Tennessee Disciple Women in Cuba – Barbara Bekaert

When I first heard about the opportunity to travel to Cuba for a women’s conference, I drooled over the chance to go somewhere I might never again be able to visit.  My interest in Spanish speaking is strong, but my ability to speak it, well is slight, so I assumed that there was no reason to apply.  After a few months, I again received an application, this time telling me a passing knowledge of the language was sufficient.  I jumped at the chance.

While I have traveled much overseas with my husband, doing it alone was daunting. God gave the words of encouragement I needed, to many friends in my congregation and I stiffened my resolve.

Cancun, Mexico, was our departure city to travel to Havana, Cuba.  Joanne Flowers and Sonia Wilkinson were the other two ladies attending the conference from Tennessee. We were met at the Havana airport by our Cuban host Eliseo Navarro after a very long day, starting for me at 2am.  The graciousness and obvious love we received immediately set my mind at ease.  We were taken to a hotel for some much-needed rest and the following morning was met in the hotel lobby by Eliseo and his wife Marelis.  We piled our luggage into a van, added several women who were traveling to the conference with us (along with their luggage) and drove for 6 hours into the countryside along their super highway which is very different from ours!  Again, we were treated with the utmost cordiality and love.

The conference was held at a rented campground on the order of Bethany Hills and we were given the only 2 rooms with air conditioning.  At every turn, we were offered the best they had and treated like the most honored guests.  At meal times, while most of the rest of the women went through a cafeteria line, we, along with the leaders of the conference, were brought our meals on china plates and whenever we expressed a preference for some food (whether we intended to or not) it appeared in quantity the rest of the time we were there.  With my smattering of Spanish (which, by the way, improved immensely over the 5 days of our stay) I discovered that the fact that this conference took place at all was only due to the grace of God and its occurrence was in doubt until the very last minute, much like our joining them was.

While most of the daytime activities were confined to administrative meetings, each evening was given over to worship.  And what worship it was!  I personally have never experienced such fervor, singing, joy and thanksgiving at any time in my long association with churches across the globe.  It completely took my breath away!  My portion of the time we were given consisted of playing my viola during worship, something I was unprepared to do without music, which I had none of.  The first time it happened, before my turn, I sat in the back trying to prepare myself and ended up crying out of anxiety.  Later, a couple of women came up to me and told me how much I’d ministered to them with my music and caused me to cry all over again!  God is good. The heat was debilitating, but the warmth was invigorating.  I know that my redeemer lives and that I will be taken care of when I call upon God’s holy name.  !Gloria a Dios! To be able to travel in order to worship and fellowship with women of the faith is a privilege I would wish for every woman who doesn’t doubt the oneness of God’s children and especially for those who do.

The Women’s Desk – May, 2013

Nearly two years ago The Women’s Desk proposed that,”Global Women Connecting has a responsibility in active conversation about the world we are living in and how God needs us to interact with it to bring about God’s Kingdom.  It is our goal to share with you forums for discussion, newsletters to inform and web sites full of resources to assist all of us in reconciling this issue to God’s heart.”

Many hours have been spent in updating the GWC website, recently adding new bloggers to the  “The Listening Desk” and beginning the compilation of  articles, papers and presentations for “The Resource Desk”.
I have also had a few  “out of office” experiences including an unexpected ear surgery (complete with life lessons that go with less-than-perfect hearing!) and lunch meetings with gifted Stone-Campbell women (Jackie Halstead, Claire Fredericks, Barbara Bekaert and Sandi Rinderer).
Social networking brought me in touch with many of you. The recent launch of www.1voice4change.com and a re-discovery of www.Gal328.org is prompting continued dialogue on the issue of gender equality and gender justice.
I’ve been reading, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander in preparation for “The Stormy Question”  lecture co-sponsored by the Historical Society and my home congregation, Vine Street Christian Church.
Personal spiritual practices included Devotional Classics edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith and a heavy dose of garden tilling, one of my favorite forms of  renewal! Quite a month!
You continue to build up the GWC network with your honest, open hearts and prayerful commitment. We are discovering more ways God is working in our lives, in our communities and in our churches. Thank you for your faithfulness and for the ministries where God is calling you.