Our Cuba Mission Trip

For the last several weeks I have had so many thoughts running through my mind regarding our nine day mission trip to Cuba.  By no means was this my first large mission trip (actually my 7th), but this venture into Cuba impacted and affected me in so many ways.  This trip was also different from other trips I have made.

{Warning: A LOT of pictures coming up!}

Cuba-Ready | ohfiddledeedee.com

“How am I supposed to sum up this trip with words?”

It is a question I have constantly asked myself in the days since our return.
After much thought I found that there are several verses of scripture that put the people and mission in Cuba into perspective:

Romans 16:16 ~ “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

I Peter 5:14 ~ “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”

Psalm 133:1 ~ “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”

I Peter 4:9 ~ “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

I Thessalonians 5:11 ~ “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing”

Cienfuegos-Church-Conference-3 | ohfiddledeedee.com

These beautiful people of all ages, with hearts so full of love and a language I do not speak greeted us with most precious and sincere kisses each time we entered a home, church building, dinner setting, and conference center. From the moment we entered the country, we were family although we had never met.

Isn’t that what our mission should be in all aspects of living?

Christian Love?

Oh, how we felt this in it’s simplest form!

We here in the USA can learn so much from the Cuban Christians.

In fact, our first meal was in the home of Oscar and Mildre; a beautiful, gracious and loving supper that was just a first taste of the hospitality the Cuban Christians had to offer.

Cienfuegos-Airport | ohfiddledeedee.com

Madeline, my parents and I left for Cuba on Saturday, July 29.  We flew from Atlanta with a forever layover in Miami into Cienfuegos, Cuba; the first stop of our trip. Once we arrived in Cuba we met up with another gentlemen and his grandsons, from the congregation where my dad preaches, who was to work with us as well.

Family-in-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.com

Mission trips have so many purposes from humanitarian to evangelism, but what was our purpose in Cuba?

It was to visit with the Christians.  It was to encourage and uplift the members of the church.  It was to council with those struggling and those who were searching.  It was to teach and preach.  And it was to support the church in Cuba as it is growing and trying to reach out from larger cities to spread Christianity throughout the island. We did this beginning the morning after we arrived with a Sunday of worship and praise with three churches within the province of Cienfuegos, followed by a retreat involving the Cienfuegos churches and an International conference of teenagers in Varadaro in the province of Matanzas.

The Cuban people are strong and proud.

They do not want us coming in to convert the island for them, but to teach them how to do the work so that they may do it for themselves!  Their heart and desire to serve God as demonstrated for us in the New Testament is truly inspiring.

Our Sunday spent in the Cienfuegos province was one of praise and worship and a welcome that was truly a glimpse of heaven as each and everyone present greeted us with a precious “holy Kiss”.

While we had never met these people we were welcomed with open and loving arms; strangers who are also our brothers and sisters.  We visited with three churches participating in worship and communion at all three locations.  It was a long, but beautiful day.

Not all churches in Cuba meet in “church buildings” as we do here.

The church in Nuclear City (Juragua) meets in an apartment home they have purchased.  These apartment homes were built for the Russian scientists, solders and families when a nuclear plant was being built in the area.  Now these homes are filled with Cuban families and the church.

Nuclear-City-Church | ohfiddledeedee.comNuclear-City-Church-2 | ohfiddledeedee.com

The church in Cruces meets in a flat in downtown.  It was a beautiful area with gorgeous architecture, but the streets were oh-so quiet on a Sunday afternoon.

Cruces-Church | ohfiddledeedee.com

Cruces-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.com

And the church in Cumanayagua meets in the home of its minister.  Cumanayagua is mostly a residential and farming community…..

Cumanayagua-House-Church | ohfiddledeedee.com

…and they have an ice cream factory.

Let me tell you, fresh coconut ice cream is so scrumptious!


Cumanayagua-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.com

As you can tell, home churches are most common.  I like it.  The sense of community, closeness and the bond is something large churches here in the states lack.

Each worship service was a little different, but one thing was the same thoughout; passion!

The acapella singing in Spanish was filled with such gusto; you could totally hear the meaning in each song we sang.  I had the words in Spanish before me and knew the melody’s, but much of the time could only listen as it was so beautiful.

