Cuba Network Moderator Ed Cunnington (left) and Seth and Simon Guterman discuss the water system at Luyano Presbyterian Church in Havana.
Recently my 12 year-old son Simon and I traveled to Cuba on a Living Waters for the World Vision Trip. While we waited in the sanctuary of Güines Presbyterian Church, Simon reluctantly agreed to entertain us on the piano. As he worked his way through his recital piece, Rev. Abel Mirabal arrived, and I watched his eyes light up. Rev. Mirabal is an accomplished guitarist, and his two sons are musicians as well. He told us the story of Güines, the church, and his own journey.
Simon plays the piano at a partner church in Güines, Cuba.
In 2013, First Presbyterian Church East Hampton, NY and Westminster Presbyterian Church Minneapolis, MN partnered with Güines Presbyterian to bring a Living Waters for the World system to Rev. Mirabal’s church. Just a few weeks before the system was installed, Cholera broke out in Güines, and the city desperately needed clean water. Even after the epidemic subsided, clean water remained in high demand. As we spoke to people lined up to get water from the church, we learned how the installation of this system was a transformational moment in their lives.
Community members wait in line for water from the Güines Presbyterian Church.
Clean water is a precious commodity in Cuba. Lacking delivery infrastructure, most water is delivered to homes and businesses by water delivery trucks known as pipas. The water is stored in cisterns and must be boiled before drinking. So, the people of Güines, Matanzas, Cardenas, Pinar del Rio, and other places come with upcycled plastic containers of all shapes and sizes to fill with safe drinking water from 46 (and counting) Living Waters for the World systems throughout the island. Logistics are a challenge, but Cuba has some of the best mechanics in the world capable of keeping systems running without a ready supply of plumbing parts. Partners bring filters, valves, gauges, and fittings in luggage whenever they visit. Ingenuity born of necessity is a national theme in Cuba. Back at Güines Presbyterian Church, Simon had wandered off so I set out to retrieve him. Down the hallway, heavy metal was playing much louder than one would normally expect in a church office. I peeked inside and found Simon sitting next to Rev. Mirabal watching a home video of the pastor shredding on a guitar in his living room.
The source of the heavy metal music: Simon and Rev. Mirabal.
He was surrounded by amps, guitars, and posters of his self-proclaimed idol, Gary Moore (of Skid Row fame). Rev. Mirabal was excited to show us another video in which his two sons jammed with him while his wife sang. As we departed, Simon remarked how cool and unexpected that experience was. He had connected with Rev. Mirabal through music just as the people of Güines connect with the church through clean water.