This week we received news that close pastor friends of ours from Guanito, Cuba, Pastor Alexei and Pastora Iliancie, brought into the world, their first child. Much like the waters from the storm surged in to flood our streets, emotions of a year since my trip to Cuba have surged and seized my heart.
I remember the day we met the Pastors, it was the beginning of our trip and they had just arrived from a long and difficult journey to arrive to Havana to meet my Mother and our group. They had breakfast with us and we had brought some peanut butter with us and Iliancie ate some for the first time. It was love at first bite with her and that jar of peanut butter! We spent the entire morning with them as they came with us while we ran our errands around Old Havana, exchanging currency and picking up some supplies for our week ahead. They were such a vibrant couple singing out in joy and thanking God for the blessing of our team.
Enjoying their first Peanut Butter and Jelly
While we were riding in the bus, Iliancie complimented my sunglasses. They were my oldest pair, and I brought them just in case they got lost or broke. As I looked at her glasses they were practically falling apart and the tortoise shell coating was flaking off. The lenses were terribly scratched and it's the only pair she had. My heart sunk thinking about the 10 pairs of sunglasses I had at home. I had regrets for not bringing them all. I took off my sunglasses and I told her to have mine. At first she refused saying she didn't want to leave me without glasses and I said ok, then let's trade. Her face lit up and she put my sunglasses on and started doing a series of model poses. She hugged me and showered me with kisses, and again she sang out thanking God through song.
The Hyde Park UMC Team with Pastor Alexi
Within a few minutes she had burst into tears along with the rest of us. They received many gifts that day and the promise of more to come. We brought money for them to take back to our sister church, sashes and runners for their pulpit and altar, medicine, clothing and a laptop. My mother would be returning that Fall, so I asked the Pastora to make a list of all the things they need that my mother can bring them. She asked for fabric and sewing materials so that they could make dresses for their liturgical dancers and that they had a lady in the church who could sew them all by hand. (When my mom returned that Fall, among many things, including peanut butter, she brought them a sewing machine. With great joy they all celebrated for this wonderful gift, and they are now able to sew many things for the church and the community.)
That day started a lifelong relationship between our family and theirs. My mom sent the Pastora maternity clothes, baby clothes and a multitude of things throughout the year. They write each other, and although I haven't gotten to see them in a year, sometimes I hear Iliancie's songs. There are days, without reason, that I can feel my Cuban brothers and sisters fill my heart with prayers. For as much as I pray for them, many more of them continue to pray for me.
So how do I measure this year? My emotions can be measured by the degrees of a storm. Fierce winds that rattle and shake me or a soft breeze that carries the songs and cries of my brothers and sisters in Cuba.
Surely I could measure it in tears, those of happiness and of sorrow and longing for my brothers and sisters. I could measure it in laughter. I think I will measure it in eggs. I still think of Cuba every time I buy eggs, see them or eat them, and I am reminded that I can have as many as I want, at any given time. I guess that here I can use eggs as a metaphor for blessings. For as many eggs as I have, I am even more abundant in blessings.
An egg ration Market in Old Havana
Each person gets 5 eggs a month
PastorAlexei and Pastora Iliancie hatched a big egg and had a baby girl this week. With great honor and overflowing love, they named her, Drema, after my mother. Out of curiosity I looked up the definition of Drema, and it means "joyus music." For this child I cannot think of a better name. It was with Joyous Music that we met the Pastor and Pastora. It was with Joyous Music that the Pastora sang out in love and thanks for her blessings. And most of all, there will be Joyous Music when we return this winter to reunite with our family in Cuba. With Joyous Music I will sing out to my new baby sister and I wish "Dremita" (little Drema) a life filled with Joyous Music as her generation will be the face of change and hope in her country.
I wish I was in Cuba right now, sweating, wearing ugly clothes that don't fit, and sorting rice at the Methodist Center. Until then, I will long for the day that I see my Cuban family and every day I will raise my eggs in a toast to Dremita with the promise of a future life filled with an infinite amount of eggs and Joyous Music:)