On October 15th our home assignment comes to an end. We will board a plane for Antigua Guatemala for two months of language learning and study. Following that, our plan is to go directly to Cuba when we have a visa in place.
In August I made contact with some friends in Cuba and said in so many words, "It's now or never." To our surprise, a pastor friend got back to us quickly with a plan.
That's right: a real, logical, doable plan to obtain a visa to live and work in Cuba. We'll believe it when we see it, of course, but this is the best shot we've had so far of getting permission and a visa so we are encouraged.
We have sent the requested paper work that amounts to a request for the Council of Churches in Cuba (CIC) to sponsor us before the government. The plan is to work with three different churches in the province of Matanzas in the areas of orphans, seniors, and people with disabilities. We would also sponsor and host visiting mission teams related to these ministries. In order words, more or less what we hoped to do a year ago.
We are hopeful (once again) for the following reasons:
- A team of four people have agreed to sponsor us
- Three of them are pastors and two have significant pull with the CIC
- One of them has pull with the Communist Party
- We know them all personally and they seem to have a vested interest in our being in Cuba
- We have decided we're going to pursue work in Cuba until they slam the door completely and this seems the best shot so far
- We're just hopeful and positive types, ya know
In the meantime, Lana has a chance to really focus on learning Spanish. She is enrolled in a school in Antigua that has a good reputation. We have rented an apartment that looks nice from the photos and accepts our dog, which was a significant challenge. Lana will have a dedicated tutor for one-on-one lessions 4 hours a day, five days a week.
I will be knuckling down on independent Spanish study, writing sermons, Bible studies and other things I think will help in Cuba. If I can find one, I will hire a tutor to review and correct my writing as I study on my own.
While we are in Guatemala we plan to visit a number of ministries we know about to see if there might be possibilities for work there. Given our experience with Cuba, it seems reasonable to create a backup plan.
At the current time we are packing up, breaking camp, and preparing to fly out of Denver for Guatemala City on Monday, October 15th. While many aspects of this delay over the last six months or so remain a mystery, we are straining to get "back in the saddle" so to speak and trust that God has/has had/will have purposes for us in the things we don't get. And of course, there is a lot we don't get.
One of the issues we wanted to address while here in the U.S. these past months was my health. No to say I was completely falling apart, but close. I (Keith) am pleased to say that for the most part, we've don that. I've seen doctors for physicals, had exams, got new medications where appropriate and am more or less in good shape (that is just my personal opinion you understand!). we have very good insurance now, can get prescriptions for up to six months at a time, and are pretty confident we'll be able to maintain that while living abroad - even in the unusual health care system in Cuba.
In our last letter we asked you to pray for us because we had a Big Wedding in Portland, Oregon with Lana's daughter Sichia and her (now) husband Amish. We are happy to report that the wedding went amazingly well. It was a remarkable occasion that was a fusion of two cultures, Indian and America. The best example of that was the dinner. One table had delicious vegetarian Indian cuisine and the other barbecue. It was awesome. Upon our return, Lana said in a reflective moment, "Well, we did it. I'm ready to get it together and head out."
So, forward ho!
Keith and Lana Vandegrift
If you pray for us, here are some suggestions for the coming couple of months:
- A good fit with Lana and her language instructor and the school
- Ditto with our apartment and adjustment to another new place
- For Leticia, Farfan, Yodalis, and Dopico who are working on our visa in Cuba
- For daily discipline to ready ourselves for what lies ahead