Meet Maria

I kind of squealed a “let’s go see the horses guys” before walking off to be extra touristy with my iPhone 6+ in the middle of the campo in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba. Thank goodness a few of my team members followed behind me as I snapped a gazillion photos of the less than mediocre brown horses patiently eating yummy grass. Being born and raised in New York City, you don’t see horses just lounging around. You catch the occasional police officer perched on top of a horse but for me it’s a rare sight. So the inner city girl was joyous each time I saw one of these majestic animals. I must have driven my teammates insane with the “oh my gosh, I love horses” for the hundredth time. But thankfully they were patient with this city girl.


As I walked away from the horses, we all walked down the broken streets of colorful homes. Everything seemed pretty silent until I stopped to say hello to a few kids sitting outside. After introducing myself, they all seemed pretty intrigued. Before I knew it, my team and I were walking down the street & a whole crowd of about 12-15 kids gathered around us. It was amazing! They asked tons of questions like where we were from & how long we were staying. Ironically enough, they knew we were with the church without us having to say anything.


As I spoke with them & asked them questions, I noticed the cutest little hotdog (or a dachshund for you dog lovers) waddling past me. Because there are so many stray dogs in Cuba, I knew better than to pet just any dog. But when I saw the cutest little lady following behind this even cuter dog, I asked if it was hers and she said yes. So I leaned in to pet my new little dog friend Suzy. Too bad Suzy was not at all friendly. She was too scared of this super smiley New Yorker chasing after her to pet her than anything else. So I settled with not petting her & began to speak with her owner whose name is Maria.

After a few introductions, Maria asked us what we were doing in Cuba & I shared we were working with the church just up the street. Because it is still illegal to have or build churches in Cuba, the Cuban people turn a portion of their homes into a church. So I pointed her in that direction & she wanted to know more. One thing led to the next & I asked her if she had ever heard of Jesus Christ. As she leaned in closer, her eyes full of questions, she shook her head no.

Without hesitation, I told her how Jesus died on the cross and three days later he rose again to show her that not even death could invade the love he has for her. I told her how Jesus wants to have a relationship with her. As she listened intently, I knew how much God loved this woman. He loved her so much that he sent his only son Jesus to die for her that she may have eternal life. In that moment, Maria was famous in the kingdom of God! She was famous because Christ died specifically for her. And not only her but for you too.

It was in that moment, I knew God strategically placed me on that road, on that day, in that hour, that Maria might know Jesus’ love for her. He set up a divine appointment that Jesus would divinely intercede from the throne through me. I was so humbled to know the truth of Romans 10: 14-15 which says, ““How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”” God sent me so Maria would know Him. That is the good news of the gospel; the faith of Maria in that moment activated the power of the gospel.

When I asked Maria if she wanted a bible, she eagerly said yes. I asked my leader Mark for a bible & helped her understand it a bit. With my leaders suggestion, I told her to start reading in the book of John & she said okay.


As she was getting ready to leave, she made me promise her I would come back to her home for coffee.  And so I promised her knowing God would bring me back. And thank God, two days later I walked up to her little home who’s walls were made of wood & called out, “Mariaaaaa”. Surely enough, she called back & as I made my way in, Maria’s bible was on the sofa because she had been reading it.

Maria nestled into my heart in such a profound way that I understood the power of Gods love for you, for me, and for the entire world. 

In the heart of Cuba

“I said, “Here I am. Send me.”” – ‭Isaiah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

An entire week later & I am officially back from Cuba. I think it’s safe to say I didn’t want to be back, I wanted to be caught in the whirlwind of Cuba & it’s love. But sadly, I have to face reality. Although I’ll be sharing a more in depth post, I want to share a little journal entry I wrote from my second day in Cuba along with a gazillion photos!


August 7th, 2016

It is now my second day in Cuba and it’s nothing like I thought it would be. Although I tried to come with zero expectations, a thought of “what if” always creeps in. I came with a belief that poverty ruled this country but what I have found is a people rich with humility, simplicity, and love. I have found a country rich in culture and wealthy in personality. In the U.S., there is a huge market for entertainment in the churches. Although that’s amazing, there is something so profound and yet so pure in the churches here. I see the gospel in its purest form that even if words are not spoken, the gospel speaks on its own. It speaks volumes through its makeshift “home” churches and tattered hymn books. Before coming to Cuba, I believed I needed to change my church to attract more people but in doing so, the mission of God was lost in translation. The gospel need not be made attractive, it stands on its own; we are simply vessels God has chosen to translate that message in the form of love. This is what I have found in the heart of Cuba; to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and to love people as yourself. 

This was right across the street from my hostel . The houses were so colorful!

This was the church my team and I served at for about 3-4 of the 7 days we were there. 

Visiting different homes


One of the homes we visited.