Spanish-Sunday-Singing | ohfiddledeedee.com

Sunday-Worship-in-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.com

Dad speaking on Sunday with our translator, Oscarito

After a Sunday of worship we joined many of the Christians in the Cienfuegos province for a three day retreat at a local hotel.  During these days of study Dad, Momma and myself taught different Bible classes.  I had four lessons to prepare for ladies classes and chose the subject of “Priorities”. I believe that subject crosses cultural boundaries with women across the world!  My focus was on keeping God first in your life followed by our marriages, then family and home.  I had to speak using a translator which was an entirely new experience for me.  Much time was spent in prayer as I hoped what I had to share made sense and was well received.

Cienfuegos-Church-Conference-2 | ohfiddledeedee.com

We enjoyed periods of devotional several times a day as well as meals together.  It was a time to get to know others, despite language barriers.

Devotional-Cienfuegos-Church-Conference | ohfiddledeedee.comCienguegos-Church-Conference-4 |ohfiddledeedee.comCienfuegos-Church-Family | ohfiddledeedee.com

Sweet-Cuban-Friendships | ohfiddledeedee.com

Sometimes speaking different languages creates a closer bond than speaking the same.

Down time was so much fun as well. It really doesn’t matter what country you live in, teenagers are teenagers, and fun is always fun!  From bubbles to the beach to playing Bananagrams to tie dying shirts there was so much to enjoy!

Cienfuegos-Church-Conference | ohfiddledeedee.comChildren-Cienfuegos-Church-Conference | ohfiddledeedee.comCuban-Beach | ohfiddledeedee.com

Cienfuegos-Cuba-Beach | ohfiddledeedee.comCienfuegos-Cuba-Conference | ohfiddledeedee.comtie-dying-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.comTie-Dyed-Shirts | ohfiddledeedee.comCuban-Teenagers | ohfiddledeedee.com

After leaving Cienfuegos on Wednesday afternoon of our trip, we made the several hour drive to the Matanzas province where we were to attend the International Youth Conference at a hotel in Varadero.  There were over 300 young people from across the country of Cuba gathered to worship and study over three days!


Cienfuegos-Teens | ohfiddledeedee.com

Teenagers from the Cienfuegos churches

The opening night was singing at the church of Christ in Matanzas and then the conference began early the next morning.

Varadaro-Youth-Conference-2 | ohfiddledeedee.com

Varadaro-Youth-Conference | ohfiddledeedee.com

Some of the young people from the Cienfuegos province who attended to conference

While I didn’t speak at this conference, Dad did….

And so did my Madeline.

Varadaro-Youth-Conference-3 | ohfiddledeedee.com

Madeline taught a class to over 100 girls using a little of her conversational Spanish, English as well as a translator.  Let me tell you, she did an amazing job shedding some serious insecurities, as this was her first time ever to speak publicly like this!





A choral group from Harding University was a part of the conference as well.  They held singing class teaching new songs and also multi-part harmony.  Most Cuban singing was done in unison, so adding the harmonies made it even more beautiful!

Harding-University-Singing-Class | ohfiddledeedee.comSinging-Class-Harding-University | ohfiddledeedee.com

As I mentioned earlier, it is so hard to find to the words to describe this beautiful experience.  The spiritual part of Cuba is precious and sincere.  The cultural part of Cuba will draw you in and win you over.  The people are so kind, warm and loving.

Happy-Smiles-Cuba | ohfiddledeedee.com

And I can’t wait for the opportunity to return!


Taking In Cuba

The wanderlust gene runs deep in my soul.  I am always up for a road trip, an airplane flight, or even packing a moving van and setting out on some fun adventure or checking out new destinations.

But, I am not the only one who has this wonderlust gene in our family; my children have it as well.  Since I am in Boston on an anniversary get-away with Audley, our daughter Madeline is taking over my blog today sharing her recent trip to Cuba with my Dad (see, the wonderlust gene is multi-generational) for a little mission trip; the second mission trip some of our family has made this summer. 


Pop and me at the Atlanta airport ready to fly

The view of her trip through her 17-year-old eyes is so very sweet and full of passion.  Enjoy.



I think I just left my whole entire heart in another country.  Over the last year I have been praying for Cuba.  I have cried out to God on their behalf so that the people there could experience Him.


Yes, it is a BEAUTIFUL country with so many kind and beautiful people.  Their country is not far advanced and it is in poverty.  They may be content, but they still lack one thing – Jesus.


