Cuba’s culture is filled with contrasts: beauty and decay, wealth and poverty, modern and classical art. Vivid colors, classic American cars, stilt walkers, living statues—these are just a few of the vibrant examples of Cuban culture that I experienced in Havana.
Artistic expression is everywhere you look: jazz and guitar music in a courtyard, bright artwork on a wall, Hemingway posters in a hotel. Cuba has a rich dimension of art throughout its culture. This includes one shocking piece that I observed when I was there: a large rendering, in full relief, of the abortion process—found in the bathroom of an urban art studio.
I spoke to the artist, who told me that he was expressing the inhumanity of dehumanizing the preborn human being. He carried a great deal of pain, which he vulnerably exposed in this artwork, but he was reticent about it, limiting his comments to the piece.
I had enjoyed my time experiencing Havana’s art and its beauty, but recognized in this moment that beneath the surface were lives that matter, that have deep value…and were possibly in deep pain.
The network of Cuban churches with whom we partner is highly effective in ministering to people in need and in pain: the poor, the disabled, the orphan, the widow. But they are also effective in reaching out to the professional community of doctors, health-care workers, psychologists, professional musicians, and artists.
They daily sacrifice their own resources to make sure that the needs of the community—in all of its contrasts—are met. They welcome the disabled, the homeless, the unemployed, the physically ill, and the elderly, and they value the life of the preborn. They have modeled how to be Christlike to those in need, whether they seem needy or not!
The global church will benefit greatly as we experience the faithfulness of the Cuban church, recently reconnected to the world after decades of exile. They are a vital part of health for the entire body of Christ. We should think not only of how we can help our Cuban brothers and sisters, but how our Cuban brothers and sisters can help us! We have much to learn from their endurance, faithfulness, and steadfastness.