This was in the pastors home.

 




This is definitely not the end of my Cuba posts lol so stay tuned! 🙂

If you’d like to watch a little video I put together , click here  !

City Lights

1. Visit the Empire State Building & take a selfie with my city ✔️
Being a born and bred New Yorker, you don’t do the typical touristy things. You don’t ride the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building & you don’t take the next boat leaving for the Statue of Liberty. But I’ve always loved to be a tourist in my own city. So yesterday I got to check off number one from my list of goals. I got to go to the very top of the Empire State Building with my friend & her son & the view was so incredible. Gods mind is so limitless to have been able to give people the knowledge to create such a complex city.

“for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”‭‭ – 1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:16‬ ‭NIV

So I thought I’d share some of my adventure from last night because I even got to catch the sunset!


How cool is this photo? Has a vintage 1940’s kinda feel. Thank God for filters! Lol

I mean seriously! Do ya’ll see this view?!


“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” – ‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I think what Jesus is trying to say is to be present in the moment. Let yourself be in the here and now without overwhelming yourself with the possibilities of tomorrow. Sometimes you have to gain a new and different perspective in order to appreciate the view. That’s exactly what I did last night; I was able to not worry about anything and bask in the stillness of the breathtaking views. Because sometimes we are so caught up in the hustle and bustle of day to day life that we forget to just be in the moment.

As always, be encouraged, be blessed, and be empowered! 🙂

Confessions of a girl and her hot chocolate

I’ve been meaning to write this post for weeks but as my procrastination and perfectionism has it, I’m just now getting around to it. It’s been an interesting start to 2016 & to put it simply, a little difficult. I’ll be the first to admit that I love to put pretty pink bows on the days when I struggle. When I struggle to read my word, to make time to pray, and to drag myself to church; I like to put a nice smile on and act as if I’m not at all pushing my feet that feel as heavy as iron. So I’ve vowed to God & to myself that I’ll be as transparent as possible in this post.

About a month ago, my grandma passed, so off I went to Puerto Rico. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. All I wanted to do was pawn off the responsibility to someone else like my sister. I didn’t want to be the “strong one”. I didn’t want to “carry the load”. I didn’t want to be the shoulder that my dad had to cry on. I didn’t want to be the very person that I’m studying to become: a counselor. But as the day got closer to get on that 3 1/2 hour flight, I prayed God would fill me up with his peace and confidence. I prayed that I would be the leader that I needed to be for my family. I prayed for strength. And ultimately, I prayed God would use this trip to reveal His greatness. And because God is so faithful, he answered every prayer.

I don’t remember much about my grandmother except that she was a devoted woman to God. I can remember maybe 3 occasions where I met with my grandmother and it all had to do with God. She wore a white veil over her head to pray. But I don’t remember kindness or love. And that’s the truth. My grandmother was a prayer warrior. She left behind a great legacy that are far and few in between. She didn’t have riches, great possessions, or wealth. But she did leave behind planted seeds of prayer. And prayers don’t have expiration dates. They don’t have death certificates. So although I didn’t know her, I know of her and what I know may not include love, kindness, or patience; she did leave behind a legacy of prayer.

As I was on this trip, I came face to face with what it means to live a set apart life. It means giving up all that your flesh loves and desires. It means choosing to pray when you don’t want to. It means dressing modestly because you love to represent God. It means not gossiping or taking part in it because it hurts God, it hurts the other person, and it hurts you . It means giving without expecting in return. And how many of us give and expect at least a thank you? I want to live a life that when I give to someone in need, they thank God first. But living a set apart life means choosing to set your sights on heavenly things above. It means choosing to intercede for those you love day and night. It means picking up your armor and choosing to fight the very real spiritual battle that is going on. Living a set apart life means accepting where someone is, not necessarily liking it, and loving them anyway. It means showing love to the least and the greatest. Jesus didn’t discriminate. He was set apart by glory and we are set apart by love.

God confronted me with the truth that He chose me, just as he chose you, because He loves me. He chose me not because of the gifts He’s given me but because He’s placed His love within me. And I’m not meant to keep that love. I’m supposed to give it away. I’m supposed to show it to others.

I’d like to say that I came back completely delving into Gods plans but the truth is, I’m a work in progress and as long as I’m here, I’ll always be a work in progress. And I can’t make any promises because I fail everyday but I hope that I can love on people because Jesus chose to love on me. I want to leave behind a legacy of not only being a prayer warrior but of someone that loved people regardless of where they are, someone who gave selflessly because that’s what Jesus would do. I want to leave behind a legacy that doesn’t draw the attention to me but points straight to God. My prayer is that my life would always reflect God and His love.

Here are some pictures from my trip to Puerto Rico 🙂

  
  

As always, I pray you are encouraged, empowered, and most of all blessed ! 🙂