Report on my Trip to Cuba

My friend Omar just posted a good summary of his view on Cuba and our work raising up gospel coaches through CMMNet.org in Cuba. Enjoy and pray as you read.

Peace and Prosperity

IMG_2554 the historic capitol building in Havana

I just spent four days in Havana with some of the brightest and godliest leaders of the church in Cuba, leaders from Holguín, Camagüey, and Havana. Artists, businesspeople, doctors, and pastors, men and women who love the Lord and want to see the spread of the gospel in Cuba.

What was i doing in Cuba?

For the past two years I have been coaching pastors in the US. Coaching is a process in which I help a church leader apply the gospel to the relational, personal, missional, and spiritual realms of his life.

IMG_2527 leading the devotional on Wednesday morning

Through my relationship with CMM I have been invited to help them train and evaluate coaches for a denomination in Cuba called Los Pinos Nuevos. This particular trip was all
about evaluation.  I sat in as two leaders coached each other.
Here are some observation I…

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Easter Season at Language School

It’s been a different sort of week for us here in San José. As you probably know, Costa Rica is a predominately Catholic nation, so things are similar but different around Easter.

All schools and many businesses close all week. Buses scale back their schedules. It’s the middle of ‘summer’ here, so lots of people go to the beach or out of town and visit family. Plus there are big outdoor processionals on Good Friday reenacting Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Here are a few photos of our week:

Processional in San Jose

Closing scene of the processional in downtown San José on Good Friday.

With a week off from class, we got to spend a lot of time with our neighbors and their children here in the Quad. It’s really great for our souls to be around children and families when we are so far from our own!

Took a coffee plantation tour at Doka Estates just outside the city. I now possess immense knowledge to go with my morning addiction. When I return to ATL, you will quickly grow tired of hearing about my pilgrimage 8-).  BTW, those burlap bags behind us contain the very best high quality bean Costa Rica has to offer. Each exports for $200 to a company that starts with S and ends with s.

We’ve been visiting regularly at Iglesia Bíblica Nazareth (Nazareth Bible Church) a 10-minute walk from our apartment. The pastor kindly invited us to spend a day with his family and the church staff outside the city. Really honored to be invited into the life of a local church. Hoping to learn more about the Church in Latin America as well as improve our Spanish as we participate.

Easter Season Continues

While different, Holy Week was a welcome break and good time to get to know this city and country a little better. It’s proved to me (again) that we have much to learn about crossing cultures, gospel ministry and serving Christ’s kingdom worldwide.

It was great to celebrate Jesus resurrection on Sunday! We miss our family and church but look forward to learning this vital skill for the expansion of gospel ministry in Cuba and Latin America. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Two months into language school

So, how is language school? A lot of friends and family are curious what it’s like for us to live in San José Costa Rica for language school. School is a lot of work but there are some fun and quirky parts to share with you.

The majority of our time is now routine. Classes Mon-Fri start at 730am and end at noon. Everything is in Spanish. Usually I coach church planters in the US over the phone or video calls throughout the afternoon. We study, visit with neighbors, have dinner, study more and are asleep by 9 or 10pm. It still surprising that it takes so much energy. We are both doing well in our classes. The tutoring I received really helped with a big gap I had. The majority of our lives are spent with the work of language learning. Next semester I’ll be adding a third one-on-one class on how to translate.

So far we’ve visited four churches. We know a lot of the songs already from our bi-lingual church back in Atlanta. It’s great to be able to understand the sermons better but it will take a little more time for Elizabeth. We’re through the first phase of cultural adaptation and appreciate your prayers for health and ongoing learning and adjustments.

We’re adjusting and enjoying the good God gives too. Most of the other missionaries studying here have children. I’m actually the oldest regular student in our entering class and we’re one of only three empty-nester couples, so we get a little bit of practice grandparent time. Last Thursday our neighbors who will serve in Panama ran out of gas for their stove in the middle of cooking pancakes for dinner, so they finished cooking in our kitchen and we ate together. God has surprised us with a great community.

Weekends are for rest and going to the store. We had one paseo (trip) out of the city to a really cool tropical garden with waterfalls, hummingbirds, reptiles and toucans. See the photos at the end.

Another treat, is to eat at Subway occasionally (yeah we are so crazy, but it’s amazing what you crave away from home). We are getting to know fellow missionary students and I play full court basketball with a bunch of these young guys every Wednesday night. Well, what I do should not be called basketball. It’s more a disguise and distraction from running.

My mom is planning a visit at the end of March, so it will be fun to show her around the city. She is a retired Spanish teacher, so I think it’ll be great to have her observe a day in the life of the school too.

