christianThe students of Presbyterian College have a once-in-a-year trip to Cuba; where the aim is to be exposed to another culture as well as see and encourage (and be encouraged by) other Christians living in different (less comfortable) contexts.  So this Wednesday chapel, the PC students reported impressions of their almost 10-day long trip. Interestingly, most students were honest to admit that the experience was not as beneficial as they hoped, especially since they were for the most part shielded from the ‘real’ Cuba. However, they did say that they returned with a few striking and unforgettable memories.

Mainly, they were impressed with the ‘spirit’ of the people, especially the Christian believers, who were strong and vibrant even despite the most difficult situations. They also remarked of how one child, whose “only” toy was a headless horse. They were struck by how little the Cubans had and still how they made the most of it. They were touched by the Cuban hospitality and sense of community.

Two other things stand-out. They were told about how when the Cuban revolution occurred, they lost more than 200 Christian (western) ministers overnight. Also, all the funding and books and material that came from the US and other parts of the western world was cut off. This immediate theological ‘orphanage’ led the Cubans to look at the Bible for themselves and they found that the Bible indeed spoke about liberation and thus they find no contradiction between freedom/liberation and salvation.

The other thing was how the Canadian students confessed how their churches are huge, but empty… and how the churches are being closed down. Hearing this, some of the pastors were horrified and said, “Why are you closing the churches. You must keep them open for the the Lord to open the opportunity to minister to the people.” This coming from pastors who had no resources absolutely. They eventually stressed that for a Christian minister to survive effectively in Cuba, the minister needed to have a horizon (a sense of God’s vision), a love for the people, and the willingness to suffer.

Certainly, many lessons about “what is contextual theology” can be learned from this.