In 2014, the first United States Mission Team of youth and young adults from throughout the Northern Province traveled to Cuba to participate in the Cuban Youth and Young Adult Camping Ministry. The team served under the leadership of the Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Eastern District.
The camp took place on the western side of the island in Matanzas, a two-hour drive outside of Havana. Along with 50 Cuban youth and young adults, our U.S. team shared the love of Christ, found strength in our Christian fellowship and developed lifelong relationships with our sisters and brothers in Cuba. Each year that followed, a U.S. Mission Team of youth and young adults returned to share in this very special cross-cultural camping experience.
In 2016, Br. Armando Rusinido, president of the Moravian Church in Cuba, announced plans to start a second youth and young adult camping ministry in Camaguey, on the eastern side of the island. An invitation to our Eastern District Camp Cuba Mission Team to attend the first camping ministry on the eastern side of Cuba followed in February 2017.
In discussions with the Eastern District Executive Board, the invitation was accepted. Sis. Geyer once again assembled a team representing the Eastern District and the Northern Province, including 14 youth and young adults and three adults. The Camp Cuba – Camaguey Mission Team traveled to Cuba last July.
While in Cuba they immersed themselves in the culture and language, studied and implemented the recommended Board of World Mission (BWM) Best Practices, developed and utilized leadership skills, and established deep and abiding Christian relationships with more than 50 youth and young adults.
The 2017 Camp Cuba – Camaguey team was led by two Eastern District young adults, Sashamarie Long and Victor Tory Reid. Four of our Camp Cuba – Camaguey team share insights from their mission experience.
Expectations • Sashamarie Long
Sasha began her mission experiences with the first Camp Cuba Mission Team in 2014. Serving as an interpreter, she developed her leadership skills and this year served as the co-leader of the 2017 Camp Cuba – Camaguey Mission Team. Sasha is currently attending Northampton Area Community College in the nursing program. In the coming years, Sasha believes she is being called to serve as a missionary nurse and hopes to serve through our BWM Antioch program. Sasha is connected to the Moravian church through its camping ministries at Hope Conference and Renewal Center.
“Cuba is a country that has gone through so much pain and suffering, and yet is filled with people who have the most genuine, loving hearts. I learn more about myself and the people around me when I am in an unfamiliar place ,rather than in my own country. I cannot express in words how blessed I am to have been able to experience the love of God in Cuba and to see God working through the people I meet, speaking through them and speaking life into me.
“The way we live and the way we perceive things in our lives solely depends on us. No one can take our happiness and faith away. In Cuba, I learned that it is okay to not be okay. We must see the good in everything, because if not, we will never truly be happy. We must love God and the people around us; we must strive to live every day to the fullest regardless if life is going the way we expect or not. We must live for God and love God throughout all the struggles and joys we will encounter in life. Most importantly we must love…love ourselves and the people around us. We must share God’s love and pour it onto other people.
“This is what I learned in Cuba: it does not take a plane ride or even going to another country to show God’s love. It can be done wherever we are. It starts from within. We must be ready for the unexpected, ready to grow and learn new things about our faith. We must pour out the love God gave us and share it with those around us, even if we may feel a bit empty, because one day that same love will be returned to us.”
We Are Not Alone • Victor Tory Reid
Tory served as a co-leader for our 2017 Camp Cuba – Camaguey mission Experience following three years as a Camp Cuba participant and a mission experience in Jamaica. He has participated in Youth Convo and Young Adult Convo where his understanding of Moravian history was enriched by the experiences and the people he met. He is a member of John Hus Moravian Church and attends CUNY – College of Staten Island where he is pursuing a degree in psychology. Our Cuban brothers and sisters have enjoyed watching Tory grow spiritually and personally over the years and hope that Tory will remain connected with their ministry.
“The theme of this year’s camp was taken from the book of Daniel, ‘Tu no estas solo. Dios te acompana todo el tiempo!,’ which means ‘You are not alone. God is with you all the time!’
