A few years ago, I visited Cuba with a group of Christians from our area. I’m not much of a traveler, but God knew that this trip was necessary for me. Prior to this trip, when I thought of missions, I generally related it to fund raising, building projects and special people who gave up careers and loved ones to work with the poor in Africa.
I discovered it was very different. Don’t get me wrong. Missionary work does need money. But it is certainly not about money. One of the people we met in Cuba summed it up the best for me:
The best way to help us is not financial. It’s not writing a cheque. Build relationships. Come here. Involve more people that you know so they can be a blessing in Cuba. This is the number one thing that I will ask you to do. Connect churches. Talk to people in Canada about Cuba.
I was speaking to people in a church in the United States and giving them the same message. Somebody asked: “How much will this relationship cost?” He was skeptical. I told him: “This will cost a part of your heart. This will cost you the time to build a relationship.”
These people were planning to come to Cuba, but then they had this humongous idea. They said to us: “We have raised over $10,000 for this trip. What if we give you the money, and you help the people in Cuba and we just don’t go? You might need the money more than us visiting.” We said, “No, wait a minute, you’re not understanding this. What we need is for you to use the money to buy your tickets, go down to Cuba, meet with the people and have communion with the people in Cuba. That’s what they need more than the $10,000.”
So they came and they realized that that is the right way. That changed their minds. No matter what is involved, the most important thing is people relating to each other and people talking and learning from each other. Because nobody has the truth by themselves.
I met somebody in North America who was very upset because they were sending a lot of money to Haiti for an orphanage. When they went to Haiti, there was nothing there. They were upset about this and I told them: “Don’t blame the people in Haiti. It’s your fault, because you didn’t establish a relationship first. Did you think sending a cheque was enough? It’s not about sending a cheque. It’s about people.”
So we encourage you to continue to do this. If you ask us: “how can we help?”, we will tell you: “bring good people.”
Next week, I’m visiting again. This time, we’re going with a group of young people and we’ll be giving them a chance to build relationships with other Cuban young people. I hope each of them can leave behind a piece of their heart. As I have.