For the second time in a little more than two years, a local church leader has spent time helping others in Cuba.
The Rev. Ginny Deyo spent two weeks in Camp Canaan, a Methodist-owned camp near Santa Clara, on a service mission.
“I had been there before and the people and Cuba had inspired me,” said Deyo. “I wanted to go back and meet the people again, and I just feel called to do missionary work and experience other cultures.”
Deyo said Camp Canaan is the only church camp in Cuba for any denomination, and it is used ecumenically to help people throughout the impoverished country.
“It has been built up over a period of time, and various Christian denominations use it,” said Deyo.
The camp is located next to Santa Clara and the village of Miller, which is about four hours east of Havana.
While there, Deyo did a number of service projects as part of a group of 11 missionaries, a mostly local core of missionaries along with one person each from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
“We dug ditches, laid electric conduit underground so that they electrical system would be hurricane proof, and a lot of painting on apartments that were being built for retired pastors,” said Deyo, who added that most pastors in Cuba are homeless.
“In Cuba, when a pastor retires, they have no place to live in,” said Deyo. “Most pastors have their house in the back of the church because most of the parsonages were taken over by Fidel Castro when he took over the country. All of the housing is in the control of the government.”
Along with their labor, the group of missionaries brought much-needed tools and equipment that would assist in getting projects done.
“It was stuff that they had requested and needed,” said Deyo. “We also brought down medical supplies. The church has a program for distribution of the materials and also employs a doctor and a pharmacist in Cuba to help.”
Along with working with her fellow missionaries, Deyo also had the chance to work with Cuban natives and also had a chance to visit the site where she had worked previously.
“Five of the eleven people in our party had been here two years ago,” said Deyo. “You have to drive long distances to get anywhere, and we had the chance to go where we had laid the foundations for a new church building, and now we were able to see that the building was built. It was wonderful to see what had happened with what we had started.”
Along with service opportunities, Deyo also had the chance to preach at a number of churches in Cuba.
“We visited seven different churches and I had the chance to preach four times,” said Deyo. “It was a fascinating experience for them and myself because there are only 15 woman pastors in all of Cuba.”
Deyo said she was impressed with the faith of the members of the church in Cuba and their willingness to participate.
“All of the churches are full of life and they are all growing,” said Deyo. “They are on fire. There is a 10-percent increase each year in the membership and some churches are outgrowing their buildings.”
Deyo said the church has started satellite mission churches to help spread the word throughout the country, which serve as a proselytizing mission.
“That is what I am bringing back from Cuba with me ‑ the joy that the people of Cuba had and how they can be so alive in the church in a country where life is very difficult,” said Deyo. “They are a very welcoming, friendly and sharing people. They are willing to share everything that they have, even thought they don’t have a whole lot.”