Our Cuba Outreach trip with Wilbur Ministries


First we are so grateful to all of you who partnered with us financially, and to those of you who kept us in prayer. Know this….God answered VERY favorably!

You helped us load a large suitcase full of children’s medicines, toys, candy and tons of boxes good old American Cracker Jacks followed by lot’s of toothbrushes and toothpaste for the orphanage!

We were blessed to be part of Paul Wilbur’s anointed and talented team, who without knowing what to expect in Cuba, joined together as one body and in one accord to be a light to the nations, and to serve God, each other, and the beautiful Cuban people.

One of the events was cancelled due to a scheduling problem, so Paul had arranged for all of us to be on a bus touring Havana, and getting out there, where we were able to meet and speak with the Cuban people individually, by which our hearts were prepared to minister to them with a better understanding, and how to pray before the event. Hallelujah, we serve a great God who has everything under control, and guides us when we choose to serve Him!

While we were there, so many things happened that it’s almost hard to put it all into words. Fidel Castro’s son (Alejandro Castro) joined all of us one afternoon for lunch in a beautiful Havana setting by the beach. We conversed very casually, and he seemed to be happy to see Paul Wilbur again and I (being fully fluent in Spanish) had a nice little casual conversation with him as well. What struck me was that he seemed so happy that we were there!

During one evening, I met a woman in a marketplace and during our conversation I mentioned to her that we were doing a concert. She smiled and asked when and where? I then told her it was Christian and it was at the San Franciscan Basilica de Asis and she jumped up and kept saying over and over “It’s a miracle of God”!!!! “That church is a museum, and they hold concerts but NEVER has there been a Christian concert there or anywhere!!! She was smiling, shaking with excitement with gentile tears in her eyes. She showed up the next day at the event with all of her family and a few other families as well as with her pastor!

To our surprise, there where some who came wearing Kippa’s and with a flag of Israel! I conversed with many of them afterwards to find out that there is a Messianic community in Havana (some are quiet and in secret).

This event was not advertised, so of course no one knew what to expect, but it was packed full and they worshiped in freedom, as they never had before in a museum that was once a church, and once again (after 60 years), for that evening, became a place of worship. They were lifting hands as we were, and even began to dance. I looked toward the back of the room, where the women attendants (the ones who over see the museum), in their uniforms, formed a circle in the back and began dancing unto the Lord with so much joy, it makes me want to cry just writing about it.

At the end of the praise and worship concert, a large group of women approached me, and one shared that she was healed!!!! She had been limping for 20 years and had a sort of cane (that her friend was now carrying). She said that suddenly she got up off her seat and began to dance again for the first time in 20 years! They then asked for me to pray over them, after saying this is the first time anyone has done this in public!

We ended that glorious evening, at a restaurant, where Paul and I asked for candles, which I lit, and together sang a blessing as we brought in Chanukah! Interestingly she only had 2 candles.. another sign God was with us. We ONLY needed TWO.. The servant, and the first night!!! What a time to bring in the feast of dedication unto the light of the world, as he used us to be a light to the nations!

As we said before, we were invited to come again next year, and this time, they want to publicize the event. Praise God!

Now can I mention our tour guide? He shared with me in the beginning of the trip (very nicely) that he was not a believer. Well, when it was time to go home the morning after the concert, he told me that he’s “not sure after what I saw with my own eyes, that I can say that anymore” He was so happy to get the free CD’s and DVD’s and said he LOVED the music… and ALL OF US! He also said he couldn’t believe the love that we all brought there. He gave me a kiss good by on the cheek, and said “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you).

We had a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and people where touched for sure. We are already missing Cuba, the beautiful people, and are looking forward to going again next year as a part of the anointed worshipers in the Wilbur Ministries Team!

Soon to follow will be a DVD. We will let you know when it’s ready as there is so much more and you will hear Paul share as well.

Thank you again, and please keep the Cuban people and the next Cuba outreach in prayer!

