MAP - Where is Nicaro?
History - Before 1951 the Cuban Methodist churches were part of the Florida Conference. Their clergy regularly attended our annual conference meetings.
Travel between the US and Cuba is permitted by both countries for religious purposes. A visa application is required 90 days before a trip to Cuba. The trip must be approved by the Bishop in Cuba before a visa will be granted. Cost for a one week trip including air fare, lodging and food is approximately $1500. People from our district go to Cuba about 4 times per year. Pastors from Cuba may visit the US without their families. Maximum group size for a visit to Cuba is 7 people.
Transportation is by foot, bicycle or perhaps by horseback. Long distance transportation is provided by people haulers (an open cargo truck with unpadded bench seats). The district uses a 25 year old van with seating for seven. One of those is always the mechanic.
Mobile Phones - Standard US mobile phones will not work in Cuba but local mobile phones may be purchased in the bigger cities. Many outlying areas do not have land line service. The Cuban government promotes mobile service as it is much cheaper to implement that land line service. All communication service is very expensive.
Location - Our South West District works with the Cuban district in Holguin Norte. Holguin is in the eastern area of Cuba north of Guantanamo.
Cuban Church Facilities - There are 40 churches in the Holguin Norte district, 9 are in need of a sister church. Many Cuban churches are house churches with Sunday services held in the pastor's home. Some of the smaller rural churches may meet in a tin roof structure without walls. Many are in need of repairs and maintenance.
Church Membership - It takes three years to become a member of a Cuban Methodist church compared to three new member classes for Gulf Cove UMC.
Basic cost to adopt a Cuban church is approximately $1200 per year. Adoption must be viewed as a long term commitment. The $1200 includes the pastor's wages, church expenses and Sunday food for those attending. It does not include mission trips by us to Cuba or cost of bringing a Cuban Pastor to visit Gulf Cove.
Adopt a Cuban Pastor - Many United Methodist Pastors throughout Cuba are unpaid. It is possible to adopt a pastor by paying his salary at a cost of $25 per month. This hopefully will lead to the adoption of a sister church.
Population - Nicaro has a population of 15,000 people.
Food - Cuba uses a rationing system whereby a coupon booklet is produced and given to each family annually. The family takes the coupons to a local store specializing in distribution of the rationed products. The prices in the ration book are about 20 times lower than on the free market. The government claims the system ensures each person a minimum intake of food. It is estimated that rationing supplies about one third to one half of a family's needs. The Cuban government acknowledges that additional food and products are available on the free market.
Rations often run out about mid-month. The churches try to offer rice and bean Sunday dinners to the children and if available to their families. This food is purchased from available church funds in the free market. Cost of a free market meal is $0.23 per person.
The government now permits families to grow food in a small garden. Note: Seeds for food crops are not permitted to be imported. Also Cuban citizens are not permitted to fish without a license which is very difficult to obtain.
Typical monthly rations for each family include 5 oz. of rice; 5 lbs. of beans; and 4 lbs. of sugar.See Wikipedia for details
Unemployment - Since the Nickel processing plant closed in December 2012 unemployment in Nicaro is 80%. The government owned plant was basically the only employer.
Divorce - Divorce is a HUGE problem. The UMC is striving to rebuild marriages. Currently the divorce rate is 75%. The men are not made to give support to their children or ex-wife, nor does the government.
Mail - It may take six months for a letter from the U.S. to reach a church in Cuba. The postal service to rural areas is poor and consequently not used for communication.
Internet is only available in select areas and is very slow. Currently only the Bishop and DS have internet service. Messages they receive are hand carried to the various pastors.
Electric - The electric service is the same as in the U.S. (120 volts 60 hz). The Cuban power grid is aging and subject to many blackouts.
Donations - 100% goes directly to the sister church.
Funding - It is our practice to raise all funds outside of our church budget. The Team Cuba has discussed a number of methods including a Cuban Pork Roast a la Alfred. Direct donations will be accepted from our members above and beyond normal tithing. We may also solicit funds from our community.
Spanish Bibles - Limit four per person travelling (Dan orders them from Amazon). The best solution is to send money and let the DS purchase them locally at a cost of $2.00 each. We are providing 100 Bibles to our sister church in this manner
Children - Shoes, Clothes, Beanie Babies, small stuffed toys, small toys.
Medical Supplies - Are the most important thing we can send to Cuba. Each travaler to Cuba is permitted to bring 22 lbs of non-perscription medical supplies. Over the counter medical and hygiene supplies are always needed. Medicines must have an expiration date more than a year from the date of import into Cuba. No liquids, substitute tablets instead. Be sure to include vitamins but do not get the chewable kind for children.
Water Supply - Local water sources are suspect and often spread sickness and disease. No easy solution is apparent but we are working with Water One to identify a filtering and purification system appropriate for Nicara. Once that has been done we still have to find a way to get the system to Nicaro.
Aug 2016 ... 26 new water purification systems manufactured by Water One, Inc., are being prepared for shipment to Cuba!
Education Supplies - Crayons, pens, pencils, craft paper, coloring books, Sunday school books.
Sewing - Scissors, needles, thread, cloth, etc.
Sports Equipment - Baseball: Gloves, balls, bats, you name it. Soccer: Jerseys, shoes, balls. Other: Frisbees.
Special Items - We will not be able to discern special needs until after a visit to our sister church has been made. A clean water source, church repairs/building, musical instruments and computers are all possibles.
District Superintendent of Holguin Norte - Pastor Isel Acanda
Pastor of Nicaro Church - Pastor Reinaldo