By Kim Plummer Krull
Work is under way to help Cuban families rebuild homes severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, including the homes of many who are members of the growing Iglesia Evangelica Unida–Sinodo Luterano (United Evangelical Church–Lutheran Synod).
A $10,500 emergency grant from the LCMS to the Cuban Lutheran Fellowship (CLF) is helping with recovery after the worst hurricane to hit Santiago de Cuba (the nation’s second-largest city) since 1933, according to the Rev. Dr. Alberto Garcia, CLF president and a theology professor at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.
“The Cuban government has stated that it will take a long time to rebuild,” Garcia said in an email. “Right now the efforts are directed to repair and rebuild those homes that have been partially damaged. There will be a great need to build new homes for those whose homes were completely demolished.”
The category 2 hurricane hit southeastern Cuba Oct. 25, killing 11 people, damaging more than 200,000 homes and causing major losses to coffee and other crops, according to news reports.
A “home” church and the Cuban Lutheran church synodical headquarters in Santiago had minor damage.
Two Cuban Lutheran pastors — the Rev. Ismael Laborde and the Rev. Carlos Rojo — are visiting affected communities and using support from the LCMS and CLF to provide roofing materials to help families rebuild or make repairs.
The CLF also plans to send volunteer teams to help with rebuilding needs in the near future, Garcia said. (To learn more about volunteer opportunities, contact Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In addition to supporting hurricane relief, the rebuilding efforts help Cuba’s Communist government “see how Lutherans are there to help,” said Garcia, who started the CLF in 2001 as a nonprofit religious corporation to assist and empower the Lutheran church in Cuba in proclaiming the Gospel.
Since then, the Cuban Lutheran church has grown from around 100 members to some 2,000, with churches in Santiago, Guantanamo and Havana, plus some 12 “house” churches, Garcia said.
“The government permits house churches with permission but it is very hard to erect regular church buildings,” Garcia said via email.
Just recently, the Cuban government gave legal sanction to the Iglesia Evangelica Unida–Sinodo Luterano, Garcia added.
The LCMS began mission work in Cuba in 1911, but it was interrupted in the 1950s during the Cuba Revolution. In more recent years the Synod has supported Cuban Lutherans through theological-education materials and teachers as well as mercy work for families affected by natural disasters.
The Rev. Glenn F. Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response, called this more recent grant “an exceptionally unique opportunity for the LCMS to support relief efforts in Cuba in meaningful ways through the Cuban Lutheran Fellowship as God continues to open doors for Christ’s mercy and the Church’s outreach around the world.”
Theological education continues to be the CLF’s main focus. The group has helped establish a Lutheran seminary in Santiago and a chapel in Havana, among many other efforts, and is again working with the Lutheran Heritage Foundation to legally send Bibles and copies of Luther’s Small Catechism into the country.
Dedicated lay leaders, pastors and a deaconess of Cuban heritage are among those at the helm of the CLF “who eagerly want to witness in Cuba,” Garcia said. “There is quite a bit of work to be done.”
Learn more about the Cuban Lutheran Fellowship on Facebook.
To support those in need from this hurricane:
- Make an online gift at www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- Mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- Call toll-free 888-930-4438 (8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday).
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Dec. 19, 2012