Blessings in Messiah Yeshua
Deborah & Vince



1 comment

  • maria formoso

    maria formoso my testimony

    Pastor: God Bless and thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. Shalom, and may God continue to richly bless you. I wish to tell you how the Lord has changed my life. I shamefully confess that it has been years since I promised my loving Heavenly Father that I would make my story public in a humble attempt to glorify Him. I am slow, but steadfast and today is the day that I sent this to you and other ministries that I love, admire and faithfully follow. I wish I could share this with the world. Not because my story is so great, but because His grace is so awesome! I named this the Guava Diaries. I changed my family name to maintain privacy for members of my family. It is not large enough for a book, and I do not have a blog, and I do not care if I make money from this. I am just keeping my promises to Abba....my creator, my husband, best friend.....my everything. I hope the reading brings you testimony of how amazing our Lord is. Please give Him all the praise. If you can offer suggestions on how I can further this testimony, please feel free to let me know. My real name is Maria Formoso, and my cell phone is 561.452.8026. We serve an awesome God. He is faithful even when we do not deserve it. He loves us even when we do not know he exists. You are my mentor. Thank you for inspiring me everyday. God Bless. THE GUAVA DIARIES That scent. What was that scent? Maria recognized it, but could not recall from where. The opulent, sweet, musky fragrance flooded her senses. She turned around and saw two round yellowish-colored fruits staring back at her. Maria walked closer to the mysterious produce as a familiarity came over her; taking the crop in her hands she recognized the two guavas. As Maria surveyed the contents in her had, her mind traveled back over 47 years to an island nation in the west indies; Maria's birthplace and home to her for the first 8 years of her life. It was in the half-acre, fruit tree-filled backyard that remained after the government confiscated the remaining acre facing the street that snugged the block where Maria and her siblings played uninterrupted as the days passed by. The homes were narrow and elongated; the footprint connecting the streets that made a block. There, next to huge fruit trees blossoming guavas, mangos , grapefruits and bananas; amidst chickens and pigs that grandfather(abuelo) kept cooped up, is where the three siblings spent most of their free time. Maria often wondered if the memories that remained in her mind of that time and place had been warped by time. Time has a way of fading out the pain, and enhancing the joy. The family never returned to the island. Over the years this developed into a disconnect. It is here where Maria always found herself. In a bit of an identity crisis; trying to be something she already was, but had forgotten how to be. Time had corrupted the few memories that remained. It was 1964, Boyeros, Cuba. Five years since the triumph of the 1959 revolution, three years since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and 2 years into the Embargo. Boyeros was a quaint town in the outskirts of Havana, where everyone knew everyone else. Boyeros was home to Jose Marti Airport. Maria's father worked at the airport as an aircraft mechanic. Maria's mother and father were born in Havana to Spaniards that immigrated to the island in the 1890s. Their's was a love story in and of itself. They were a team, partners in everything. Their lives revolved around the family and the beach. Neither had ever traveled outside the province of Havana. Their days unfolded in a comfortable, five-bedroom home where they lived with their three children, and the children's grandparents; abuelo and abuela (grandmother). The Cuban revolution was in its infancy, and the days lingered as my family delighted in the gifts and treasures of living in paradise; a mojito in one hand and a habanero on the other was guaranteed to cure all ailments. Demonstrations of love were commonplace. Maria remembers waking up to hugs and kisses every morning, followed by a ‘cafe con leche’, then a carefree walk to the nearby school. It was all so benign. My family had no idea what lay ahead. Psalm 27:14 (NIV) states “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”. The first years of the revolution, my parents were convinced that the Castro brothers were another transitory rebel movement destined to be eradicated as many before them. This hope soon sailed, upon Castro's alliance with the Soviet Union, and a formal declaration of his stand on communism. My family became obsessed with fleeing the island. This turned into desperation, which lead my parents to blindly pay a man several thousand pesos in for a 90-mile boat ride. The money and the man sailed to the Florida Straits without us. My mother fell into a deep depression and became despondent. Her days were spent in bed crying. My grandmother took over as caregiver. There was this palpable feeling of being confined or trapped within the limits of the island. In early 1964, my parents were finally sponsored by a relative that had fled the island and had finally made