Rev. Julie Holly shares about a service learning trip to Cuba for BSC students.
As part of Birmingham-Southern College’s January Exploration Term programming, eleven BSC students participated in an eleven-day, service-learning trip to Cuba under the leadership of Rev. Julie Holly, Dr. Vince Gawronski, and Rachel Estes. Some of those students traveling to Cuba received scholarship funding from BSC’s loafing project, in which students visit local United Methodist churches to share loaves of bread in exchange for donations from members of the congregations.
The group traveled to multiple cities and towns in Cuba including Guaimaro, Camaguey, Trinidad, and Havana. We carried with us some helpful gifts donated by the BSC soccer program, our friends, family members, and local churches for the communities we visited. We took things like soccer balls and hand pumps to help foster relationships with the people in each place we visited, small bottles of shampoos and soaps for local families in need of such items, bicycle seats and tire tubes for UMC local pastors who bike to rural neighborhoods to do ministry, crayons and scissors for children’s Sunday school classes, and other items that are not easily acquired in Cuba.
In Guaimaro the team helped begin construction on an outdoor pavilion that will allow for larger community gatherings and worship in an area with limited access to large indoor spaces in which to gather and only a small, narrow room in the pastor’s house for worship. We were assisted in the expenses of this building project by the North Alabama Conference Missions and Advocacy Team. The community of Guaimaro is very thankful that the vision God gave them to have a place for more people is being realized through to our partnership.
In Camaguey, Guaimaro, and Havana we had the opportunity to worship with United Methodist churches. We met the Camaguey District Superintendent, and all service work in which we participated was in partnership with local United Methodist leaders and groups. Members of the Florida Conference of the UMC were most helpful in making connections with Cuban United Methodist pastors. Florida Conference connections also helped us during our overnight layover in Miami with transportation to and from the airport, being hosted overnight at the University of Miami Wesley Foundation, and having a local district superintendent and senior pastor who brought us a delicious Cuban dinner and spent time getting to know our group. We are very grateful for all the Florida conference support and hospitality!
Within our travel group’s schedule of service, worship, and relationship-building, we also had ample time to further learn about the culture and history of Cuba with reading assignments prior to travel, visits to historic sites, an arts and crafts market, an afternoon at a beach, and enjoying Cuban food.