The Story of our First Sister Church

On April 24, 2014 at the invitation of the Crafty Ladies, Dan Christopherson, the Southwest District Cuba Coordinator, gave a presentation to the Crafty Ladies, the Men's Group, some of our leaders and other interested parties about the state of Methodist churches in Cuba. Dan's plea was for Gulf Cove to adopt a sister church in Cuba.

As Dan Christopherson described the Cuban circumstances and answered each of our questions the desireability of adopting a Cuban church began to build.

Dan left a few brocheurs for our review. I encourage you to download each for study.

Dan also sent a few pictures depicting life in Cuba.


Parsonage Side view

Side View

Parsonage floor


Parsonage plastic covering bed and dining area

Plastic covering bed & dinning area


People hauler

People haulers

People hauler seating

People hauler seating

Travel to sister church

Travel to sister church

Worship and Fellowship

Sewing machine given to pastor's wife

Sewing machine gift to pastor's wife



Cuban worship service

Cuban Worship Service

Church Council appoves formation of team to study the Adoption of Cuban Sister Church

During the May 27 meeting the church council approved the next step towards adoption of a Cuban sister church. This was the formation of a team to study requirements, potential problems, confer with other local churches and develop an implementation plan. Download the minutes for a more complete picture.

Current Cuban Leadership Team members are: Betty Hansel, Rick & Linda Starck, John Furtado, Ken & Joan Priest, Alfred Current and Scott Folsom.

The Excitement Continues to Build

Information is now being made available to our congregation. We encourage questions and our church council members will attempt to answer any you may have.

District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Rini Hernandez will be giving the sermons for the 9:30 and 11:00am services on Sunday June 22nd. Rini will be speaking to us about his own experiences as a United Methodist pastor in Cuba. This is a must attend event!

Scott Folsom is preparing to accompany seven area youth and two adult chaperones to the Camp Canaan Bible camp in Cuba this July. The Bible camp expected attendance is 800-1000 Cuban youth. We hope Scott will have the opportunity to meet the pastor of our potential sister church. We need to raise a total of $1,500 for Scott's trip. Some of this money is already in hand but more donations are needed.

Scott's trip provides an opportunity to import much needed over-the-counter medical supplies for the Cuban Methodists. Ask about how you may contribute.

Download the June 2014 Southwest District Cuba Newletter

Halleluiah! We have a Sister!

After the services on Sunday June 22nd a special Church Conference meeting was convened to discuss the adoption of a Cuban church. As questions were answered the excitement and support grew ultimately resulting in a unanimous approval of the motion to adopt. On June 24th 2014 we received word from Dan Christopherson that our request for a sister church in Cuba was granted and we were assigned the church in Nicaro.

Some basic information about the Pastor: Nicaro Pastor Reinaldo Eloi Laguna

Initial pictures:

Nicaro Church

Nicaro Church

Discussion at Nicaro

Discussion at Nicaro

First Nicaro Steering Team Meeting

Let's focus on how to help our sister. Jan and Nancy Prins, from Englewood UMC were present to answer questions and help guide our progress. There was much to discuss and we made a good start.

Download minutes from the first steering team meeting: Nicaro Steering Team Minutes June 30, 2014

Jan & Nancy Prins

Jan & Nancy Prins

Nicaro Steering Team

Nicaro Steering Team

Betty and Rick

Betty & Rick

Cuban Pastors Present to Wednesday Evening Crowd

On Wednesday July 9th 2014 visiting Cuban pastors, Rev. Isel and Rev. Ernesto talked about life in Cuba. Listening to their daily hardships was tough for us. If you looked around the room you could see the wet emotion on many faces. We have so much material wealth in America. The desire to give was strong. However, when they talked about the spirital revival taking place in Cuba the tables were turned. We struggle to keep our churches above water. It's evident our southern brethren have much to offer.

As this was their first trip to the United States they had to be making comparisons. Yet, they remained truly thankful of our developing relationships. We posed many questions about what we could give specifically. If there was a theme for the evening it was "When you have nothing ... any gift is appreciated". The compilation of information listed below reflects our current understanding of needs and conditions.

People attended from Ft. Ogden, Englewood and Ft Myers United Methodist Churches. Each already had sister churches in Cuba. It surprised and delighted us to see such strong community of supporters. Also surprising was how many journeyed to Cuba and on return affirmed it was a life changing event. It is evident we have much to learn and we look forward to the opportunity.

When Nicaro learned that ten years’ of prayers had been answered, that they had a Sister Church in us, they held a whole service of thanks and praise.

Cuba Presentation

After dinner presentation

Love Offering

Love Offering

Cuban Pastors

Betty with Revernds Isel,Bill, Ernesto

Scott Folsom is in Cuba!