“This year, we joined Moravian youth from Holgin, Granma, Guantanamo and Camaguey to share in the first youth camp in Camaguey, Cuba. The most memorable moment for me was teaching them the song “Moravians for Jesus” which we sing at our annual Metro Youth Ministries Weekend each October. As we were singing the song, the room was filled with lots of enthusiasm and pride; each group clapped and danced when they heard their congregation’s name sung. Continuing to sing this song, our language barriers were broken and we were united in one voice as Moravians and Christians.
“As Peter Scholtes wrote in his song, We are one in the Spirit, we were one in God’s spirit and anyone who heard, saw us, or experienced it would know that we are Christians by the love that we shared.”
What We Saw • Quinn Matthew
Quinn is an honor-roll senior at Suitland High School in College Park, Maryland. She attends Trinity Moravian Church where she is a worship leader reading scripture and an advocate for youth ministry. She enjoys public speaking and hopes to attend Moravian College where she will study physical therapy with a goal of working with dancers and dance related injuries.
“The Cuban people are not the oppressed ones we read about in textbooks. They are full of life, gracious and loving. I was truly dumbfounded at how much they were willing to share, even when supplies were scarce.
“In Camaguey, we stayed amidst other Moravians. They expressed their love of music and song everywhere we went. One day, we all shared a bus to spend time at the pool. We were crammed more than 40-deep in a bus meant to hold about 20, but that did not discourage our Cuban brothers and sisters from singing about the deep love of our God at volume. It was personally moving, because it showed how quick we are as Americans to complain about our ‘problems,’ when in actuality, we are so blinded by our modern conveniences and material goods, we subsequently do not see our true blessings.
“Being a part of the mission trip to Camaguey really changed me for the better. I met new people on the team, reconnected with friends from years ago, and made personal connections with the Cuban people through Christ. The fellowship we shared even penetrated the language barrier.
“If there is one lesson I came away with from my experiences in Cuba, it is that Jesus is the bridge between all ‘walls’ of cultural differences, tongues and color.”
Faith Stories by Allesyn Wesner
Ally is a freshman at Shippensburg University where she is pursuing a degree in Business. She looks forward to Sunday mornings at her home church, Calvary Moravian in Allentown, where she sings with the choir and praise band, one of her favorite activities. She notes, “I feel connected to the songs I sing and they’ve helped me understand a greater depth of God’s story.” Ally looks forward to returning to Cuba, hopefully as a Young Adult Leader for an upcoming Camp Cuba – Camaguey mission experience.
“When we arrived in Havana, I knew right away that this mission experience was going to be incredibly life-changing. The beauty of the country was beyond words. There were many times I just stopped, stood, and took it all in.
“I enjoyed the evenings the most. In the evenings we had program, during which we taught the group the song “Moravians for Jesus,” and they taught us “Father, I Adore You” in Spanish. We also spent time in small groups where we got to know each other on a personal level.
“On Tuesday evening, we participated in a Bible Olympics where we had a competition between our church groups on who could recite the most verses, and who had the most knowledge on the book of Daniel which had been our theme. One evening, I was asked to share my faith journey and discuss what our church camp in the Eastern District Northern Province at Hope Conference & Renewal Center is like. I usually don’t talk much about my faith journey and how my life has forever been changed the in last couple of years, but something told me that I should, to offer a sense that there is hope for the future with God by your side. Many campers came up afterwards and thanked me for sharing my story. I had learned from other campers the challenges they faced in their everyday lives. Despite everything, they never took anything for granted and their belief gave me a new insight on my faith.
“The Cubans I met have forever changed my life and hopefully I will get to see them all again someday.
“All in all, together as one body, Cubans and U.S. citizens, we stood side by side in the knowledge that no matter what we might be going through in our lives, whether through good or bad, whether through smiles or frowns, or whether through victories or defeats, we are not alone for God is with us all the time!
“Tu No Estas Solo. Dios Te Acompana Todo El Tiempo!”
Dates for the 2018 Camp Cuba Mission experience have been set for July 29-August 10, 2018. For more information, contact the Rev. Cynthia Rader-Geyer