July 19, 2019
Hello, Church Family, please pray for our awesome team of 4 (Peggy Heitz, Jennifer English, Erika Solis and Alan Wexler) traveling on a mission trip to Jiguani, Cuba. We will be participating in worship service on Sunday, VBS preparation and a bike wash on Monday, Vacation Bible School (for approximately 150 children!) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and various speaking opportunities throughout the week. We wanted to share with you our team photo and ask that you pray for us as “We Are Going". "Jesus, go before us, behind us, above us. Be with us, around us, and in us, so that we may shine Your light."
Today we loaded the van and drove the scenic route to Ft. Lauderdale on the first leg of our journey. We stopped for lunch in Sebring and made it to our hotel around 5pm. We walked to Grampa's for dinner and had an ice cream at Jaxon's. We turned in early for our 6:20am flight.
July 20, 2019
We are currently aboard our flight, and God has already shown us travel mercies at the baggage counter, and in so many other small ways. God has chosen these ones for such a time as this! Please pray for our team as we go to share the Good News, wherever we go and whatever we do, in Jiguani.
As the team arrived in Holguin airport, we went through the customs process, which always holds some unknowns. We knew that there were people praying back home, lifting us up as we passed through. Pastor Daniel was at the airport to greet us. Including our backpacks we had 14 pieces of luggage. We loaded up our luggage, our team, Pastor Daniel and a driver into a 2 door classic Dodge Station Wagon and were on our way for the 3 hour ride to Jiguani.
That evening, some of the team went to the young adult service. There was music, drama and Scripture reading, along with a message from Pastor Daniel. We were greeted by the young people, some of whom we had met before and are old friends.
After our travels, it was time for rest, because Sunday was coming!
July 21, 2019
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Along with Pastor Daniel and his family, the team got up and got ready for church. We rode by horse and buggy to church, and for Alan, Peggy, and Jennifer, this was the first time seeing The Church worshipping inside the newly reconstructed church building! The three of us had been on a previous mission trip here for reconstruction and restoration of this building that is over 100 years old. For Jennifer, it was a beautiful moment to reflect on her heritage, as her General Contractor grandfather had once done reconstruction on the church where he worshipped, also a building over a hundred years old. Alan used his gift of speaking to share, “A Very Old Story to Tell”. He dove into the Word of God from the life of Joseph in Genesis. It was an encouraging sermon to, “be courageous even in the midst of life’s storms”. There was a beautiful service of worship music, and the people greeted the team with lots of, “Dios te bendiga”, “Bendiciones”, and kisses on the cheek, which is their customary greeting. We stayed until they closed the doors!
After a fabulous lunch, the team got together to meet with Lili, Pastor Daniel’s wife, about the plans and materials for Verano Escuela (Vacation Bible School). Lili was ready with her clipboard, and was excited to bring the team’s plans together with her own team’s plans. Between Peggy’s project management skills, Jennifer’s teaching skills, and Erika’s translation, the meeting ran smoothly. Since Alan would run the games, he joined in for the games planning, and let the ladies work out the rest. The two groups would come together the next day, and it was all falling into place.
July 22, 2019
Today was a day of “divide and conquer”. Erika, Jennifer, and Peggy met with Lili and about ten ladies from the church and several youth at the Pastor’s house to prepare the lessons and materials, as well as give assignments for the three-day Vacation Bible School. With all the fans running in the heat, it was a good time of getting together and having a common goal to get to know one another. Pointing and facial expressions might have been our only means of communicating sometimes, but our amazing bilingual team member, Erika, was able to assist in translating in conversations that day and throughout the week!
Alan worked with Pastor Daniel, along with two Cuban chapters of Faith Riders on a “Bike Wash”. Members of Jiguani Faith Riders showed up, as well as members of the Faith Riders chapter from Palma Soriano. This group washed motorcycles, bicycles, and bicycle taxis. They placed “Faith Riders” decals on a number of the “bikes” washed. A member of the Palma Soriano Faith Riders led one man to faith in Christ! Jesus said in Luke that the Good Shepherd would leave 99 sheep to find one lost sheep. Praise the Lord! Heaven was shouting!
In the afternoon, the youth came to Pastor’s house to rehearse for the VBS music. It was encouraging to hear the familiar sounds of “Shipwrecked” VBS music, which our church used last summer for VBS! The young people were energetic and worked hard to perfect the motions and words for the songs. What a great preview for the rest of the week with the kids!
That evening, the team gathered again with volunteers from the church to set up for VBS. The team was amazed by the church members putting their gifts to work for Jesus! Among the church, there is a visual artist, a balloon artist, and many servants of Christ who put it all together. What a busy and blessed day, and anticipation for what God would do tomorrow!
July 23, 2019
Tuesday launched the first day of Vacation Bible School. The team and church members were fully prepared. Peggy was the wheels behind much of the preparation, and it fully showed how everyone’s spiritual gifts are put together to accomplish great things for the Lord. Registration was handled by volunteers from the church, and each child received a colored nametag based on their age group. An early count showed 104 children this day, but more arrived after the initial count. “Team spirit” was encouraged for each age group, “Azul!” “Naranja!” “Verde!” and “Amarillo!” As the team rolled up on the horse and buggy, there was a full house already! The majority of the kids were already in the pews and singing along with the intro music.