his way to the U.S. Sponsorship is a requirement for legal entry into the U.S. Upon that information becoming public, my father was forced to resign from his job as an aircraft mechanic. He was the sole-bread winner for the family. My parents had no idea how long it would take before we would leave the country. The family braced themselves for what lay ahead and cautiously allocated the modest savings they had to render the time ahead. This did not last long since the Castro government changed the cuban currency without any warning. The liquidation of family heirlooms, silverware and jewlery soon followed. With time this also ended. The sense of desperation grew. Genesis 50:21 (NIV) states, “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” and he reassured then and spoke kindly to them. Raised Roman Catholic, attending mass was a sunday ritual. Even with guards standing outside the church doors listening in; just in case anti-Castro sentiments were expressed, my family was faithful with their attendance. Time with God is paramount when you live in a police state. Saturdays were different; the old afro-cuban mystical believes were a regular practice then, as they are today. This pseudo-catholic believe of worshipping various saints; the Lord Jesus Christ being one among many, in exchange for heavenly favors and protection is a common practice throughout the Carribean, and my family was no exception. The african slaves brought to the island by the Conquistadors embraced their Yoruban religion. This pagan religion had different deities. For instance, “Shango” is the deity of thunder and lightning, “Obatala” is the creator of human bodies. The Spanish priests were crusading to convert souls to the Lord Jesus Christ. Refusing to convert, the african slaves disguised their pagan gods by assigning roman catholic saints’ names to them. So “Yemaya”, the goddess of the sea was disguised by Cuba’s patron saint, “La Caridad del Cobre”. This practice among the african slaves of Cuba evolved into Santeria. The basic believe is, if praying to one god is good.......praying to many gods must be better? Yes, my family worshipped many gods. We did not know the Lord back then. In looking back, the Hand of God was definitely over the family; protecting us, guiding us. This despite our routine practice of offending our Lord and Saviour. The adventures that awaited my family revolutionized our lives. Despite our separation from the Lord, He would show us how much He loved us and how His grace was sufficient, even as it lacked our faith. Matthew 10:30-31 (NIV), states “God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.” The embargo brought the intended economic devastation to Cuba's people. Food was rationed, Cuba's youth were drafted into the military at the age of 16 and service was mandatory until the age of 27. Castro's ideology of world domination predestined many cuban youths to serve in Angola, and other parts of the world. Cubans were required to work without pay in the coffee and sugarcane fields. Retribution from the have-nots toward the haves, was a daily occurrence; especially during the revolution’s inception. All wealthy cubans or those associated with the Batista government fled the island immediately or were killed or imprisoned. Many young men were imprisoned. Firing squads were routine. Castro proceeded to sent God or any resemblance of Him sailing away from the island. Castro was to be worshipped. He was everyone’s earthly father. The next few years brought tremendous social change. Children were taught to report their parents upon any anti-Castro utterance. Women were expected to serve in the arm forces along with the men. Every cuban family received a booklet with the rationed amount of food for the week. In those days, groceries were acquired at the corner bodega, and the vast majority of time the available options to purchase did not equate to what was available in the booklet. Resources were scarce and people were hungry. My family's options for long-term survival were vanishing by the day. Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) states “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Maria wiped the outer surface of the guava with a paper napkin in her drawer, and brought the guava to her nose. She inhaled the sweet and musky aroma and closed her eyes. It had been so many years since she had experienced this. She went to her neighbor's office to ask him if he knew where the guavas had come from. John smiled and explained that he had a guava tree at his home. She expressed her gratitude to him, and proceeded to bite the fruit. John and Maria had been cubicle neighbors and friends for many years. Maria had grown into a strong woman of God. She was a civil engineer and a 53-year old single mother of a gorgeous 26-year old daughter. Maria had worked her entire adult life in the civil engineering industry. She designed flood-control structures for a flood control agency in Florida, and over the past 10 years had established the practice of praying over her projects when she started their design and dedicating her work to glorify the Lord. As a born-again Christian, her faith was extremely important to her as was her personal relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. As she bit into the guava, the gritty texture of the fruit along with the seeds took her back to her childhood. Remembering how she would collect guavas from her tree and sit on the covered patio eating them, one after another. It was a summer afternoon and the skies were overcast. The warm breeze traced with salt water caressed her face, as the sounds of thunder announced the imminent storm. By then Maria's parents had chosen to start a home-based deli and delivery service. Albeit illegal and highly risky, the fruits from the trees in their backyard had been processed and cooked into deserts. The guava fruits had evolved into guava paste and guava ‘cascitos’, the dry coconuts from the palm trees were shredded and cooked in sugar, and the chickens became ‘croquetas’, and ‘empanadeas’. Even milk that had gone bad was utilized as desert, by cooking it with sugar. The result was a bitter-sweet lumpy delicacy. It was a sold out hit! My parents were onto something. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) states “I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. It was time to expand. Boyeros was not too far from the agricultural lands of the Havana province. My parents befriended the ranchers. Business trades evolved into the acquisition of cattle meat, when the ranchers slaughtered the cattle. My parents transported the fresh meat via public transportation, since they did not own a vehicle, ever increasing the risk of being caught. The meat became ‘papas rellenas’ (also referred to as Jesus-food, since just one fills you up as if you just had a huge meal). I will never forget the time that my abuelo slaughtered the pet pig. I recall seeing blood everywhere. John 15:18 (NIV) states “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”. Castro’s paranoia became evident by the implementation of a grid system of block informants. This individual was tasked with reporting to the government any suspicious activities or anti-Castro sentiment. Our next door neighbor was our block’s designated informant. She was also our best customer. In fact she covered for my family to keep us in business. Such was the need for food. Despite this, I can recall spending late nights with my grandparents and siblings praying for my parents to return home safely; praying that they had not been caught. This was gut-wrenching. I recall feeling much sorrow growing up as a child. My entire family was socially ostracized, borrowing the service that we offered. All people looking to exile to the U.S. were called derogatory names and shun. The one feeling that was always present growing up was anxiety and fear. Fear for my parents getting caught. Fear that someone might report us for our anti-communist stand. My parent’s entrepreneurial spirit grew despite the disdain demonstrated for my family by many. Romans 8:31 (NIV) states, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Maria sat down in her office as overwhelming feelings of sorrow flooded her mind. Maria had struggled with anxiety and depression her entire live; feelings of shame and unworthiness. Feelings of sorrow which could only be soothed by food; thus her life-long struggle with weight. She had always been terrified of finding herself trapped in situations, she was unable to flee from. Good traits developed from those childhood struggles; an inherit indifference for pleasing the masses or what they may think. A strength to stand alone under the most oppressive situations. Yet she knew that growing up with the feeling of not being good enough was directly linked with Maria’s need to over-achieve in everything she did. Maria grew up with the understanding that she and her siblings had an obligation to surpass their parents accomplishments. A strong work ethic, honesty and compassion for others were all instilled in all the children; as well as a fear of God, although the relationship aspect of this was unknown to them all. Maria’s older sister had always been her strongest advocate. The two had always been close. Lourdes had become a medical doctor, and a Godly woman. She had married Robert, a medical doctor and devout Christian, whom I give full credit for introducing the family to the Lord Jesus Christ. Lourdes and Robert were blessed with two children. Our baby brother was named Miguel, after our father. We call him Micky. He pursued a career in business, and is married with three kids. The years had gone by way too fast. My parents taught us to be grateful to America for “adopting” us, and giving us a home and opportunity to work. We all loved America as our own country, and credited it for all achievements and opportunities. The family had moved to Southern California in 1969, and proceeded to assimilate the American experience. The family went about learning english while my parents held multiple jobs to make ends meet. My mother’s mother died in Cuba without my mother being able to see her. We joined the Cuban-American Social Club, where we interacted with like-minded cuban refugees. My parents mitigated the feelings of bereavement over leaving their home land and knowing they might never returned by attending the functions held there and developing friendship with people of