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Saunders Report Cuba Work Progressing

During a recent 10-day trip to Cuba, Western officers Majors Neil and Beth Saunders discovered the vibrant ministry of the Army as they participated in Officers’ Councils, Youth Councils, and Sunday services at Havana Central Corps.

In addition, their visit enabled them to better understand living conditions in that island nation, which is a land of contrasts: old world charm and new world problems.

Formerly stationed in Chile and now serving at Caribbean Territorial Headquarters, the Saunders can communicate fairly well in Spanish and used their skill to speak with a variety of people.

In the last two years, some of the restrictions on churches have been eased, and The Salvation Army is growing. There are 358 senior soldiers in 15 corps, plus junior soldiers and corps cadets. There is no public fundraising nor donations from local sources–no open air meetings nor selling of The War Cry. Despite this, the Salvationists have been very faithful over the years, carrying out all regular corps and divisional activities. A Training College functions under the direction of the divisional commander. Recently, some cadets have been accepted for training in Kingston, Jamaica.

Havana is a city of contrasts, with tourists seeing only the best. Food, electricity and water are plentiful at the hotels. Outside the hotel area, buildings are in need of repair and cars very scarce. There are plans to fix up the Salvation Army buildings and build one for a large corps which now meets under the trees.

While in Cuba, Saunders, the finance secretary, conducted an audit and Beth worked on projects reports. She also received clearance to take Spanish Salvation Army literature into the country, which she distributed. Hearing singing, she made an unscheduled Home League visit, and was warmly received. They met in the newly constructed activity hall, which was one of the projects she was to report on. There were about 20 present, and they were busy making potholders, even during the devotionals.

Youth Councils were a high point of the visit, the theme being “Jesus the Great I Am.” There were 140 attending, and due to lack of space not everyone could come. A video of the Congress in Montego Bay was well received.

Including the cadets, there were 23 present for Officers’ Councils. Before the officers left they were presented with Hallmark gifts and Army books, a project from USA West.

The William Booth Old Folks’ Home in Havana also houses a corps. A Canadian group spent three weeks renovating and repairing the building a year ago, as well as bringing equipment such as refrigerators and freezers.

Corps visits with the divisional commander disclosed good spirits in spite of difficulties.

“It was a great trip,” says Major Beth Saunders, “full of blessings, wonderful conversations and sharing. Please join us in prayer for our fellow officers and soldiers in Cuba.”

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