By Nathan Samayo (any pronouns), Princeton Theological Seminary, and Emily Carle (she/her), Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
We began the assembly this morning with a devotional time led by Idael Montero Pacheco, pastor at Iglesia Bautista Ebenezer in Habana. We split into groups by geographic region to discuss Luke 24:13-33, the moment when two disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The North American delegation had a lively conversation about suffering, grace with others, and the nature of transformation in light of political and economic turmoil between the United States and Cuba.
Our bible study and morning devotion was a wonderful way to begin our day. For out afternoon activity, we started at Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada Dora E. Valentín in Varadero (Presbyterian Reformed Dora E. Valentín Church). We were greeted by one of their church elders who, of course, was also a long-time participant of Movimiento Estudiantil Cristiano de Cuba. While learning more about the history of Pres. Church in Varadero, we were shown images of the different SCM events held at Pres. Church in Varadero, of congregational leaders who attended the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas, and also of Fidel Castro accompanied by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson attending a Methodist Church in La Habana. What a blessing it is for these churches to have these archives—one that paints a historical outline of the ways in which ministry, politics, and revolution have all intersected.
Just down the street from Pres. Church in Varadero, we spent the rest of the afternoon (and into the evening) at Playa Varadero (Varadero Beach). Unless you’ve been to a beach on an island, it’s hard to imagine being able to see the curvature of the Earth. It was a wonderful site to see. The water was warm, and the sand sank between your toes. If I have to be honest, when it comes to solidarity trips like the one we did in Cuba, I am initially skeptical about doing things like spending time at the beach, going to restaurants, and other activities that seem “pleasurable” and borderline, “touristy.” However, while at the beach, I remembered just how important it was to experience joy, recreation, and connection with those you are organizing with. This is not to de-center the significance of why we went to Cuba in the first place—but it is to recognize that connection, solidarity, and relationship happen in numerous ways—some of those ways being through rest, relax, and fun. We stayed at the beach for about four hours—swimming in the water, enjoying a snack, and taking many pictures to archive this wonderful moment. However, we couldn’t escape from casual conversation regarding staying connected and working together to fight the vicious U.S. blockade. Even while swimming in the water, we chatted about “what’s next,” if Cuba has ever done solidarity trips like this with other Student Christian Movements, and what we foresee in the future as we keep this relationship going. Spending time in the water with Movimiento Estudiantil Cristiano de Cuba and the Student Christian Movement of Canada not only solidified our commitment to end the nightmare of the U.S. blockade—but also made us desire, even more, how much we want to see our Cuban family free.
As we wrapped up our beach time (and the rest of the day because we were all so tired), the image of all of us laughing, hugging, and being silly is never going to leave my mind and my heart. This is just the beginning.