Quirky things have taken some getting used to. In no particular order:

  • When the US loses an hour on March 13, Costa Rica will not. Effectively putting us in Mountain Time. That will be a first for us.
  • There are no street addresses and numbers so our address is literally ‘San Francisco de Dos Rios, 100 meters east of the Delta Gas Station 300 meters south.’ There is effectively no mail service.
  • We are in high altitude 3700 feet above sea level so food cooks differently. Takes forever to bake anything.
  • The sun comes up at 5:30am and sets at 6pm. Every day all year. And we are 11 degrees from the equator so the sun is hot and bright. Heat of the day starts early. Typical day is high 79 degrees low 65. It’s the tropics but we are high in the mountains. Very nice. Elizabeth is not missing winter at all.
  • It’s ‘summer’ here. Which means it’s dry season and really windy in the afternoons. It has only rained once in two months.
  • ‘Winter’ or rainy season starts in May. We’re told it will rain every day starting at about 3-4pm and rain all night.
  • We have no TV but listen to Costa Rican radio on my laptop. The teachers actually say it’s part of our homework and helps improve comprehension. Bonus: I’m developing an appreciation for Spanish hip hop.
  • We live behind bars and barbed wire. The saying goes here that ‘the good people live behind bars’ to deter petty theft. So far we haven’t had the slightest safety problem other than locking our keys in the apartment once or twice.
  • San José, like any large international capital city has a lot of traffic, noise and pollution, but it’s not too bad. We bought a big fan at Walmart (yes, there is a Walmart) and turn it on to drown out the traffic and dogs barking.

It’s amazing to me that we have already completed two months. The next six will be the hardest but I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks to all of you who are praying for us and supporting us financially. The investment in our skills will help us train Cuban house church leaders and pastors.

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Most every day we make presentations in my conversation class.

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Elizabeth with Violet and Isaac some of our neighbors children at the waterfall garden.

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My wife bravely holding a live toucan. Neither of us opted for holding a snake later on.

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I was pretty excited about the hummingbirds. Really amazing up close!

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This is the view most of the time.

We are super grateful we can be here learning Spanish. Thanks again for your prayers and support!

I Repent

This post from the brother of a friend says a lot of what I think, feel and have learned. I too repent. Thanks John.

John R. Caines Jr.

I have been a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America for twelve years. My father, J. Render Caines, has been a pastor for forty three years (started in the RPCES) and my brother, Philip Caines, for fourteen. I have a long history in my denomination. I have been invited today to speak as a PCA minister, but I would not be a faithful one if I did not speak the truth.

I stand before you guilty. I repent of my sins against my black, Latino, Asian, and indigenous brothers and sisters. As a human being I have not defended their rights for most of my life. I have misunderstood the race problem and done next to nothing to support my brothers and sisters. As a minister I never preached or taught about this issue until the last few years. Our neighborhood is 80% white and our city 60%, but our church is over 90% white…

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Highs and Lows: Week 1

It’s been a good first week. Very full. Yet a different full than back home.

  • Ironically, my watch did not survive the trip. And there is not one clock in our apartment. Time is less important in Latin America. I think God’s trying to tell us something….
  • Without a car, every chore means walking, taking a bus or a taxi. Haven’t gotten lost yet. Managing to communicate okay. Everything just takes more time and patience.
  • We’re living in ‘The Quad’ – a two-story apartment building with four units. It’s like university days again. Always someone nearby. All three of our neighbors have made meals for us or had us over already. And there are five kids who play in the common courtyard. Really great.

In my last post I said, “It’s a small world when you’re in God’s family” and it got smaller!

Our neighbors downstairs, Marcus and Heather, are good friends with Elysia’s RUF leaders the Clements at UGA (and who’s child was in Jake and Cat’s wedding) and they served in a church plant with a seminary accountability partner of mine, Whit Anderson in the Austin TX area. God is constantly reminding us that He has our back.

 

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Adjustments are many but nothing super hard – yet. We’ve been warned about getting hit by cars (pedestrians do not have the right of way), handling beggars, health issues and many more I’ll spare you. It’s wiped away a little bit of the awe and newness but it’s making us trust Jesus in a new way. And we need to trust Jesus more!

Please don’t stop praying! We feel weaker, disoriented and school starts Monday. We don’t take our safety and health for granted. Nor the stress of learning more Spanish when we have been, ahem, out of school for a while.

And pray that we learn new ways to find our sanity in the powerful work of Jesus. Spiritually and emotionally maintaining our connection with Jesus as individuals and in a new community is super important.

 

God Answered: Coaching Training

Less than a month ago, CMM was invited to do our first Gospel Coach training in Mexico. My friends Dave and Dawn Diaso made it all happen and I loved Dave’s write up. Hope it encourages you like it did me.

Our Life On The Border

You Prayed, God Answered!

Coaching Training Coaching Training

We asked you to pray for our coaching training that we held for pastors and leaders last week. God came through again! The Lord gave us a wonderful time with the pastors, leaders and missionaries that attended.

This is an important step as Dawn and I work with our partners to see church planting movements that are undergirded with a strong coaching component. A number of the pastors and leaders feel alone. They feel like they don’t have anyone to turn to when they have a problem.

One of the things that Dawn and I enjoy the most is connecting and coming alongside the leaders here on the border. But not long after we arrived I realized that we couldn’t keep up with all the pastors that are in the networks we are working with.