The program began, with the church youth performing with Lili and Kenia leading in music and motion. The children learned the songs and sang along and did the motions. It was exciting, and the joy on the faces of the teens and leaders reflected onto the children.
Each age group was divided into areas. The preschool children were with Maylen and Kenia for the day. They did preschool activities together. The school-age children were divided up by age groups, and made their way to three different stations. Alan led the games area. The children played such games as, “Pato-Pato-Gato” (Like Duck-Duck-Goose), “Land and Sea”, and “Four Square”. They had a blast, and had a small snack for refreshment. Erika led the Bible lesson. The theme for the week was “La Gran Aventura”, or “The Great Adventure”. Today, the kids learned all about God’s creation of the world and the fall of man. Jennifer led the crafts. Today, the kids made a craft showing the first six days of creation, using two paper plates and drawing and coloring.
After going through the stations with their groups, all the kids returned to the main pews, and we had a closing ceremony. Erika had prepared pop quiz questions from the Bible lesson, and the kids had so much fun anticipating if they would be called to answer the questions. There was a small prize for the winner in each age group.
The team returned home for lunch and a much-needed rest. As always, the food prepared by Jesus and the ladies of the church was amazing! They know how to cook! Muy bien!
The time of rest would be short-lived, as the team met again for midweek church service. The entire team taught on The Treasure Principle, each speaking on a portion of the lesson to the church gathered. We are grateful to Pastor Aaron for leading us through this lesson on giving our time, talents, and treasure. We were able to share it with our brothers and sisters in Cuba. The team met a young man named Omar. His aunt had invited him to church. Pastor Daniel introduced him, and let us know that he would be a translator for us on the following night. As a team, we were in prayer for Omar, as he was not yet a believer.
July 24, 2019
Even MORE children showed up for Vacation Bible School this day. Halleleujah! Erika led a lesson on how Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, and how Jesus was sent to save us from our sins. Jennifer led the kids in a craft they all enjoyed. The kids painted sun catchers in the shape of a cross. As the sun catchers were set out to dry, the kids and adult volunteers came to look at the kids’ beautiful art work. This will be a memory that they can hang up in their home for years to come.
This evening was so precious. The church’s normal Men’s and Women’s Bible study is on Thursday, but God had other plans. The men and women had a brief gathering together in the main sanctuary. Then, the men went to an upper room where the Men’s Bible Study was held. Alan shared about the founding and purpose of the F.A.I.T.H. Riders Motorcycle Ministry. Omar was his translator. He heard the Good News through Alan’s 3 minute testimony.
The Women’s Bible Study was such a sweet time. Jennifer shared a devotional from Joshua 7, about the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land on dry ground. God parted the waters miraculously for the Israelites. Jennifer asked the ladies to meditate on a time when God did something miraculous in their lives, and write it on a paper as a “memorial stone”. There was such a sweet time of sharing, and the ladies from our team and the ladies from Jiguani grew closer together, and saw that God works in our lives, no matter where we are or what background we have. God’s power was present in a special way this night.
July 25, 2019
Today was the last day of VBS. The team began the day together at VBS, each prepared to fulfill their individual roles, and prepared to share the Gospel at any moment if called upon. There were children so hungry for the Word of God, they brought their friends to hear it, too. The total who attended at least one day was 142 kids! Erika used her gifts to share the Bible lesson, and by the end of the week the kids had memorized four Bible verses: Genesis 1:27, Romans 6:23, John 3:16, and Romans 5:8. A gospel presentation was made during the Bible lesson, and there were kids who responded. Follow up will be needed with the kids by the church there.
It was a blessing to give out fabric bags made by Stitches of Love. The team placed a gospel tract, a gospel bracelet, and some sweet treats inside. The children and teen helpers received these gifts with excitement! They will be able to use them for years to come, and hopefully think back on these days of Bible learning and fun!
Just before 11am, Alan handed over the games to the teen volunteers and joined Pastor Daniel to serve at the weekly Breaking Bread at the pastor’s house. This outreach is much like our own church’s Breaking Bread Café, serving the widows and hungry people of Jiguani. Their church is truly grateful to Church at the Mall’s help for the opportunity to serve the people of their community.
July 26, 2019
Today we said, “goodbye for now”, to Pastor Daniel, his family, and a few church members who saw us off. It was a bittersweet moment, as we were full of love for our brothers and sisters, and they for us, but the this time had come to an end. The team loaded up again in the Dodge taxi, and hit the road for our accommodations for the night. After a week of bustle and activity, we were able to relax, reflect, and thank God for all He had done!
July 27, 2019
With an early flight, the team was packed, ready, and checked out of the hotel by 5:30am, anticipating a taxi ride at 6:00am. The trip to the airport gave us time to look at the countryside of Cuba one last time before leaving this country that has a piece of each of our hearts. Our prayer before leaving was that we would continue to be a team, even on the trip home. Thanks be to God, it was a smooth flight to Ft. Lauderdale. Once we landed, we passed through customs, got our luggage to the van, and rode home as a team united in one purpose: to glorify God wherever we go!