We went through Cienfuegos spreading and teaching the gospel.  They welcomed us in their homes and cried with us as they shared their stories.




People there thought that they were full, but as we taught, they were quick to realize the emptiness they had inside.  This week we filled that space with Jesus.


I fully believe that we have been called to be missionaries where we live, work, and play, but also sometimes we are called beyond that.  It is a beautiful thing that we can be tools for the kingdom, no matter where we are in the world.


We were able to hug and tickle kids who needed to feel loved and valued.


We got to make new friends, sisters and brothers.


We got to spend time with His creation and worship Him.




My Pop teaching


But most importantly, Jesus made himself known this week.  He taught me to be a little more humble and that it is okay to not have everything figured out.  My God is UNSTOPPABLE.


Look at all these Christian teenagers gathered in CUBA… a communist country!

I am so thankful for this opportunity and how Jesus is continuing to change my heart.  My greatest prayer is that we won’t lose our fire back in our communities; that we will continuously be sharing the gospel, not just through our word, but by our actions.


Pray for Cuba.  There is still work to be done there, but we do know God is on the move.


Pop studied with a young man who was baptized (one of 17 baptisms I watched) and this young man brought his friend to study and learn as well!

To the people who made this trip financially possible (I know some of Momma’s blogging friends helped), and spiritually possible through prayer, THANK YOU!

This week I have made so many friends for life.  I have learned to be humble and patient.  We saw so many people come to meet Jesus and got to encourage churches and communities in Christ.  God broke through every barrier in our way to make Himself known and our team feels beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to be tools for the Kingdom (the Church). God continued to reveal how He is our provider.

Continue to pray for Cuba and Cienfuegos’ churches.  I have a full heart and God is unstoppable in me.

~Maddie Jones~

Our Jamaica Mission Trip

My daughter, MacKenzie, and I just returned from a 9-day mission trip to Jamaica last week.  It’s funny because when you say that you are going to Jamaica on a mission trip people immediately think of the Sandals commercials and make comments on how difficult that must be.

YS Falls

YS Falls

Hilton Resort

A glimpse from inside the Hilton resort in Montego Bay

Jamaica is very beautiful, but outside the resorts are lives and lifestyles that many of us only see on the news or tend to ignore.

brother lorenzos

Visiting with Brother Lorenzo

Beyond the resorts are a people struggling day in and day out to make a living for themselves and their children, all the while, living in poverty.  There are families living in houses that will never be finished because they can’t afford the property taxes on a finished home.  There are children that hang out in bars while their mommas work every evening because they need a parent close by.  Children walk miles (even up Mountains!) to school on dangerous roads.

santa cruz jamaica

Just one road we traveled

There are men and women who can’t afford medical treatment (because there are no decent doctors or medical facilities on the island) that go blind with cataracts or glaucoma.   There are parents who live off  drugs while their children beg on the streets for them and unable to attend school as they should.  This is a culture with no concept of proper dental and medical care.  If you can’t get to it or afford it, you’re out of luck.  And there are children who can’t go to school because their family can’t afford a school uniform for them.

ackee tree

This is an island of people trapped in a socialist lifestyle just hoping for a break if not for themselves, but for their children, and not really knowing how to accomplish change.

To be honest, Jamaica doesn’t want you to see the island.  They only want you to see the beauty of the resorts and tourist attractions.


Bananas growing in a local yard

But, there is so much beauty to be found outside of the resorts as well…  it’s found in many of the people we encounter, their loving hearts and their love for Jesus in a culture that doesn’t really live Christ.  Jamaica is beautiful, but you have to experience it to see exactly what I mean!

sweet school children

This was our fifth visit to the impoverished island, but it’s a trip we truly look forward to.  Santa Cruz, Jamaica (which happens to be quite a distance from the coast) has also become a place we cherish dearly and hold close to our hearts.


We had a taxi driver in Montego Bay tell us if we had friends in Santa Cruz, we were considered Jamaicans ourselves.  I like that idea.


