UPC has had a partnership with a church in Cuba for more than 25 years. Our partner, La IglesiaPresbiteriana Getsemaní (Gethsemane Presbyterian Church), is in the small rural community of San José de los Ramos, in south-central Cuba (picture). The current pastor is Armando Guedes, who serves with his wife Yaquelín Delgado Lorenzo and their children. In addition to our many friends in San José, we have established friendships with members of numerous other Presbyterian churches throughout Cuba, and we have hosted a number of these friends on visits to the US.
The Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba (Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada en Cuba, IPRC) consists of one synod and three presbyteries (Havana, Matanzas, and El Centro) with about 53 congregations, but only 31 pastors for about 15,000 members (http://www.oikoumene.org/en/memberchurches/presbyterian-reformed-church-in-cuba). The Synod is a partner in the Seminario Evangelico de Teologia (SET, http://setcuba.org/) in Matanzas, founded in 1946, and the only ecumenical seminary in
Cuba. The SET is the location of the first LWW water purification system in Cuba (see below), and their dorms have provided housing for many visiting groups.
UPC members have visited Cuba, and San José in particular, a number of times over the years of our partnership. In the summer of 2012 our Senior High Youth Group visited Cuba for its quadrennial international mission trip, visiting and making friends at churches in San José, Manguito, Varadero, Matanzas, and Havana. It was an incredible experience for both our youth and the leaders.
A major environmental problem in Cuba is that many/most water systems are contaminated by bacteria leaked from broken sewer lines, resulting in wide-spread illness. When it was discovered that this was the case and a major problem in San José, a team of UPC members underwent training in the Living Waters for the World (LWW) mission program of the Presbyterian Synod of Living Waters. The church raised funds (through LSU football parking at UPC) to purchase the components of a LWW water treatment system and to pay for travel to San José in April, 2013, to install it (picture) and train congregation members in water hygiene issues. The treated water is provided free and with no limitation on volume to all members of the church and community who wish it. At a followup
visit one year later it was clear that the LWW system has had an enormous impact on the people of San José, including during a cholera outbreak that doubled the number of users. Another UPC team installed a LWW system in the headquarters of the Cuba Council of Churches (Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba) in Havana in September, 2014.
Another problem in Cuba is its economy and the ubiquitous poverty. Our partnership with San José has also included support for the development of a crafts and other cottage industries to improve the overall quality of life. We continue to support San José – financially and spiritually – as the partnership is nurtured and grows. Anyone wishing more information on our Cuba partnership is invited to contact George Strain, Linda Walker, or Karen Foote.