RUF Spring Break Trip Recap: Visiting Cuba
Claire Shinn, RUF Intern at Oklahoma State University | April 17, 2019
Like many of our students have said, there are few words that can describe how eye-opening and life-changing our trip to Cuba was. Over spring break, RUF at Oklahoma State took a group of 18 people (5 adults/staff, 13 students) to Cuba. We stayed in the dorms at Campo Amor, a church whose staff took very good care of us throughout the week.
We spent five days there, making trips between Havana, Alamar, and Cojimar. Our week was packed with travel, ministry, and fellowship. We learned countless lessons—some we’re still processing. Here’s a look into some of the activities we took part in and their key takeaways.
House churches // Generosity
On our first day, we split up to visit many Cubans’ humble house churches where they welcomed us with open arms, kisses on the cheek, and pots of delicious Cuban coffee. As we worshipped in those homes, our group got to witness the big-heartedness of Cubans. They were generous with not only their money, but also their time, their resources, and their faith.
In the States, we crave “the security of stuff.” Giving away is difficult because we can be unsure of how God will provide later on. After the trip, I talked to one student about her experience. She related this takeaway to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. We talked about how easy it is to feel entitled to our talents—blessings and gifts God has given us—as if they’re a reward for our hard work. In Cuba, that notion was flipped on its head. They don’t give in order to earn more; they give because they realize that what they’ve been given is already enough. It made us ask ourselves, “Do we spend time freely sharing our faith or burying it away?”
Youth ministries // Connection
Being off the grid for the week allowed us to take some time away from our phones and really connect with one another. For five days, without the distractions of texting and social media, we got to “hang up and hang out.” Our time unplugged gave us a look into the deeply connected communities of Cuba. They live on “island time,” always more willing to make time for people than for to-do lists. Youth ministries lasted late into the night, full of kids eager to study the Bible and spend time in fellowship. In neighborhoods we would often see people stop to talk to each other. On a campus in the U.S., you might be surprised to even make eye contact. One night, after a Bible study with high schoolers, we salsa danced for almost three hours. The Cubans we met truly enjoyed being with each other.
School and home visits // Unity in Christ
Speaking through a translator turned out to be a bigger barrier than we had expected. Speaking two sentences, then pausing for translation, then figuring out your next two sentences, and so on…
We talked with many Cubans on the streets and in their homes, and our conversations with them were often choppy and awkward at the beginning. Yet no matter how difficult, it was always worth it to share the gospel. We grew even through our mistakes and clumsiness. One of our students, Nicole, phrased it well:
“As I was in Cuba, I was reminded that the gospel has no barriers, and that our God has no barriers. I think we were all a little nervous about how our different cultures would affect our interactions with each other, but once we got there, I realized that we were all one big family—a church family, rooted in Christ.”
One morning at a school for English-learners, we swapped life stories with Cuban students. Even despite those barriers in communication, it became certain how much we had in common with our Cuban brothers and sisters in Christ. We all suffer. We all sin and are in need of a savior. And we all have a God that loves us very, very much.
Now, when I worship on Sunday mornings, I think of our Cuban friends who are worshipping the same God at the very same time. We’re hundreds of miles apart and our lives look very different, but at our core, we are very much the same. The Godhead is a perfect picture of this—there is both unity and diversity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Throughout our trip, God made it very clear that He is at work in a variety of ways in a variety of places around the world. Sometimes those ways are clear for us to see; other times they’re more ambiguous. But that’s what walking in faith is all about: acting on the belief that God is at work even when you don’t know exactly how He is. All we can do is to help plant the seed. It’s the Lord’s job to provide the growth. We’re excited to see how God continues to cultivate faith this year in our students and new Cuban friends!