the same past. Romans 8:28 (NIV) states “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. A past now fleeting; giving way to a determination to survive in the U.S. As the years went by the memories faded, but every once in a while a song, a smell, or hearing common terms of endearment such as “mi nina”, “mi amor”, “mi cielo”, or “alabao”, took me back. The years had taken their toll on my parents. They continued working their home-base deli. By then I was about seven. Our lives were incredibly mundane, despite all that was happening around us. It was as if there was a hedge of protection around us. By then my parents’ business had been thriving for some time. In fact, my father made more money running a capitalist underground business then he did as an aircraft mechanic. Much more. It was a September morning in 1969, when the news arrived. My family finally had been granted the visa to leave Cuba and come to America. The celebration and joy was short lived when the government accused my mother of not having met her required voluntary work in the coffee fields. The paperwork documenting her months of voluntary work could not be found. The family was devastated. My mother insisted that the entire family leave without her. Many prayers and tears framed this period of time. I remember a feeling a profound sadness when I thought about not having my mother next to me. It was at the last minute that the paper so sought out after appeared. Praise the Lord. The entire family was leaving the island. I will never forget that day. Our neighbors came to visit. They were so happy for us. I remember them saying “you are going to ‘el Norte’ (to the north).” I had no idea what was happening. I surmised ‘el Norte’ was a good thing. I never thought where that was. It never dawned on me that the life I had for 8 years would never be. The beaches that I so loved, I would never see again. The government rationed the personal belongings we could leave with. I remember we were allowed one doll, one piece of jewlery, and the clothes worn. Still ecstatic, I will never forget the last drive by the Malecon. This is the famous seawall dividing the Altantic Ocean from the City of Havana. A long drive along a rural roadway delineated by tall palm trees followed. The drive’s destination was the Varadero Airport. Maria still has the doll in her possession, as her sister Lourdes. There are those that might think a doll, bracelet, scarf might seal the connection with the island, but I have found that the disconnect is so great that there is no possible bridging it. It is still a source of sadness. When I think of Cuba, I think of an island lost in time. It has been 55 years since Castro’s revolution triumphed. Much has occurred here in America. America has been very good to my family. We will always be grateful for its adoption: accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and rebuking old practices has to be the best reward in this journey. John 3:16 (NIV), states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Having repented for offending my Lord and Savior and asking for His forgiveness, I am amazed at God’s love and grace. My family did not know the Lord during those years on the island. Yet He knew us. Romans 8:29-30 (NIV) states "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." He knew us. He foreknew, predestined, justified and glorified us. Even while my entire family was clueless about Him, He protected us. He created a hedge of protection around us. Because of His grace, my parents were very profitable in an economically depressed communist police state. This happened because His hand was upon us. So many things could of gone wrong during those times of trial and tribulation. My parents could of been killed, of incarcerated. Our family could of stayed stranded on the island. But it was the Will of God that we follow the path He had predestined for us. A beautiful path that introduced us to the most gracious people, a path that lead us all to Him. Indeed it was quite an adventure. He new how he would use us, and indeed He has. My entire family has repented and asked for forgiveness and salvation. Today the Lord Jesus Christ is not just the Son of God, and God in the flesh, but our Heavenly Father, Husband, Friend. For those of you reading this, please do not be deceived by the enemy. There is only one way. John 14:6 (NIV) states “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” I have written this to document my family’s journey from Cuba to the U.S., but more importantly to glorify the Lord. I dedicate the Guava Diaries to my everything. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As my faith has strengthen I have come to realize that the price paid for me at the cross has been the greatest love story of all time. He loves me so much; and He loves you. It does not matter what you have been through, the scars that remain within your soul, or the injustices and betrayals you may have endured. The journey has been worth it. Just to know that you are a child of God. It really does not matter whee you are in life, or what you have done or failed to do. God loves you and if you repent and accept Him as your Savior and your Lord, you will have eternal life.

