Preacher’s home in Maisí where the church is currently meeting
I’ve made about two dozen trips to Cuba, but last week’s trip was special. First off, it was somewhat spontaneous; Tony Fernández asked me to come after Hurricane Matthew blew through the eastern part of the island.
Everything came together to make it work:
- American Airlines now flies direct to Cuba, directly to Holguin on the eastern side of the island.
- My travel for Hope For Life (Herald of Truth) ended early this year. Normally I travel into November and even December; travel ended in October this year.
- My family agreed to fund the trip, keeping me from having to use ministry money or church money.
I left Abilene at 5:30 a.m. October 24 and arrived in Holguin at 4:30 that afternoon. We made stops in Dallas and Miami along the way, which is fairly common when going to Latin America. There were only 12 of us passengers on a 737 going from Miami to Holguin; because I fly with American a lot, they even moved me up to business class, where I was alone.
Immigration took longer than usual since I was on a tourist visa when I’m usually on a religious visa. When I assured them that I wouldn’t be there on a Sunday nor hold any church meetings, they accepted that it wasn’t a “religious” trip. (I hope I’m “religious” every day, but I understand the definition they use)
Chunk of bridge that fell off during Tony and Ammiel’s trip
Tony had advised me not to bring much, so I only had carryon bags. I was still able to bring some very important supplies like water purification devices, diarrhea medicine, and the like. I breezed through customs (“They didn’t give you a form? That’s okay; go ahead”) and found Tony waiting for me. We drove to a private home (bed and breakfast) in Holguin. The roads are in bad shape, and there’s a lot of loose livestock on the road, so Tony didn’t want to travel at night.
Washed out bridge
The next morning we made our way to Guantanamo, staying in private homes there. Then the next day we headed out for Punta de Maisí, the Cuban town hardest hit by the storm. My relationship with Maisí goes back to early 2010 when we started broadcasting on Transworld Radio. They quickly formed a “listeners club” in that town, gathering to listen to my program each Saturday. That’s one of the reasons Tony thought it would be very significant for them if I visited their town to let them know Christians in the States haven’t forgotten them in their time of need.
The roads were bad, but not as bad as Tony had led me to believe; they weren’t nearly as bad as they had been on the two trips he’d made the previous weeks. We were stopped neither by police checkpoints nor road congestion and arrived fairly early in Maisí, making the trip from Guantanamo in about 4 and a half hours. Since there’s no place to stay there in town, we couldn’t be there long.
Tony F. with Diosmedes, evangelist in the Maisí area
The Christians there were very appreciative of everything we brought them. Tony had loaded his car with food, water, clothes, and tools. One developmentally challenged woman in the church in Matanzas had selected some of her dolls to send to the children in Maisí; that was very special.
Supplies delivered in Maisí
We saw the town, met with the people, then headed back to Guantanamo. The next morning, Tony took me to Santiago, the second largest city in Cuba, then we made our way back to Holguin. I flew out on Friday and headed back to another world. On Saturday, we were serving a funeral meal at church, with mounds of brisket and all the trimming. I couldn’t help but reflect on the contrast with what I’d lived the previous days.
Church leader shows us his damaged home
Pray for the church in Cuba. Pray for the suffering in Punta de Maisí. Pray for godly men like Tony Fernández who are continually serving in difficult situations with neither fanfare nor fame to accompany them.
Family Tony gave aide to
Tony brought baby clothes for infant born right before hurricane
Family that Tony brought aide to