For many of us, when we think of Cuba, one (if not all) of these images perhaps come to mind. At least, that has been true of me. Growing up in the early 1960s, the nation of Cuba was very much in the mainstream of my awareness…even as a first and second grader! I had little knowledge of anything else that was happening in the world, but I did know about Cuba.
Cuba scared me.
While I was too young to understand much, semi-regular nuclear attack drills at my school brought a very real life application to the times. As eerie sirens howled to announce those drills, as I think about it now, I’m not sure how getting under my desk would have actually provided any protection.
But I felt safer.
There was one home in my neighborhood that had a nuclear fallout shelter in their backyard (I could see the entrance hatch as I often rode by on my bike). My friends and I would have serious discussions concerning how all of our families were going to fit into that tiny shelter. We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t have fit…that it wasn’t for us. But of course, there was always the option of getting under our desk!
Little did I know that decades later, I would be walking around Havana (Habana) and traveling deep into the country…on a religious visa. To this day, travel to Cuba remains restricted to citizens of the United States. While there are visa options to enter from the United States legally, tourism is not one of them. The economic embargo initiated by President Kennedy in 1962, remains intact.
As we have seen over the past few years, Cuba once again, has been very much in the news. The countries’ embassies reopened in Washington and Havana. Then came visits by Pope Francis last September and President Obama in March (the first sitting U.S. President to visit since 1928 and since the revolution, 1953-1959).
Obama’s visit was soon followed by Mick Jagger…and while we didn’t get any press…staff from The Compass Church and EFCA ReachGlobal visited in April…obviously, the level of important dignitaries dropped significantly and quickly! Just a week ago, the first U.S. cruise ship docked at the port of Havana with over 700 passengers.
Beyond the discussion of politics and ideologies, which have severely impacted people’s lives, what has been happening spiritually in Cuba? What is the condition of the church? Could the very ideology of a communist system actually have served to propel the church forward? This will be the topic of future posts. Stay tuned.