Reflection by Carol and Jim Hodge, who traveled with other Pullen pilgrims to Matanzas, Cuba in May.
- Pullenite Baptist—n—One who perseveres in the face of adversity.
- Baptiste de Mantanzas—n—One who perseveres in the face of adversity and accepts with open arms.
When we, Carol and Jim Hodge, left with great excitement for RDU on Thursday, May 15 to begin our journey to Matanzas, Cuba, we had no idea what was in store for us. We were the ‘newbies’ on this trip to help celebrate the 115th anniversary of our sister church in Matanzas. As soon as we walked in the door of the terminal, we were met by Lacy Parrish, one of the other seven who was going. Expecting her to lead us to the desk to check our bags, she said to us:
Our flight to Miami has been canceled! They can’t find another flight for us to make it on time for our charter flight to Cuba on Friday!
We Pullenites (Nancy Bradley, Rollin Kibbe, Larry King, Judy Mays, Lacy, Carol and Jim) gathered in a corner and went over the options. There was never any doubt that we, as true Pullenites, would forge ahead and do everything in our power to make this journey. So, we rented a 15-passenger van and began our trip at 8 PM in the pouring rain and wind. Thirteen hours later we arrived at the Miami airport in plenty of time to catch our charter flight to Cuba. We arrived in Mantanzas around 4 PM on Friday and our weary bodies were greeted with open arms by several members of our sister church. We have never been hugged and kissed so much in our lives. What a wonderful feeling to have such love surround us after the long, tiring trip. It was certainly a highlight of our trip to Cuba after such a memorable start.
There were many other high points in our amazing week with our Cuban sisters and brothers. We participated in 3 worship services, the first being an ecumenical service on Saturday evening with the LGBT chapter of Matanzas. This service ended with Communion being served by intinction, a practice with which they were not familiar. Gathered in a circle, one was supposed to take a piece of bread and dip it in the cup being held by the person next to you. It started that way, but somehow ended up with the person next to you dipping a piece of bread in the cup and putting it in your mouth – a nice little revision, we thought. The worship service on Sunday was very meaningful for us since Jim, an ordained Presbyterian pastor, got to help Orestes serve Communion to the congregation. Tuesday evening was the celebration worship service of their 115th anniversary. We felt very honored to participate in this service. Carol sang a solo and our group presented the church with a proclamation of congratulations from the Pullen congregation, a new acolyte’s candle lighter, and sang the benediction for the service. We received a plaque for Roger and Mary Ruth Crook for their part in initiating the relationship between our two churches. Judy Mays received a plaque making her an honorary member of the Matanzas church for her years of service in furthering this international friendship. We were given many more opportunities to enjoy the company of the people. Among those were dinners in members homes, the House Church meetings in homes, senior adult – Third Agers – Bible study and lunch at the church, a trip to the beach with many of the church’s young people, a seminar on LGBT and diversity issues at the seminary, and daily sharing our meals with various friends from the church.
Would we make this trip again? You betcha! Even though our Spanish is limited and we didn’t always understand what was being said, the absolute best part of this trip for us was the making of new friends who always had their arms open and God’s love in their eyes—a universal language.