A Cuban pastor responds to President Obama’s visit

Shortly after President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, Rev. Eduardo Gonzalez, pastor of Iglesia Enmanuel in Ciego de Avila, Cuba, wrote a letter to his congregation’s “partner,” Northminster Church in Monroe, Louisiana, and copied others here in the US who have visited. Here is the text, along with a brief response of my own.

         “Dear brothers and sisters

         “For many years our brothers and sisters from Northminster Church have been asked by their fellow citizens what kind of mission work they come to Cuba to do. It has been hard for their inquirers to understand that they do not come to build schools, because we have schools and education, available for everyone, that they do not come to do medical work, because we have free medical service, that they do not come to evangelize, in the traditional sense of the word, because we have pastors and preachers that can do that.

         “Their answer to that question had always raised doubts and laughs among other conservative Christians, that found no sense in what many churches and other organizations for many years have been doing in Cuba: “building bridges of love and understanding” through which our governments are walking through now.

         “With great emotion we have followed the events of President Obama’s visit to our country, and many people in the world believe and expect it will bring about changes in Cuba; but I have to say that to have welcomed the first black president of United States in Cuba is simply the consequence of the changes that are already taking place in our nation, changes, that among other things, are the results of the many years of effort and sacrifice that you have done to finally make this happen.

         “President Obama would have never thought of coming here if it had not been for brothers and sisters like you, that against all odds had invested everything possible, materially and spiritually speaking, in bringing our people together.

         “On behalf of our Cuban people I extend our gratitude for your perseverance and hard work all these years, for believing we could do it, for journeying with us in this long and difficult path of reconciliation that is almost midway; but on the same spirit I encourage you not to rest in your labors so the respect and mutual understanding continue to be the pillars of these “bridges” and that unscrupulous people will never cross them.

         “The struggle continues, and we count on you now more than ever, because with this victory’s flavor yet in our mouths, we have the certainty that together we can achieve even greater deeds on this road that still has more miles to be walked.”

My response:

         I am deeply grateful for this message, Eduardo, and will circulate it widely!

         Though so much is yet to be done, we can now see some of the progress made from the bridge you are building from your side and the bridge we are building from ours.

         There are, of course, many who want to slow this construction, to weaken it, to delay it, to undermine it or even destroy it. And still others who wish to use the bridge for plunder. But we will persevere. Vamos a perseverar.

         ¿Es una buena lucha? Is the struggle good?

         ¡Es un buena lucha! The struggle is good indeed!