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Local pastors make trip to Cuba

Residents of Cuba enjoy worship service. Local pastors traveled to Cuba to discuss social justice. The delegation was the first to visit Cuba since the establishment of the U.S. Embassy in the country.

Local pastors make trip to Cuba
May 19
05:30 2016

Submitted photo

First Prophetic Social Justice Delegation engages with people 

BY REV. DR. LAMONTE WILLIAMS 

SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE

A small ministerial group arriving in Cuba followed President Barak Obama’s historical footsteps as he became the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1959.

The group’s visit was historic, too, being the “First Prophetic Social Justice Delegation” to Cuba after the establishment of the U.S. Embassy.

The delegation calls its trip to engage with the people on March 28 through April 2 a success.

Plans are under way for future trips from the Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem and Vicinity and possibly the Cuban religious leaders to visit here.

The delegation was: the Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, senior pastor of Diggs Memorial United Holy Church of Winston Salem, which is in the Western North Carolina District; Bishop Elroy Lewis, president and nationally the United Holy Church of America; Bishop Elijah Williams, president and, the Rev. Dr. Gloria L. Thomas, and James M. Thomas, leading the ministry of the John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in Winston Salem, a part of the Winston Salem District; the Rev. Dr. Calvin L. Miller, presiding elder; and the Western North Carolina Conference Bishop George E. Battle, senior prelate.

The delegation met with Santiago C. Delgado Castillo, who took their lodging and presented the week’s agenda.

Visiting President of Cuba National Churches

The first visit was with Rev. Maykel Bàez Bruffau, Pastor Iglesia Bautist “El Jordan”. Pastor Maykel Fraternidad de Iglesias Bautistas de Cuba (President of Cuba National Churches) carried us to Guanabacoa, La Habana, Cuba to visit his office and conference center where people come daily to learn about the gospel of Christ.

After an engaging roundtable discussion about the state of affairs of the Cuban churches, their outreach ministry in the inner city and urban area, he eagerly shared his future plans for improvements to his conference center starting with the newly replaced water barrels holding the water for the facility.

The water for drinking in Cuba presents great concern, generally attributed to the plastic used in their pip-ing and possible lead contamination. Therefore, Pastor Mayel was over joyed to share pictures showing new future designs for living quarters and to show the new water filtration system installed on the property. His heart’s desire is to have a conference center that is conducive to the growth of his teaching and preaching of the gospel, and churches worldwide become more ecumenical. He said: “I want to teach the people the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Martin Luther King Center

The delegation then visited the Martin Luther King Center. The center is a macro ecumenical association of Christian inspiration. Since April 25, 1987, it has nurtured the ethics of liberation.

The foundation is based upon popular education and a critical liberating, and contextualized theology. Paulo Freire led the discussions about the center’s five major programs: Socio-theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training, Popular Education and Accompaniment to Local Experiences, Solidarity, Sustainability and Organization Development, and Popular Communication.

“We left the center filled with pride because not only was Dr. King’s ideology advocating the rights of all human beings to live a full life, without exclusion or discriminations, and in harmony with nature still making a difference in America, but Dr. King was right: ‘Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,’” Rev. Williams said.

Next the delegation visited La Margarita and the church of Pastor Zenaida.

In the sanctuary

After dinner the delegation entered the sanctuary filled to capacity and over-flowing to the outside with members anticipating the evening message rendered by the Rev. Dr. Gloria L. Thomas and music by the Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams. There was a spirited praise and worship service already in progress. There were songs of praise, faith, and trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The evening message was titled, “Someone Needs to See Your Faith in Action.” The text was found in Mark 2:1-12. The sermon embraced the possibility of the embargo being lifted and normalization affecting the political, social, and economical structures in Cuba…in this context meaning that they would be able to conduct business openly in the world including the United States and dialogue with their country’s decision makers concerning the operation and growth of the churches. They were reminded that this could possibly mean more growth in the churches or a decline in church attendance.

