The flight to Cuba from Miami went very well. Any apprehension was probably due to me wondering how the Cuban officials would react to Aldo, since he was now a US citizen but Cuba does not recognize the citizenship. This was my fear, not Aldo’s, as he has traveled in and out of Cuba many times. When we got out of the plane, we were directed to a Cuban Customs booth where an attractive young woman who was refusing to smile, took my passport, wrote down several things, and returned it to me saying “welcome.” A door lock buzzed and I stepped out into a larger area where lines were forming to go through what we think of security. An official who seemed to be ushering others to security lines looked at me, approached, and asked for my passport. I did not see him do this to anyone else. He politely asked that I wait where I stood. He then took the passport and disappeared. Aldo had arrived by this time from his check-in with Cuban Customs. The official who took my passport returned and talked with Aldo, taking his passport. Aldo was told he would be “interviewed” shortly. This had not happened to him before, in all the trips he had made previously to Cuba. Well, what did this all mean; was I causing a problem for the group? While I really not frightened, I was experiencing something that I would soon learn was just commonplace for Cubans — do what you’re told, you have no control over your life. All ended fine, my passport was politely returned, and Aldo’s “interview” went well.
We then met Alma and Manuel, two staff members from the United Methodist church in Havana, who would be with us for the remainder of our time in Cuba. Manuel drove us from the airport, into Havana. We stepped off the church’s bus and I saw it: IGLESIA METODISTA en CUBA OFICINA NACIONAL. We were at the Methodist church; the flame and cross was right before me; and I had a feeling of safety and peace, as I stepped through those doors. What I was soon to realize, again and again, was that the flame and cross is before me. And, what I will learn, again and again, is that the flame of the Holy Spirit is so alive in Cuba. The young Christians are raising their hands, saying “Here I am, Lord.” They are full of joy; they are so welcoming of us; they are so welcoming of each other. They are full of the Spirit and they want to share it.
Aldo told me that Cuba is like the 1st Century church. I am learning what this means, where the Spirit of God is in control and is accepted only with joy and without compromise, without apologies. As Barbara said to me, we are in the church described in Acts 2. We are seeing how early Christians can support each other, can meet in each other’s homes until churches can be built, and how existing churches like FUMC can help fledgling churches grow and mature into Christ’s Church. Oh, I am so blessed.