By James Zambroski | Wave3
They went to Cuba to help other Christians, but found their own lives changed forever. Southeast Christian Church Choir members and their wives spent seven days reaching out to Christians trying to worship in the shadow of Communism. WAVE 3 Investigator James Zambroski and Photojournalist Scott Utterback chronicled the unexpected life-changing experiences.
A triumph of the human spirit, flowing across oceans, soaring through cathedrals of history. And a strong message of hope to children hungry for something more than the grinding poverty of their daily lives.
There was music on one hand, and cut-out pictures and Crayola crayons in the other, but both carried the message of a better tomorrow.
Their mission was simple—100 members of the Master’s Men Choir from Southeast Christian Church in the heart of Castro’s Cuba, reaching out to a fledgling Christian movement with song and fellowship.
The audience was mesmerized during a concert in Matanzas and had nothing but praise afterward. “Very, very, very nice. Very nice.”
And for a specific reason.
“Especially because you use our music. Very nice.”
One man saw something more. “We enjoy very much. And God is using you for His glory. We are going to pray for you, and God bless you.”
The gratitude of those we met reached beyond the concert halls. Alex Gonzalez, an out-of-work waiter, leads one of the home churches, a uniquely Cuban place of worship. “That friends have very special for us because we feel like they are our brothers and sisters.”
In an interview prior to departure, Southeast Senior Minister Bob Russell made a prediction about the impact of this trip on his flock. “I always say when people come back from short-term mission trips, I’m not sure how much help we are to the local missionaries in those fields, but I love what it does to our people.”
Helen Gutermuth, was 84-years-young on her fourth mission trip. “I get a lot more out of it than they do. I want them to get a lot. And I hope they do, but I fill up. The people are so wonderful.”
Karen Bakken got her own special reward when she got to see Jimmy, a young boy she met on a mission trip to Cuba two years ago. “I wondered if that was ever a child I would get to see again, but that’s a real thrill, it really is. It’s great to see he’s bigger and healthy, and that’s really special.”
From the Master’s Mens choir, there was a similar sense of gratitude.
And from home, a truth burnished by seven days in a Communist land, and the knowledge that they’ve made a difference. “The magnitude of what this church’s influence is, really around the world, is staggering and it’s very exciting.