However, the text was used to remind them that like minds, hearts that desire to follow through on the true mission (teaching and preaching about the love of Christ and God’s salvation through Him for the world) operating in God’s word, and having the same motivation to succeed is a formula destined for success. Nothing could stop them – not pride, culture, or people – nothing could stop them from reaching their goal of bringing lost souls into the presence of Jesus. Jesus the great physician is not will-ing that anyone should perish.

Pastors Zenaida and Santiago assured Dr. Thomas that this was a timely message appreciated and received by the church. Dr. Williams used the moment to emphasize the connection of the African-American Old Negro Spiritual and Hymns to the struggle of liberation. He used songs like “Oh, Oh, Fix Me” as a moment of critical reflection on how change is possible if The delegation only believe.

Also, songs like ” Oh, Freedom Over Me” were used to educate the Cubans of the tenacity the Africans embodied on toward racial injustice and oppression. A brief homily was given before each song to demonstrate that the hymns and negro spirituals were the language of the historical African-American Church.

Dr. Williams also incorporated some modern contemporary songs showing the changes in the music genre of the African-American Church throughout its inception.

Songs like “Come on and Bless the Lord with me” integrated with the traditional Hymn “How Great Thou Art” were received with great inspiration. The Baptist Organization made the request for Dr. Williams and a delegation to return to do a weeklong music workshop to further their education on the African-American tradition of music.

Anniversary celebration

Next the delegation visited Pastor Mayel’s church, celebrating its 48th anniversary of sharing (Capacitandonos y Mostrando el Mensaji del Reino) unity in the church. They experienced a concert of African and Cuban songs under the direction of Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams.

That night, Dr. Williams played and taught words to the receptive congregation to some old African spirituals like “Fix Me Lord, Fix Me” and “Hallelujah.” The music ministry assisted in translating the songs to Spanish and the spirit moved Dr. Williams to sing inter-changeably from Spanish to English on the songs.

Still feeling the high energy and excitement inspired earlier by President Obama’s visit to Havana, the Ministerial Delegation visited the U.S. Embassy.

“We were greeted by American Security Officers working there and found them to be very friendly while maintaining an atmosphere of very strict security,” said Dr. Williams.

The delegation was advised to make an appointment to visit the embassy. However, the delegation was permitted to take photos outside the gate.

The delegation was also informed that U.S. citizens (not on a religious visa) are encouraged to contact and register with the American Citizens Services (ACS) to obtain updated information on travel and security with-in the country.

Not the Cuba envisioned

The delegation left Cuba realizing that it was not the Cuba members had envisioned, rather it was more progressive than they had thought. There were several different modes of transportation around the city: old cars from the 50’s used for taxis (most in need of repair), buses some double decked, carts driven by bicycle and horse. Many of the young people had cell phones (wore the clothes and hair styles “rocked” by the youth in America), and the hotels had direct Internet allowing people to send and receive emails. Some of the restaurants offered menus including lobster, salmon, spaghetti, and meatballs, hamburgers, French fries, and or other varieties of food that Americans are familiar with.

Dr. Williams said:

“The money  was a surprise when we learned that the CUC money has a slightly higher value that our American money.

“Moreover, we realized that the people were very loving and respectful of Americans, and our President Barack Obama. People in the churches are committed to serving the God of love and preaching the true gospel.

“On the day we left, they wanted us to bring you this message: ‘We have the same Holy Spirit and we serve the same God in Cuba that you worship there in your churches in America.’”

Dr. Williams, second vice president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston Salem and Vicinity, was a delegate for the Ministers’ Conference. Another goal of the trip was to establish a religious partnership with the Ministers’ Conference.

There is mutual agreement between the U.S. and Cuban religious organizations that there is a need for a religious partnership. Furthermore, there was inspiring collaborative dialogue from Dr. Williams and the Cuban Pastors for partnerships with the United Holy Church of America Inc. Future meetings are underway for a week long revival in Cuba. The Prophetic Social Justice mission Trip was successful and met the objective to bring social transformation in the lives of the Cubans.

More information, pictures, and dialogue can be obtained by contacting the Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams via email at revklwms@nullhotmail.com or 336-528-4570.

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