We lost an hour’s sleep due to Daylight Savings Time. Most of us compensated for the lost hour by sleeping in a bit. It was an easy fix, really. It didn’t fix the musty pillow though. Benadryl to the rescue once again.
Day six was a Sunday. The night we arrived, Pastor W asked if there were any bass players in our group. That’s not an uncommon experience for me – wherever I show up, bass players seem to disappear. Cubans have a lot of good musicians, so I qualified that I wasn’t sure if I could blend in well, but in the spirit of not looking like a jerk in front of our host, I agreed to play.
Pastor W has a fairly large outdoor church in Cuba. It was a beautiful sunny day. We entered the church and they had saved us some seats in the front of the room. The band was tuned up and ready to play. The set started in three minutes.
Music is important in Cuba. And they have a certain style. It moves a lot and it has a distinctive rhythm.
I stepped up on the platform. I’m handed a bass. I notice it’s a five-string – I’m used to the four-string bass. So I’ve got an extra b-string in the lower range. Nothing too worrisome.
The worship team is a respectable size. There’s an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a keyboard player and five vocalists. And me. The bass player. Let’s not forget me. The band is friendly and helpful. And I can’t understand anything they’re saying.
I played a few scales. The bass sounded like it was in tune, although I realized I was having a hard time hearing myself. There were no monitors for the instruments. Then I felt like a bit of a baby – the other guys didn’t have much for monitors either. They could handle it.
We started playing the first song. They picked something familiar. We sang it back home, so I had a pretty good idea of where to go. However, I noticed that I wasn’t playing in the same key as they were. I checked the keyboard guy’s left hand and decide that I should be hearing the right notes. It took me a few bars to realize that the bass was tuned to a different key, so I tried to transpose everything while we’re playing. The keyboard guy was very gracious – smiling at me the whole time and pointing to the next bass note that he was going to play. Then I would play something else.
They sounded great.
We performed our skits. We had some testimonies. Paul preached on communion. Three people came forward for first time commitments.
Communion at the church was a cracker and real wine. This was a bit of a departure from our North American Protestant tradition. The kids on our team smirked at one another when they realized what it was.
After church, I showed the kids through my vest and then we went out to eat at a restaurant.
After lunch, we went back to the resort and I went over to the beach with the kids. The wind was strong. It whipped up the sand on the beach so you had to protect your eyes. The waves were strong also so I tried to keep people together. We stayed there for about 40 minutes. After we got tired of the waves, we decided we would try out the pool at the resort instead.
The resort’s pool was open to locals on the weekends, which made for a different atmosphere than we’d seen through the week. Music was playing and locals were grinding with some of the other people there and checking out our kids. It was the middle of the afternoon. There were a few cat calls. A girl stopped and kind of presented herself to me. I wasn’t wearing my glasses so I pretended I didn’t see her and she moved on. That was the best I could come up with.
So we didn’t stay at the pool for very long. There were too many teenage girls in my group and not enough fat, ugly fathers.
Paul and I went to the front desk to send an email to the families in Canada. The ministry week was winding down and my mind started turning more towards home.
We boarded our bus to go attend another house church in Havana. On the way, we stopped at a small market by the beach. We went in with the kids who went around the aisles restocking on cookies, water, chips and other traveling staples. A young Cuban stepped into the middle of a group of our kids and asked if they wanted to come to a hot, swinging party on the beach that night. Tourists are targeted for this sort of thing. They represent a major source of income for a lot of Cubans. Paul stepped up beside him and said: “Well, we’re on our way to church right now. Would you like to come with us?” I never saw a guy wiggle out through a crowd so fast. Everyone laughed. Paul handles situations well.
We made our way to the house church. It was a very narrow building and it was full – beyond capacity. We performed the skits on a very small stage, which was challenging considering we had about 10 people performing.
A man wandered into the church. He was intoxicated and singing. The ushers gently coaxed him outside and talked to him there.
(This is the Heart Skit as it was performed the day before at the youth rally)
One lady in attendance was moved by the Heart skit. She went outside when it was over. Dwight and Cathy followed her and found her having a cigarette and crying. They talked to her for a while and she gave her heart to the Lord just outside the church. Cathy was bringing her in to see the pastor of the church, but they met the pastor’s wife. She knew the lady and, instead of rejoicing, she scolded her with something like: “We’ve been here all this time. Why did you come to the Lord only when these foreigners came?” She said that right in front of Cathy and Dwight. I’m not sure how it resolved from there.
I thought about that incident for the next couple of days. I remembered a story that someone told us the last time we were visiting in 2008. An American evangelist had come to a small village preaching a gospel of prosperity. He looked at their impoverished situation and told them that they were poor because they lacked faith and so they were under God’s curse. The people in that town came to believe that God loves people in rich countries more. They believed that they must have more faith because they were blessed and rich. It took years to nurture them back to a correct understanding of God’s love.
We in the West can fall for the same sort of deception. Because we see people in situations that are difficult or they face persecution, we can believe that God loves them more. We can believe that they have more faith because they endure more than we do.
Both are incorrect views.
So this incident became an example to me that none of us are perfect. We all need one another. We must all have a vision for the Kingdom of God. We all have roles. It took me back to what I shared with the kids on Day Five of the trip about 1 Corinthians 12 & 13.
We got back to the hotel around 11:30 PM. The kids congregated in one of the rooms – they could feel the end of the trip approaching and they didn’t want to waste any time on something as trivial as sleep.