Multiply Coaches

Jim Moon leading one of our coaching training sessions Jim Moon leading one of our coaching training…

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It’s a small world when you’re in God’s family

It is a small world when you are in God’s family.

Marvel with me: missionaries today can hop a plane and make a trip that would’ve never been accomplished 300 years ago. Only 223 years ago when William Carey (the father of modern missions) left home in 1793 trips like these would take months. And our smartphones (more like Star Trek communicators imagined a mere 50 years ago) work here. How much more should believers be sacrificing to spread the gospel to all nations? Another post for another time.

So yeah, we left our house at 3pm in Atlanta and made it to our missionary outpost (San José apartment) by 11pm.

Our school-assigned ‘Big Brother and Big Sister’ Gordon and Debbie met us and helped us get to the apartment (which is next door to theirs). God seems to work out the littlest details to remind us that He is in control.

Before we left, our daughter Erica and son-in-law Austin came over to the house and helped us with last minute preparations, like getting Elizabeth’s iPod synced up (a task that would have baffled me). Our friend and neighbor Christopher drove us to the airport, then, just to show us that He has us in His sights all the time, God had us arrive ‘early’, go in the ‘wrong’ door and walk right up to Danialle and Drew who were dropping off their son Josh for a trip to Nicaragua.

It is a small world when you are in God’s family.

So why don’t I trust God all the time? It’s a long answer that starts with I (wrongly) think I’m the captain of my own soul! Oh what a wreck I’d be if I were in charge!

Thankfully God calls and equips the weak and broken to do His work.

He showed us His trustworthy plans in little things: like Debbie and Gordon stocking our kitchen, laundry room, bathroom and making our bed before we arrived. Did I mention she made lunch today? And that they took us by bus to Wal-Mart, helped us figure out all the things we need, how stuff works here and then just delivered dinner? Yes, the Lord of Mercy takes care of the weak and broken.

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Then the Creator of the Universe spread out His canvas on the sky and painted this over His mountains.

He reminds me too: hundreds of people pray for us and give generously to help prepare us to invest in an amazing Cuban church planting movement. Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief! Thanks be to God!

Pray for us to trust our creative, all-powerful, all-wise God as we stretch to learn a new language. Love to all…

The Captain’s log: language school date 01032016

Runnin’ and Gunnin’ into Advent

running

These last few months have been a blur: coaching church planters around the US, training and traveling in three countries using what Spanish I have and planning for the big move to language school with Elizabeth. All at once.

It’s been fun but I can’t keep up the care of my soul and my life like a redeemed human needs at this kind of pace. Can’t keep runnin’ and gunnin’. I need the corrective pace of Advent.

There’s this slow-motion picture in my head of Joseph and Mary meandering slowly to Bethlehem and calmly having Jesus without any hurry or rush. Don’t think my view is accurate. I think it was hectic.

But Jesus arrived and He made peace. He covered my sin. Proved His righteousness. I need to think about that. Time to stop running. And enjoy the finished work of Jesus.

Goal Met 9 Days Early! What Next?

Thank God for sending in the needed funds for Elizabeth and I to go to language school. God was nine days early! Super grateful for all how gave and all who prayed! We leave in 10 weeks!

After the October 31 deadline, we were planning to start a campaign at CMMnet.org to cover costs for the actual trainings in 2016, but seems like we should start early!

CMM’s Cuba Initiative. Click here to donate electronically. Or contact CMM directly to send a check.

If you want to give directly to help cover food, transportation, materials, housing and household items church leaders can’t get unless we bring them in, here is your opportunity to donate directly to the needs of training Cuban house church leaders.

Estimates indicate it will take about $35,000 per year to train the coaches for this entire movement. $100 will transport, feed and house a key leader at each training.

Thanks so much for your prayers, gifts and support of this vital gospel driven ministry in Cuba!

 

Article about our work in Cuba in a national magazine

Two days ago the PCA denominational magazine byFaith posted a fantastic article about the ministry in Cuba with whom we partner.

CMM is not mentioned directly, but this will give you several pages of an accurate and compelling backstory to our work and current events.

All the pictures are of men, women and young people that I work with in Cuba. Makes my heart sing to see them! This is Frank, Ari and Meli!

Here is how the article starts….

“After more than 50 years of silence, the U.S. and Cuba have started talking again. In fact, this past July the two countries announced a formal restoration of diplomatic relations, and President Barack Obama said that the U.S. and Cuba had struck a deal to open embassies in each other’s capitals for the first time in half a century. The politics are controversial, and the changes elicit different responses across the political spectrum.

But there’s another “thaw” taking place throughout Cuba, one that breeds hope among all God’s people. God has sparked a fire in the hearts of Cuban men and women. As a result, there’s been a profound Gospel renewal and an explosive house-church movement.”

Read the rest here at byFaith and rejoice at all the Lord has done and pray for more of what He WILL DO!

And kudos to author Zoe Erler!!