How Mission2Cuba began
The idea for developing a youth mission trip to Cuba began with, Dan Christopherson, the SW District Coordinator for the Methodist Church Cuba sister church program, who has been leading adult teams to Cuba for over 10 years. Dan felt that the youth at home were missing out on an incredible Christian experience and wanted to have them experience the love and passion that he experienced in the Cuban churches. So began the idea of creating a team of youth from different churches to attend Camp Canaan.
The first Florida youth team went to camp and it was a great success! The team worshiped, prayed together, learned about leadership and enjoyed fun activities with their Cuban brothers and sisters in Christ. The team had an intense, meaningful, fun-filled time and they carried a wealth of experiences back home with them.
Now the SW District is looking to make the youth mission trips an an annual event and thus began Mission2Cuba.
ABOUT THE MISSION TRIP COORDINATOR
Christina Sherrod-Heist, SW Florida District Youth Coordinator
Christina is a member of Faith United Methodist Church in Fort Myers, Florida. She has volunteered with youth for several years. Starting as a Sunday School teacher, she chaperoned the youth summer mission trips, led and taught small groups of youth, and has served as interim youth pastor. Christina and her husband have traveled extensively in Central America and she has had the opportunity to join numerous mission trips to Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba.
Recently she was asked to take a more active role in Cuba missions; so it seemed natural that she would work with college students and youth, developing plans for taking students on mission trips.
Christina knows from personal experience that once you hit college years it’s easy to fall away from the church, it happened to her. She grew up in the church but moved away from active participation and it was many years before she regularly attended church again. As Christina recounts:
"In fact, the beginning of my real walk with Christ began with my first mission trip and I wasn’t even attending church at that time! Unfortunately, my first mission trip didn’t occur until well after college and I was in my 30’s. So I look back and think, what IF my first mission trip occurred while I was in high school? What course would my life have taken if I had discovered missions sooner? Hence, my passion to involve teens and young adults in mission trips! Its an incredible experience and one that I love to share with others."
---Christina Sherrod-Heist ---
Testimonial from a Previous Youth Mission Trip
Every month I get the Newsletter from the Southwest District, and along the side I read, “Cuba, so close… yet a world away.” This statement may possibly be one of the truest I have heard. Experiencing Cuba first hand was nothing less than a life changing experience. I had the opportunity to experience community, love, worship, and most of all faith, like I have never before. Cuba without a doubt is a different world. You notice an incredible reliance on God, one that has, in most cases, disappeared from our society. In part due to their circumstances, they understand the importance of God like many Americans have forgotten. It is a sad reality to say that many Americans today feel that they can go about their day, their week, their year, and even their life without the need of a reliance on God, without ever thinking of a need to thank God for the blessings we have been given.
This is all different in Cuba. Cubans have a very real faith, and worship a very active God. They never miss an opportunity to thank God for even the most minute things. The people of Cuba are no doubt a lot less well-off then we all are, and somehow, they manage to still be the happiest people I have ever encountered. They manage to not let things get at them, big or small, and full heartedly trust in God and hand their worries over to him. To me this is incredible. This isn’t something I see very often in the states. They are not just a strong rooted church member, or a strong rooted pastor, but a strong rooted community. A community that cares for each other, loves each other, laughs with each other, and always supports each other.
Before even returning home from my first trip to Cuba, God had decided he was changing my life. I went from applying for colleges as a pre-med major aspiring to go into heart surgery, to applying for colleges as a youth ministry major. God knew just how to properly reach me to change the trajectory of my life, and might I say he did an amazing job, of course. I now study youth ministry at Florida Southern College, work at an after-school program for youth at First United Methodist Church - Lakeland, and I am a part time youth director for a small church in Bartow, Florida. I owe all of this to God, and all of this to my first opportunity traveling to Cuba. The experience has, in the most serious sense, changed my life forever.
--- Conor ---