Together, A Bridge of Service (Juntos, un Puente de Servicio)
It’s been quite a year for the Living Waters for the World (LWW) Cuba Network! I’d like to share with you just a few of the highlights, in both pictures and words, of what 2019 brought for our Water Partners who work together in Cuba:
“Give me your hand, sister. Let us join our hands together, brother, and we’ll make a bridge, a human bridge to be of service.”
These are words we said and sang during the opening worship service for the Cuba Water Partner Conference earlier this month. We prayed, we read scripture (Matthew 10: 39-42), we sang, and then we danced hand in hand under this human bridge we’d made together. How exhilarating to start the conference on this note!
More than 80 operators, educators, and water committee members came together for this continuing education conference, the third in the history of the Cuba Network.
We created the agenda together, sharing struggles and better practices on topics from keeping the health education going to turnover and succession planning, to system maintenance and record keeping, as well as communicating with partners in the U.S. and with the Cuba Network. It was an agenda full of listening to and learning from one another! Partners remarked how much they appreciated this time to come together and share - it gave them courage for the coming year to hear from other partners who were facing the same challenges. Click here to view a highlight video from our time at the conference.
Doug Depies, In-Country Quadrant Coordinator for the Yucatan Network, and Ed Cunnington, Cuba Network Moderator, group the topics water partners identified as their top priorities to learn about during the conference.
Water Partners did a self-assessment in the areas of operation, education, communication, administration, and overall performance. Partners spoke openly and honestly about where they were struggling (scoring themselves a “yellow” or “red”) and where they had had success (scoring themselves “green” or “blue”). The network stressed during this activity that the goal is not to be perfect but to know where you are so that you can make a plan for how to improve in the coming year.
Our Network Team in Cuba - we couldn’t do it without them! From left to right: Yosmel, Reinerio, Ed, Doug, Kendall, Carlos, Esteban, Moraima, and Daniel after the conference
The day after the conference, we visited with a church and a pediatric hospital who that week were going to be trained by their partner (Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis, MN) to install, operate, and maintain a water system and to provide on-going health education for their community. This brought the number of water partners in Cuba to 60 by the end of 2019! That same week, we received word that a shipment of water system parts had arrived in Havana! This had been in discussion for years but each time some progress was made on the project, a new roadblock would pop up. This time, God had built a bridge over all of the roadblocks and system parts were now safe and sound at Luyanó Presbyterian Church. A small LWW storehouse was coming into being in Cuba for the very first time. 2019 was ending on a strong note! During a lunchtime walk, we visited a local art gallery and I recognized some of the works there as the same artist whose ceramic mural hangs over the water distribution area of the Kairos Center in Matanzas (photo of the mural above). Manuel, a famous muralist in Cuba, was at the gallery working and he paused his work to meet with us. We told him how much we loved the beautiful mural at the Kairos Center, and he told us it was his pleasure to create it and that he had a special connection to the church since his daughter is the wife of the pastor there. As we visited, we saw a small plaque on the wall and I mentioned to Manuel that this is a saying we share with our students at our Clean Water U training. Without a word, he took the plaque off the wall and handed it to me, a gift. I felt like I had been handed a nugget of gold. The plaque says, “Alone, we go quickly, together, we go further.”
Juntos: It's my favorite word
I rose early my last morning in Cuba. I wanted to catch the sunrise at one of my favorite spots at the seminary, overlooking the bay. I captured the moment just as the sun came up over the far away hills, before it disappeared behind the clouds on the horizon. I gave thanks to God for all of it: the sunrise, the water, the bridge that reminded me of the work that partners in the U.S. and in Cuba are doing together, and yes, I also gave thanks for the clouds. May we continue, in the coming year and years, to come together to be a human bridge of service.