Santa Cruz Church of Christ

The people in the church at Santa are some of the most loving and caring individuals you can find.  They welcome us with open arms and hearts each time we arrive and cry with us as we leave.  It is a congregation of mostly women; strong, powerful women who worship with all their might.  They are women who are striving to serve and grow, while raising children and grandchildren to do the same.  It’s a congregation with many children who love to sing , listen to Bible stories and color. Brother Lorenzo, with his clear singing voice will bring you to tears with his words of wisdom and fierce independence as he is a blind man living entirely alone.

jamaican friends

MacKenzie talking with Brother Lorenzo

Then there is Everton, a man who has dedicated his life to God instead of a family because he feels that is most important.


Everton chaperoning MacKenzie and I in Montego Bay the night before we left… those are non-alcoholic beverages as we dined at Margaritaville; a meal that Everton kept calling “luxury”

He leads worship every Sunday as well as driving to pick up every member before services.  It can take a couple of hours to accomplish that.

Preachers family

The young preaching student with his wife, daughter and two brothers who came over from Montego Bay in a taxi to hear him teach Bible class on Sunday.

And now there is a young preaching student from the School of Preaching who travels each week to share the word with this small congregation.  He has the sweetest wife who is trying so hard to be a support for him in this ministry he has chosen.  It’s a congregation of people who I pray for daily.


Beautiful faces at Vacation Bible School

We worshipped with the church on Sunday, and held a Vacation Bible School each night we were there.   We also visited several homes of church members, singing and praying with them.

visiting and singing

Singing sweet gospel songs

And one of my favorite parts of the week with the church members was the home-cooked suppers before Vacation Bible School prepared by several of the ladies during our stay.

jamaican potluck

Our trip this year was spent more in the community than normal as we worked with four different schools; visiting with children and helping with some things the schools needed.

The little preschool in the New River district is a block one-room building with minimal light and up to 42 children at one time!  The teachers arrive early each day to clean up the school yard and bathrooms for the day.

cleaning school yard

They are fortunate to have a church building right next door where they are allowed to have space for group activities and morning assembly.

praying babies

Praying babies at New River 

We had so much fun singing and interacting with these babies, and they had fun entertaining us as well!


At Aberdeen High School (an hour from Santa Cruz) we were introduced to an older group of kids who made me realize just how easy my kids have it despite all that American culture throws at them.  These young people have heart and soul but are totally conflicted on what direction their lives will take.

aberdeen lunch line

While talking with a teacher, he told me that less than 70% of the children in the school will stay until graduation; maybe 30% of the remaining will attempt higher education, and the really smart ones will do whatever they can to leave the island of Jamaica for America and better opportunities for their lives.

aberdeen high school

Sobering thoughts indeed.

At Schoolfield Primary School, some of our young people and the students kicked off the school day with an entertaining game of “football”.

school daysschool days 2

Personally I enjoyed watching the smaller children play on the little playground.

sweet school children 2

playground fun

After their morning devotional, we painted the ceiling and trim in the common room since it had just recently been replaced.

paintingpainting school2painting school

Our final school visit was to Marie Cole Primary.  From the vender selling prawns in baggies to the kids for breakfast to the childrens fascination with a Nerf football (American version), it was an interesting morning watching the children arrive.

american footballschool childre

There are no school buses in Jamaica (except the one that has been turned into a classroom at Marie Cole), so children walk quite a long distance, or if they can afford it, take a taxi.  Momma and Daddy generally don’t walk with them.


After morning devotion at Marie Cole, the teenagers in the group went to the classrooms to read to different age groups.  I use the term classrooms loosely as the school is a large block building with each classroom separated only by carefully arranged chalkboard partitions.

classroom 2

These children that we encounter on our trips are why I return to Jamaica time and again.


If there is just one child whose life we can touch and change, helping them overcome the status quo, then we have done something good.




Several of the children that attend church at Santa Cruz are the reason we are allowed in the schools.  They have taken the initiative to bring together a mission team from the US and principals to form a bond of friendship and trust.

our team

While it’s sad to say goodbye each trip, I’m always glad to be back home in my comfortable air-conditioned home and drive on roads we really have no right to complain about.  But, that first Sunday back in our home congregation with its elaborate building and organized worship assemblies, is alway sad.  With 300 people in attendance, the heart and soul of 75 Jamaicans in worship can blow away our singing.

The Christians in Jamaica are passionate about their worship; not worried about entertainment and politics in the church.

They come together to praise God with all of their heart and soul, truly fellowshipping with one another, thus humbling me and teaching me a lesson when I thought I was teaching them one.