    Pastor:

    God Bless and thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you. Shalom, and may God continue to richly bless you. I wish to tell you how the Lord has changed my life. I shamefully confess that it has been years since I promised my loving Heavenly Father that I would make my story public in a humble attempt to glorify Him. I am slow, but steadfast and today is the day that I sent this to you and other ministries that I love, admire and faithfully follow. I wish I could share this with the world. Not because my story is so great, but because His grace is so awesome!

    I named this the Guava Diaries. I changed my family name to maintain privacy for members of my family. It is not large enough for a book, and I do not have a blog, and I do not care if I make money from this. I am just keeping my promises to Abba....my creator, my husband, best friend.....my everything. I hope the reading brings you testimony of how amazing our Lord is. Please give Him all the praise. If you can offer suggestions on how I can further this testimony, please feel free to let me know. My real name is Maria Formoso, and my cell phone is 561.452.8026. We serve an awesome God. He is faithful even when we do not deserve it. He loves us even when we do not know he exists. You are my mentor. Thank you for inspiring me everyday. God Bless.

    THE GUAVA DIARIES

    That scent. What was that scent? Maria recognized it, but could not recall from where. The opulent, sweet, musky fragrance flooded her senses. She turned around and saw two round yellowish-colored fruits staring back at her. Maria walked closer to the mysterious produce as a familiarity came over her; taking the crop in her hands she recognized the two guavas. As Maria surveyed the contents in her had, her mind traveled back over 47 years to an island nation in the west indies; Maria's birthplace and home to her for the first 8 years of her life. It was in the half-acre, fruit tree-filled backyard that remained after the government confiscated the remaining acre facing the street that snugged the block where Maria and her siblings played uninterrupted as the days passed by. The homes were narrow and elongated; the footprint connecting the streets that made a block. There, next to huge fruit trees blossoming guavas, mangos , grapefruits and bananas; amidst chickens and pigs that grandfather(abuelo) kept cooped up, is where the three siblings spent most of their free time. Maria often wondered if the memories that remained in her mind of that time and place had been warped by time. Time has a way of fading out the pain, and enhancing the joy. The family never returned to the island. Over the years this developed into a disconnect. It is here where Maria always found herself. In a bit of an identity crisis; trying to be something she already was, but had forgotten how to be. Time had corrupted the few memories that remained.

    It was 1964, Boyeros, Cuba. Five years since the triumph of the 1959 revolution, three years since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and 2 years into the Embargo. Boyeros was a quaint town in the outskirts of Havana, where everyone knew everyone else. Boyeros was home to Jose Marti Airport. Maria's father worked at the airport as an aircraft mechanic. Maria's mother and father were born in Havana to Spaniards that immigrated to the island in the 1890s. Their's was a love story in and of itself. They were a team, partners in everything. Their lives revolved around the family and the beach. Neither had ever traveled outside the province of Havana. Their days unfolded in a comfortable, five-bedroom home where they lived with their three children, and the children's grandparents; abuelo and abuela (grandmother). The Cuban revolution was in its infancy, and the days lingered as my family delighted in the gifts and treasures of living in paradise; a mojito in one hand and a habanero on the other was guaranteed to cure all ailments. Demonstrations of love were commonplace. Maria remembers waking up to hugs and kisses every morning, followed by a ‘cafe con leche’, then a carefree walk to the nearby school. It was all so benign. My family had no idea what lay ahead.

    Psalm 27:14 (NIV) states “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.

    The first years of the revolution, my parents were convinced that the Castro brothers were another transitory rebel movement destined to be eradicated as many before them. This hope soon sailed, upon Castro's alliance with the Soviet Union, and a formal declaration of his stand on communism. My family became obsessed with fleeing the island. This turned into desperation, which lead my parents to blindly pay a man several thousand pesos in for a 90-mile boat ride. The money and the man sailed to the Florida Straits without us. My mother fell into a deep depression and became despondent. Her days were spent in bed crying. My grandmother took over as caregiver. There was this palpable feeling of being confined or trapped within the limits of the island. In early 1964, my parents were finally sponsored by a relative that had fled the island and had finally made his way to the U.S. Sponsorship is a requirement for legal entry into the U.S. Upon that information becoming public, my father was forced to resign from his job as an aircraft mechanic. He was the sole-bread winner for the family. My parents had no idea how long it would take before we would leave the country. The family braced themselves for what lay ahead and cautiously allocated the modest savings they had to render the time ahead. This did not last long since the Castro government changed the cuban currency without any warning. The liquidation of family heirlooms, silverware and jewlery soon followed. With time this also ended. The sense of desperation grew.

