April 23, 2009
The Land Of The Springtime
A moment in time captured by my mother on a photo slide, then brought to life by her cousin Phillip Stack in pastels...one of my most treasured possessions
Oh yes, for this child of the desert, it was like I had stepped off of the airplane and into a dream. The blue-green sea water,and the pink sand beaches... yes pink from the shells that were crushed by the pounding waves. The bright blue sky turned golden in the evenings and billowing clouds brought blessed rain twice a day, The flowers and the green trees. The smell of fruits and the rustle of sugar cane leaves as the sea breezes blew... every day was nothing less than a miracle. I loved every aspect of my time there my life there in Majuagua, Learning Spanish, giving the missionary's children their school lessons, the evangelistic tent meetings we gave every Saturday night. Sometimes I strapped my accordion on and rode horseback to get to the little farming villages up in the hills, through the jungle, as there was no roadway, just a muddy dirt track. Oh, how they loved to sing the Christian songs... We lived in a house with a thatch roof on a farm... yes that is where the picture came from. My cousin Phillip drew it with pastels from a slide I took out the back door, of the drainage canal and the lovely palm trees. It was as much like heaven as I could dream of... Terra de la Primavera, the Land of the Springtime...
My mother never tired of talking about her time in Cuba as a missionary. Those years abroad shaped her and became the defining moments of her life. She said that she embraced the missionary call fully as a result of the death of the five missionaries that were killed during a first contact with a savagely primitive people, the Waodoni, once called the Acua, of Central Ecuador. The story was well told in the 2005 film "The End of the Spear
" My hero and hers, Elisabeth Elliot, endured the loss of her beloved husband, and the seemingly wasteful end of a life's work there. Yes she and her daughter Valerie, and the sister of the pilot, Nate Saint, Rachel went and lived among these people and made an attempt to evangelize them, but they would tell you that the effort has had mixed success. I think that many of the young people that offered their lives up to the Call to fill the place of those martyrs might feel that way. I know my mother did as well.
I also think that mother found healing and purpose in the venture abroad. I do know that she had one romantic interest that didn't pan out. He has gone on to do very well for himself, as a pastor writer and professor at DTS. I dont know that time heals all wounds but her life would have been very different had different choices been made.
Cuba of the 1950's was a place in transition. Like so many countries in Latin America even now, its government was in the hands of a political dictatorship run by a strongman and his thugs at the behest of our own government here in the US. American business interests, along with organized crime flourished. Havana was fast becoming a hot spot in many ways both good and bad... The people finding themselves in the newly rising middle class lived well in the city, with those that were wealthy living very well.
In the countryside there was poverty but farmers owned there own land, earned a modest living. Their children received an elementary education at the village school. It was a typical Latin American country.
When Castro lead his armies south to north, his goal was not to become a satellite of the Soviet empire, it was to free the island of the foreign interests that control ed the islands food production, and to rid it of the Organized Crime bosses that were extorting large sums of money from people that were struggling. He was a Marxist, a socialist, and had ties to Che Guevara and the whole thing, but our history is slanted due to the events of the cold war. We interfered in Cuba's destiny from the day we wrested her from Spanish control. Like Porto Rico
I am no scholar about this subject I only know what I have been told by Americans that lived there prior to the revolution, and Cuban nationals I have met who lived there before and escaped after Castor overthrew the established government. I will not justify in any way what Castro has done... Even he would tell you... better yet I can repeat a story I was told years ago by Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST ministries, an organization that was founded to assist the Underground/Oppressed church. He was a former journalist, who exposed the genocide in Uganda under Idi Amin to the world in 1978. Dan's credentials gave him access to El Presidente Castro, who invited him to Havana to discuss the revolution, the ending of the Cold War, Cuba's future and the future of the Church... True to form Dan brought the conversation to God and the Eternal Destiny of every person. He asked Mr. Castro about his early faith in God, and begged him to return to God, that he forgives and accepts everyone. They were driving south to Santiago, and there was a long silence. Castro sighed and thanked Dan for his concern and then said that "God and Jesus and His Holy Mother could never forgive him for the evil he had done..." Then he turned and there were tears running down his face. Grief or guilt remorse or repentance...we will never know
Castro had no hidden communist agenda. But he was a Marxist socialist. He nationalized the industries that were at one time control ed by foreign interests. He kicked the mafia out and those that were in bed with them. This angered American businessmen. The collectivisation of agriculture looked too much like Communism and no one in the US government would assist in any of these dealing. When Mr Kruschev and his henchmen came a calling, Cuba couldn't say no. And its been a marriage made in hell ever since. We slapped an embargo on the island, The USSR imported missiles, bombers and battalions along with the food and medical supplies.
Cuba under this intolerable situation has lived with grit and determination so typical of island folk. they can boast of the highest literacy rate in the hemisphere, with a medical establishment that is one of the best that can be found under the circumstances. The people, even the farming people are well read and well versed in cultural classics. It is a nation waiting to be reborn.
My mother's work was not in vain, for in the wake of the Revolution, people remembered the words of the missionaries, the pastors and the priests, and clung to their faith. In 1998 Pope John Paul II came and spend a week there and led masses that attracted thousands. I believe he hoped that his visit would encourage the US to ease up on restrictions on trade and travel, and the government to release prisoners of conscience, and ease the pressures against religious practice. It had little effect, at least on the surface...who knows what effect it had on people's hearts
Truth is that the Embargo has done little to effect change in the government, it has only hurt the little people, the children and family of expatriate Cubans in America. The lifting of trade and travel restrictions will only improve the living conditions of the people, and the fact is, that meeting real Americans is often the turning point towards liberation from totalitarianism. It certainly shows a reality that is far different from government propoganda and "reality" TV shows...
Cuba may never have the type of government that we think she should have... but I sense with the events of the past weeks that a thaw in relations is in the offing. I have been approached by family members to consider making the journey to retrace my mother's steps. I want to do that with all of my heart. Perhaps one day I too will be enchanted by the Land of the Springtime, and perhaps the long winter of Cuba's isolation from her neighbor to the north will come to an end
Labels: Current Events, Dreams, Family History, Traveling