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Crossing over the Threshold

PWRDF says farewell to Iran, the driver of our Cuban Pentecostal bus at the Varadero airport. Photo: Suzanne Rumsey

April 7, 2015

By Suzanne Rumsey

As we waited at the Varadero aiport for our flight that would take us back to Canada, Sheilagh led us in our final debriefing.  She reminded us of the concept of “edge habitat” that Executive Director, Adele Finney, had introduced to PWRDF some years ago; that place in nature where one habitat meets another – the woods and a meadow or plowed field, the shoreline where beach and water meet.  These are places where biodiversity is at its richest, and where possibilities and tensions are most acute.

“You are in that edge habitat and are you ARE that edge habitat,” Sheilagh asserted.  She noted that we were standing in a place where we would soon cross from one reality to another and in so doing we would carry with us something of Cuba to Canada.  We were different people going home, perhaps imperceptibly so, but different in ways that would be revealed to us in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

PWRDF’s Strategic Plan for 2012 to 2015 states that, “Our work is not just about changing the lives of others. It is also about changing our own. Whether you are a member of a development partner organization, an Anglican in Canada or an employee or volunteer of PWRDF, getting involved is an opportunity for transformation – because of what you give, and also because of what you receive in return.”

For over 30 years the Cuban churches were confined to their buildings, looking inward, struggling to survive.  But 20 years ago the economic and political crisis facing Cuba in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, provided the space for the churches to once again cross over their thresholds and into their communities.

Time and again, we were witness to a church that understands the gospel call to move outside the four walls of its buildings and to walk alongside the littlest and the least.  It is has not been, nor is it an easy journey, but it is one that has transformed the people of the Cuban churches.  It was our encounters with them that transformed us.

In his song, “Sueño con Serpientes” (I Dream with Snakes), the great Cuban singer-songwriter, Silvio Rodriguez describes a never-ending struggle against overwhelming odds.  He prefaces the song with the famous verse of German poet and playwright, Bertolt Brecht:

There are those who struggle for a day
and they are good.
There are those who struggle for a year
and they are better.
There are those who struggle many years,
and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.

And so we have crossed over the threshold from Cuba to Canada. Now it is time to share the stories of the “indispensible ones” we met so that together, we might all be transformed.