    Genesis 50:21 (NIV) states, “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” and he reassured then and spoke kindly to them.

    Raised Roman Catholic, attending mass was a sunday ritual. Even with guards standing outside the church doors listening in; just in case anti-Castro sentiments were expressed, my family was faithful with their attendance. Time with God is paramount when you live in a police state. Saturdays were different; the old afro-cuban mystical believes were a regular practice then, as they are today. This pseudo-catholic believe of worshipping various saints; the Lord Jesus Christ being one among many, in exchange for heavenly favors and protection is a common practice throughout the Carribean, and my family was no exception. The african slaves brought to the island by the Conquistadors embraced their Yoruban religion. This pagan religion had different deities. For instance, “Shango” is the deity of thunder and lightning, “Obatala” is the creator of human bodies. The Spanish priests were crusading to convert souls to the Lord Jesus Christ. Refusing to convert, the african slaves disguised their pagan gods by assigning roman catholic saints’ names to them. So “Yemaya”, the goddess of the sea was disguised by Cuba’s patron saint, “La Caridad del Cobre”. This practice among the african slaves of Cuba evolved into Santeria. The basic believe is, if praying to one god is good.......praying to many gods must be better? Yes, my family worshipped many gods. We did not know the Lord back then. In looking back, the Hand of God was definitely over the family; protecting us, guiding us. This despite our routine practice of offending our Lord and Saviour. The adventures that awaited my family revolutionized our lives. Despite our separation from the Lord, He would show us how much He loved us and how His grace was sufficient, even as it lacked our faith.

    Matthew 10:30-31 (NIV), states “God even knows how many hairs are on your head. So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.”

    The embargo brought the intended economic devastation to Cuba's people. Food was rationed, Cuba's youth were drafted into the military at the age of 16 and service was mandatory until the age of 27. Castro's ideology of world domination predestined many cuban youths to serve in Angola, and other parts of the world. Cubans were required to work without pay in the coffee and sugarcane fields. Retribution from the have-nots toward the haves, was a daily occurrence; especially during the revolution’s inception. All wealthy cubans or those associated with the Batista government fled the island immediately or were killed or imprisoned. Many young men were imprisoned. Firing squads were routine. Castro proceeded to sent God or any resemblance of Him sailing away from the island. Castro was to be worshipped. He was everyone’s earthly father. The next few years brought tremendous social change. Children were taught to report their parents upon any anti-Castro utterance. Women were expected to serve in the arm forces along with the men. Every cuban family received a booklet with the rationed amount of food for the week. In those days, groceries were acquired at the corner bodega, and the vast majority of time the available options to purchase did not equate to what was available in the booklet. Resources were scarce and people were hungry. My family's options for long-term survival were vanishing by the day.

    Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) states “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