Youth off to Cuba

A letter to All,

The smiling faces you see are seven students and two chaperons that left Tuesday morning to attend Youth Camp in Cuba. They were accompanied by Pastor Isel Acanda District Superintendent for the Holguin Norte District. They will be in Cuba from July 22 - through July 29th. The youth will spent time in Havana then travel to Camp Cannan to meet, fellowship and worship with 1,000 Cuban youth. From there they will travel to the Holguin Norte District to visit sister church in the district.

Students and Chaperons on the trip (from left to right):

  • *Scott Folsom, Youth Director from Gulf Cove UMC, Port Charlotte
  • Pastor Isel Acanda, District Superintendent in Holguin Norte District
  • Grant Reecher, Lighthouse UMC, Boca Grande
  • *Carly Ellswoth, Youth Director from Trinity UMC, Sarasota
  • Kayla Wagler, Trinity UMC, Sarasota
  • Sarah Wagler, Trinity UMC, Sarasota
  • Amanda Wagler Trinity UMC, Sarasota
  • Sierra Means, First Punta Gorda UMC, Punta Gorda
  • Conor Peters, First Punta Gorda UMC, Punta Gorda
  • Trace Walker, Killearn UMC, Tallahassee

Keep them in your prayers.

In Christ,

Dan Christopherson, Southwest District Coordinator

Reverend Bill prepared a letter for Scott Folsom to present to our sister church.

View our Letter to Nicaro

I didn't know Rev. Bill spoke Spanish.

Scott Folsom returns from Cuba with many stories and pictures!

Path to Nicaro

Path to the Nicaro Church

Nicaro Church 01

Our Nicaro Sister

Nicaro Church 02

The Pastor's residence is the church

Gifts 01

Scott offers gifts from Gulf Cove

Gifts 02

Spanish Bibles for Pastor Reinaldo

Gifts 03

More gifts

Baseball 01

Cuba's favorite sport

Baseball 02

At bat

Baseball 03

It's a hit!

Nickel-Refinery 01

Nickel Plant Closed 2012

Nickel-Refinery 02

Processing plant was inefficent

Nickel-Refinery 03

Nicaro unemployment now 80%

GCUMC donates new bike and mobile phone to Pastor Reinaldo, 2015.

Scott also brought funds to provide for a Sunday meal for the congregation for a year. A gift of additional funds were designated for the requested washing machine. We were supprised to learn that a washing machine is very rare and the one provided will be a community treasure.

New Bike

Pastor Reinaldo's Phone & Bike

New Washing Machine

New Washing Machine

Rick and Linda Starck will travel to Cuba in November, 2015. Gifts to our sister include:

  • Twin Sister Banners made by Mary Costello ... in spanish for Cuba, english for Gulf Cove
  • A musical keyboard for all to enjoy
  • Medical Supplies
  • Money to purchase church building in center of Nicaro
  • Additional money to provide for a second weekly meal for a year

Clean water has been identified as apriority need for Cuban churches. However, each church and community has a unique water situation. Rick attended a presentation by Water One on their filter and purification systems. As a result Ken Visser, VP of Water One, has prepared a list of questions to be asked of each church visited in order to determine their specific requirements. Rick and Linda will be taking many pictures needed for the water situation analysis as well as collecting the data for Water One.

Once we determine what is needed, we can proceed to fund raising for the equipment and shipping. We also have to solve the transportation problem of how to get the equipment to Cuba as well as providing for a continual supply of filter cartridges.

Spanish Sister Banner

Spanish Sister Banner

Jan 2016 Linda and Rick Report on Cuba Trip

Linda Starck created a video of the November 2015 Cuba trip which was presented at all services Sunday Jan 17, 2016. The video vividly brings to life the people of Nicaro. Many from our congregation commented how this helps to understand what we are doing in Cuba and why we are desperately needed. Rick Starck followed up with slides on "What's Next" depicting the prayer, planning and implementation lying ahead of us. Clearly this is a 5-10 year program.

VIEW: What's Next (pdf)

Construction has started!

Southwest District Youth Trip to Cuba leaving to spend eight days at Camp Canaan and visiting their sister churches in Cuba — with Scott Folsom, Katelyn Kellogg, Carly Danielle and Kelsey Anthofer.

Nicaro Construction StartsScott's 3rd trip

Clean Water! Something New!

Water Purifiers
Unloading 26


Februrary 2017 - GCUMC adopts a second Cuban sister church, Frank Pais. John and Carol McGuire visited with pastor Siubel Cannelles during their November 2016 trip. Frank Pais is a new church located near Nicaro. Currently there are 27 members. Some pictures follow.

Pastor Siubel Cannelles Church1
Church2 Church3