We’re baaaaaaack! Having been stuck in a rut of non-communication since January due to limited internet access in Cuba, and, consequently, paralyzed by how much there is to share about the last six weeks, we’re working hard on Candy Crush to process and sort through everything. So much to tell. So little blog space. So much magazine to write. This means you’ll have to wait until April when the magazine comes out to hear most of the Cuba details :)
Until April, just know that communism is alive in Cuba, and even Jeff and I felt it. Fear, confusion and frustration rule, and the church is hungry for community, training, and the autonomy to worship and serve freely.
The potential and momentum of the Cuban church is growing. Despite the repression, God is present and working in ways that are unbelievably inspiring, and everyone has so much grit! We believe the Cuban church is poised to be a great witness, as the Cuban Christians in general are sturdy, inventive, long-suffering and loved by most corners of the world. This is already a great magazine, and it’s only half written! …So stay tuned :)
In other magazine news, our Las Vegas issue came out this week—both the digital edition for smart devices and the website edition for Internet viewing. I can’t stress how meaningful this organization, The Cupcake Girls, was to us—not just because of the cupcakes, but how it impacted our compassion toward those working in the legal US sex industry, and how that understanding carried over into our perceptions of all types of people living in the margins: drug addicts and gang dudes and, you know, basically anyone anywhere not making our same life choices. Bottom line: they’re lovable. We all are.
During our time in Las Vegas, I was able to blog some thoughts and questions about my own biases, exploring my perceptions of legal sex workers from a Christ-following worldview. The response that followed from the Christian and secular community was unreal. These blogs were only excerpts of two bigger, more compelling stories written in full throughout the Las Vegas magazine issue. They are titled “Loveable” and “Embracing Justice“. If you’re our friend, please download it simply to understand what Jeff and I experienced, as it resulted in pretty significant heart-callus-shaving. (Is that a thing?)
Enter: Fat Lady.
As you all probably know, our World Next Door Fellowship year is coming to an end March 1st. Hard to believe, but true. We have been very reflective lately and are just now beginning to understand how miraculously cared for we were the entire time—physically, emotionally and financially.
Throughout the year, we visited five countries, ate all sorts of random foods in random places, and only experienced two days of illness between the two of us (food poisoning from a fancy restaurant). We counted at least 24 flights with only one delay—our last flight coming home from Cuba. We even skipped out on the first blizzard by leaving a day earlier than planned without fees! We travelled with thousands of dollars of cash and electronic equipment with no problems, not even a lost or broken item. We went into brothels, worked undercover, travelled on many questionable roads up and down mountains and inclement weather, trekked through the Himalayas on foot, travelled on boats, biked on busy roads, and we never had any injury or incident. And among all the different interactions with people and sometimes unable to communicate, we were only “swindled” once in Cuba, and only ended up buying a guy a mojito as a result.
Our prayers of safety, health, and ease of travel were answered, along with the financial ability to sustain this work all year, thanks to the generous support of 62 funders and our prayer team.
*Side note: community prayer for a year has been a powerful experience for us, and we have said multiple times that we wish we could have the team continue to pray for us for the rest of our lives! It has been so comforting. Thank you if YOU have been part of that, even if we never knew it.
In addition to safety and health, we met some of the most amazing people and developed meaningful relationships. We danced with 101-year-old prophets, ate breakfast with people who have forgiven their family’s murderers, and talked with girls who have been trafficked and now work to stop sex trafficking. We met people who go into brothels and strip clubs just to love the unloved, and we met people who were willing to risk their lives so that the church could grow in a communist country. These were just a few of the amazing people we met, and that doesn’t even include the host organizations and people who have given up so much to fight the injustices of the world and to spread the love of Christ in ways that are admirable! There is a definite battle between good and evil in the world, and we can confidently say God is present and working in every corner of the world no matter how great the injustice.
We’ve had an amazing year, friends, witnessing the global sewing of hope into the world and all.
We are humbled and honored that God chose us to witness and experience His work, and we still really aren’t sure why. We just hope and pray we were faithful in our work and that His words were spoken and his eyes were evident in our pictures. We may never know the fruits of our work, but we are confident God was behind it and will use it in some way.
We will soon be on to the next chapter in our lives. We were struggling for several months with how to move forward and in what capacity, but we were just told World Next Door will not have funding to staff us after March.
We are okay with this.
We’ve prayed all along that God would open and close doors for us, and this was a pretty clear and timely door close. For now we believe we are to move on, and we’re content knowing at least that much. To what? We don’t know, but we will continue to walk forward in faith and to not try and write our own stories. God’s stories are much better than ours and we’ve finally learned to drop the pen (or stop typing)!
We cannot thank each of you enough for your thoughts and prayers and support and follow-alongs during the year. We are all forever connected to the people and organizations we met this year, and we hope our magazines continue to inspire others to get involved in social justice—with our partner organizations around the world or in their own communities.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for traveling with us during the past year through this tiny little corner of Internet space and all the magazine downloads. We couldn’t have done it without you.
We fly home for the last time tonight at 9:45p. We hope you have enjoyed the adventure!