God is everywhere, in all people.
This is a fact. For I see it with my eyes, I feel it, and it is real.
I have yet to visit one place where God’s presence and existence isn’t found.
I’ve seen him in prison. I have felt him at sunrise, singing worship with 400 children in Honduras. I saw him in a mother in Los Angeles, holding her 2 small children close and smiling, on a sidewalk, in a poor neighborhood. I see him at the local coffee shop and in the sunrise on our farm, holding hands with my daughter.
He is all things and is in all things, and the farther I seek, the more God becomes real.
My journey to Cuba with Third Lens Ministries was no different than any other. I knew I was to be amazed. Perhaps this is why I’m always eager to go. It’s one thing to read about God’s greatness and hear of it, but when you meet the Lord face to face, there is nothing more marvelous.
For when you have felt the closeness of the Lord, as if his hands are upon your shoulder, you will do anything to receive that all over again.
And so I found God; on a plane, into the city, on a bus, upon a ship, across the ocean, onto an island, into a town, riding upon a horse-n-buggy, into a village and down a desolate dirt road.
The Lord was there. I saw him, I touched him and gazed deep into his being.
I was led there by a tall, striking, very young Cuban gentlemen named Yusniel. He was once a boxer and he towered over my husband and I. He carried a gorgeous grin upon his face, warm and powerful. His demeanor was gracious and kind. He was a Methodist pastor, part of a church family that sought out its people.
In our group was also another young Pastor, Emmanuel. He was barely 20, smaller and more youthful than Yusniel. He was a local teacher in a small elementary school. He was a delight among all the children in his community. He knew them each by name and they knew him.
Our English-speaking friend, and senior pastor of their Methodist church, was Enrique. He was a jolly man and made us feel at home every minute we were with him. He was born and raised in Cuba and looked to be about my father’s age. He was a doctor, currently teaching one day a week, and tending to his Pastoral duties. He provided for his family, an estimated $1400 a year USD.
These three disciples, along with our driver, Chica, escorted us away from the village. We drove down multiple dirt roads to what appeared to be an old compound. It was a large concrete, 4 story building, with steps leading in all sorts of directions. It was probably built in the 1960’s and hadn’t been touched since.
Out front, in the tall grass, laid an ox. He had a chain around his neck that led to a stake in the ground. He was thin and napping. I imagined he had been working all week, the only hope the local farmer had for keeping himself alive and sustainable.
Behind the grass and the ox, was a large concrete court, and to each side, old and rusted basketball goals. I could tell this used to be a vibrant place, once alive and active. Enrique began to tell us that this used to be a school. A place for Cubans and other nationalities to further their education beyond the age of 18. Teachers once lived here, along with students.
Our gentlemen lead us into the complex and I was stunned at the view of a rain forest growing smack dab in the middle of cold concrete walls. I was taken back. I kept staring at the massive and marvelous trees and was in awe of them to be found in the oddest of a place. Beauty and grandeur surrounded by old and grey.
We walked up a labyrinth of steps and onto a platform where an old Cuban woman was cooking outside. She nodded and smiled at us, speaking no English but carrying on with her work.
Before I stepped inside, I could hear shouts of joy and laughter from a lady’s voice full of spirit. The gentlemen all erupted in beautiful Spanish conversation with the woman on the other side of the wall. My husband and I trailed behind and could not wait to behold the sight of which our ears heard.
It was as if we stepped into a bible story. A lone grey room, bare and cool, with one tiny window looking into Cuban space. One bed, holding a blind and lame woman. She was sitting upright and was speaking loudly in her sweet, native language. She had a grin on her face and joy which leapt from her body. She stared blankly into the distance but was saying profound things to her pastors who had come to visit her.
They were all laughing and chatting in hysteria. My husband and I stood back, amazed by the experience before us. Pastor Enrique finally spoke up in English, “She is saying she is so happy to see her Pastor. She is joking as to which one of us is the better pastor for her. We have never visited her together at the same time, she is full of joy because we are here.”
My heart was filled with the sight of complete gladness in this woman. She was reaching and touching Pastor Enrique. He returning the gesture by holding her hand and rubbing her grey head.
Enrique picked up a tiny black remote that looked similar to an iPod, he held it up in the air. “The Methodist church in Auburn bought this for her. It has the entire bible in it, and she can listen to it through her day and know the word of God.”
Not only did she know the word of God, she was the word of God. She was His and she felt it. She kept repeating something over and over, I asked Enrique what she was saying with such enthusiasm, “The Lord is my strength. She is saying the Lord is her strength and she is full of joy.”
There was no doubt. She had nothing of possessions, but a tiny recorder of the Bible. She could only see darkness and she could not walk, yet she was “filled with joy.”
I touched her on my way out. I held her hand. I wanted to sit at the foot of her bed and stay, but I knew this wasn’t my place. God was there. It was my job to see and to believe.
I was speechless upon leaving. I could not say anything at all. Experiences like this leave me stunned. Isaac spoke up, as he’s not afraid to do, “You’re definitely going to have to write about that…”
I chuckled and agreed. We piled back into Chica’s 70’s model car and made our way back to town.
What I have learned through my work is that God shows us glimpses of himself and then asks us to go and do likewise. Go and serve others. Go and be the light. Go and share the good news.
We can encounter God wherever we choose to encounter Him. Whether that be in our home or on a tiny Cuban island. When is the last time you felt the Lord?
I encourage you to find him, at all costs. Seek his face. He is there, alive and present in all of us.