Group to leave October 17th and return on the 25th
A 10-member missions team from First Baptist Church of Farmington (FBC) is finalizing preparations for a week-long trip to Cuba that begins Tuesday and continues through the 25th.
The Sixth Baptist Church of Santiago de Cuba, where Diloris “Joey” Hernandez is pastor, will be the main working location for the team during their stay.
Associate Worship Pastor Kevin Willis, who also serves as FBC’s International Missions coordinator, explained the important objectives the team has set for itself.
“We have a great working relationship with Joey Hernandez, the pastor there, and have had three previous mission trips that were very successful. We’d planned a fourth trip, but then COVID happened and put the brakes on everything. So, we’ve had a couple of years of waiting, planning, and praying for the next opportunity to serve there.”
During the pandemic, Pastor Hernandez and the Sixth Baptist Church became well-known in their local community for providing humanitarian aid and were very active in providing food for people. Throughout the COVID pandemic, Joey’s ministry with his church in the local community became very active in feeding people due to the growing levels of food scarcity.
There are decades-old tensions that exist between Cuba and the United States. Travelers to Cuba with religious agendas are carefully scrutinized with more suspicion than those with traditional travel visas. The FBC missions team has enjoyed fewer general restrictions in open religious teaching due to their association with Hernandez and his congregation’s sincere efforts to tackle the food insecurity issues and physical needs of the local community. A member of the church is a high-ranking official with Cuba’s customs division and will be waiting at the airport to escort the FBC team to their destination in Santiago.
“They continue to do a lot of humanitarian aid in the community, and we will be partnering with them on some afternoons to go help distribute food and resources in the community,” Willis said.
The missions team has some specific items on their agenda.
“We have the calling that God places on us as believers in Christ to go to the world and share the gospel, the love of Jesus. We are to share hope in the midst of the darkness and challenges of the world,” he said. “One of our big things that we’re going to do is help train leaders there in their home community. We try to equip the people to then reach their own group, their own culture. Those are some of the things we’re going to be actually teaching there.
“Another big thing that we’re doing is on the Saturday that we’re there, we will have a children’s day camp for the community. We’re putting together between 150 to 200 school supply bags to hand out. The cool thing about that is that this summer, during our vacation Bible school, the offerings brought in by the children are the funds that paid for the supplies that fill the bags. So our [Farmington] kids are giving to kids in Cuba, and it’s an exciting, exciting thing.”
According to Willis, on Sunday night, the team will focus on training the adults — teaching the men how to reach out to other men and women to other women.
“The women in the community will be receiving gifts of 100 or so sewing kits,” he said. “It will be a valuable resource to them because they don’t always have the ability to get needles and thread, scissors, the things needed to mend clothing which is scarce to begin with. They have to take care of their clothing. If they get a hole in their sock, they have to repair it because buying another pair isn’t always an option.
“The bags that hold all these items are made here by a ministry called ‘Seed Sew-ers,” which is a group of ladies that like to sew, and they sow the seeds of love with the bags they sew. They have a customized tag that shares ‘Jesus loves you’ with a verse there. Just like with the VBS kids and their offerings, this is a great way for ladies to participate in the blessings of the mission even though they can’t physically go.”
On Monday, the team will sit down with the Baptist national leaders, “vision cast,” and plan what next steps need to be taken.
“We want to ask questions about partnerships — what the needs are,” Willis said. “What can we do, with American resources — not only here at our church, but in other churches — that we can begin to foster that kind of growth, especially now that COVID is over? People in America want to find ways to travel now and invest in the world through missions. So we’re hoping some real strategic planning can be done during these meetings.”
The team’s travel agenda calls for them to be onsite in Cuba for seven days. Because their connecting flight from St. Louis to Miami will arrive after the only daily flight from Miami and their Cuba destination has already departed, they will spend one night in Miami. During that 24-hour span, Willis hopes to have a little fun touring Miami.
“We’re going on an Everglades airboat tour and then take a tour of Little Havana in Miami,” he said. “We want to see the Cuban culture that is in America before we actually head out to Cuba.”
Future plans for the missions team include building upon the relationship that has been established with Hernandez and the Sixth Baptist Church and the potential of return trips to Cuba every other year. The team is also hoping to travel to Poland.
First Baptist Church is located at 210 North A St., in Farmington.
To learn more about the church, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FarmingtonFBC or website at https://www.farmingtonfbc.org/.
Lisa Brotherton-Barnes is a staff writer with the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.