"Ultimately, we inspire hope through relationships." - Chris Clum, Founder Experience Mission
Cuba is the destination for the 2018 IMPACT Mission Trip Program. It is an admittedly controversial choice of destinations. Especially now. Or is it?
During prayerful consideration and investigation of all possible mission destinations for the IMPACT trip, Cuba almost never makes the cut. It has been politically and logistically unfeasible: too tricky to get there, too hard to host a large group there, too expensive and too restrictive and too complicated. And being anti-communist, I was uneasy about doing anything that might support the Cuban regime. So Cuba was far from being my initial choice. I thought it was unlikely to ever make the final list of possible destinations.
This year, something happened. Choosing a mission trip destination is a lengthy and involved process. It starts with establishing broad parameters - then it distills out a handful of specific ministries and partners with whom our team can work and who can accommodate a large group our size within those parameters. I never expected Cuba to emerge in this process - but there it was among the group of options that came through on the short list of final possible destinations.
I began to wonder... Where was God in this? Could it be possible that God is calling us to Cuba? Why? Perhaps our team is the good news God wants to send to Cuba.
During the discernment process, my first thought was - "Nah - this is a fluke. Taking a team to Cuba will turn out to be impossible.", especially in what seems to be a political atmosphere that will blow shut the just-slightly-ajar door between Cuba and the U.S. But with God all things are possible and one-by-one perceived roadblocks turned out to be speed bumps - nothing new to the process of planning mission travel. Other options began to fall away and Cuba started to emerge as the best option.
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
Hebrews 13:3 (KJV)
In August and September this year, the hurricanes hit. And while stories from Texas and Florida and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico made other places appear to have more urgent needs we could meet, I learned that Cuba was hit, too. But news of Cuba's pain and suffering was scant. And there was no way to send help (Cuban government controls what comes into Cuba and decides who gets what kind of help and when - and they did not ask for outside help). So our Cuban brothers and sisters suffered and continue to suffer without a voice in our world. When I discussed this with our mission partner and asked how we could pray for them, their simple request was that they not be forgotten.
It was not long after that I considered changing the destination once again in the wake of a travel warning issued by the US State Department. But after lots of communication with our mission partner, further investigation into the matter, consideration of several alternatives and prayer, I felt the Lord still calling us to Cuba. So with our mission partner, we decided to adopt a wait-and-see stance instead of changing our destination outright (though we are prepared to change destinations if it becomes impossible for our team to travel to Cuba in June). A lot can happen in the months ahead.
New York Times article about travel warning.
new perspective from The Guardian
Organized trips to Cuba by US groups have been going on for decades, even before the diplomatic thaw under the Obama administration. The IMPACT team is not directly affected by tourist or business restrictions, since we are traveling as a religious group. Despite restrictions, US Visitors to Cuba still number in the tens of thousands each month without incident. Cuba is very safe from a crime and violence standpoint - statistically much safer than other destinations we have been to over the years. While this knowledge is good to have, the actual obstacles might not be as apparent until the site visit is complete. This year's site visit is planned a full month earlier than in previous years, due to my apprehension about unforeseen circumstances. I want to see for myself if there is any reason our team should change destinations.
I cannot say for certain what the future will bring and there is a possibility yet that a new or insurmountable obstacle makes it impossible for the IMPACT team to go. But if it is God's will for us to travel to Cuba next June, we will go.
In the meantime, keep our Cuban brothers and sisters in your prayers. Do not forget them. Pray for their freedom. In Jesus name.
IMPACT Cuba 2018 Mission Trip Program application period runs through December 31, 2017. The program begins in January 2018. Our mission partner is Experience Mission, a US-based mission organization that has been taking mission trip groups to Cuba and around the world since 2003. Find more information about the mission trip program, along with a link to the application, here: www.kucyouth.org/impact