S can provide when I travel to Cuba and hit the ground running.
MAY - JULY UPDATE
Deaf Singles Retreat, May- D2S financially sponsored this event that brought a Deaf Cuban pastor to Guantanamo where he gave a talk to the Deaf Singles about dating and relationships that follow biblical principles. This topic was identified as a growing issue in the deaf christian community and needed addressing. Deaf singles from the following communities- Guantánamo, Ocujal, Baracoa, Maisí, Yateras, and Santiago de Cuba traveled to attend this retreat.
Deaf Youth Bible Campout, June- 12 participants were able to attend. Several other youth dropped out at the last minute when their families cancelled. Ayler presented bible lessons in the mornings, then they were involved in recreational activities with equipment D2S brought down earlier. In the afternoons, they got to enjoy being in the river to cool off. They had services in the mornings and evenings to cap off their bible camp.
Ministry Materials- 5 more Bible story books with images were purchased so we have a total of 10 to bring down. These books have proven to be well received and ideal for the deaf youth, teens and low language adults. Unfortunately, this particular bible book has been discontinued, and remaining stock is being sold off at a drastically discounted price. We figured 10 books is a safe number (3 have already been spoken for), so we're making lemonade out of this situation and stocking up at a discount price!
I also took advantage of bulk pricing for specific Arts and Crafts materials they requested for youth bible activities and Christmas Ornament making. They plan to sell ornaments to raise funds for deaf ministry programs.
One of the US based Evangelists that hires Ayler for Spanish/English translation during their evangelistic efforts in Cuba inquired as to the other ministry she is involved in. After explaining what D2S does, this couple made a generous donation to help us purchase a portable travel projector to allow us to more effectively present workshops to the Deaf in rural areas that do not have the kind of resources larger churches in other Cuban cities have. You can see Ayler using a laptop with the Bible lessons on the screen in a couple of the pictures in the slideshow above. That is how we have been doing it so far and it is difficult for anyone to see especially in larger groups. We are thankful and blessed for their generosity!
UPCOMING MINISTRY ACTIVITIES
Serving the Baracoa, Maisi & Ocujal De Yaterita areas- We're in the middle of summer and as mentioned before, programming and church related activities tend to slow down during these miserably hot periods. However, D2S is making preparations for the next trip in September. After several trips focusing in the Guantanamo area, we are going to spend more time in the Baracoa area with the deaf ministries there. We will return to Ocujal De Yaterita- where we first visited on the previous trip.
Ayler has been spending the last few weeks in Baracoa staying with friends and taking advantage of networking with the local church pastor, deaf ministry leaders and interpreters. She is also doing the groundwork finding restaurants and Rent Houses that are appropriate for us to stay in Baracoa. (US travel restrictions in Cuba for Americans limit us to private establishments). The local pastors have formally asked us to partner with them to help the Deaf in that area to grow closer to Christ.
As we move further east, we need your prayers as travel will be much further and more challenging. It's already a 4 hour bumpy ride to Guantanamo from the nearest airport that US based carriers fly into, then add at least 3 hours to Baracoa and the surrounding mountain areas. The lessons you learn as a missionary are rewarding, keeps you humble and makes you grateful for what you have.