    Maria wiped the outer surface of the guava with a paper napkin in her drawer, and brought the guava to her nose. She inhaled the sweet and musky aroma and closed her eyes. It had been so many years since she had experienced this. She went to her neighbor's office to ask him if he knew where the guavas had come from. John smiled and explained that he had a guava tree at his home. She expressed her gratitude to him, and proceeded to bite the fruit. John and Maria had been cubicle neighbors and friends for many years. Maria had grown into a strong woman of God. She was a civil engineer and a 53-year old single mother of a gorgeous 26-year old daughter. Maria had worked her entire adult life in the civil engineering industry. She designed flood-control structures for a flood control agency in Florida, and over the past 10 years had established the practice of praying over her projects when she started their design and dedicating her work to glorify the Lord. As a born-again Christian, her faith was extremely important to her as was her personal relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. As she bit into the guava, the gritty texture of the fruit along with the seeds took her back to her childhood. Remembering how she would collect guavas from her tree and sit on the covered patio eating them, one after another. It was a summer afternoon and the skies were overcast. The warm breeze traced with salt water caressed her face, as the sounds of thunder announced the imminent storm. By then Maria's parents had chosen to start a home-based deli and delivery service. Albeit illegal and highly risky, the fruits from the trees in their backyard had been processed and cooked into deserts. The guava fruits had evolved into guava paste and guava ‘cascitos’, the dry coconuts from the palm trees were shredded and cooked in sugar, and the chickens became ‘croquetas’, and ‘empanadeas’. Even milk that had gone bad was utilized as desert, by cooking it with sugar. The result was a bitter-sweet lumpy delicacy. It was a sold out hit! My parents were onto something.

    Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) states “I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    It was time to expand. Boyeros was not too far from the agricultural lands of the Havana province. My parents befriended the ranchers. Business trades evolved into the acquisition of cattle meat, when the ranchers slaughtered the cattle. My parents transported the fresh meat via public transportation, since they did not own a vehicle, ever increasing the risk of being caught. The meat became ‘papas rellenas’ (also referred to as Jesus-food, since just one fills you up as if you just had a huge meal). I will never forget the time that my abuelo slaughtered the pet pig. I recall seeing blood everywhere.

    John 15:18 (NIV) states “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”.

    Castro’s paranoia became evident by the implementation of a grid system of block informants. This individual was tasked with reporting to the government any suspicious activities or anti-Castro sentiment. Our next door neighbor was our block’s designated informant. She was also our best customer. In fact she covered for my family to keep us in business. Such was the need for food. Despite this, I can recall spending late nights with my grandparents and siblings praying for my parents to return home safely; praying that they had not been caught. This was gut-wrenching. I recall feeling much sorrow growing up as a child. My entire family was socially ostracized, borrowing the service that we offered. All people looking to exile to the U.S. were called derogatory names and shun. The one feeling that was always present growing up was anxiety and fear. Fear for my parents getting caught. Fear that someone might report us for our anti-communist stand. My parent’s entrepreneurial spirit grew despite the disdain demonstrated for my family by many.

    Romans 8:31 (NIV) states, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

    Maria sat down in her office as overwhelming feelings of sorrow flooded her mind. Maria had struggled with anxiety and depression her entire live; feelings of shame and unworthiness. Feelings of sorrow which could only be soothed by food; thus her life-long struggle with weight. She had always been terrified of finding herself trapped in situations, she was unable to flee from. Good traits developed from those childhood struggles; an inherit indifference for pleasing the masses or what they may think. A strength to stand alone under the most oppressive situations. Yet she knew that growing up with the feeling of not being good enough was directly linked with Maria’s need to over-achieve in everything she did. Maria grew up with the understanding that she and her siblings had an obligation to surpass their parents accomplishments. A strong work ethic, honesty and compassion for others were all instilled in all the children; as well as a fear of God, although the relationship aspect of this was unknown to them all. Maria’s older sister had always been her strongest advocate. The two had always been close. Lourdes had become a medical doctor, and a Godly woman. She had married Robert, a medical doctor and devout Christian, whom I give full credit for introducing the family to the Lord Jesus Christ. Lourdes and Robert were blessed with two children. Our baby brother was named Miguel, after our father. We call him Micky. He pursued a career in business, and is married with three kids.

    The years had gone by way too fast. My parents taught us to be grateful to America for “adopting” us, and giving us a home and opportunity to work. We all loved America as our own country, and credited it for all achievements and opportunities. The family had moved to Southern California in 1969, and proceeded to assimilate the American experience. The family went about learning english while my parents held multiple jobs to make ends meet. My mother’s mother died in Cuba without my mother being able to see her. We joined the Cuban-American Social Club, where we interacted with like-minded cuban refugees. My parents mitigated the feelings of bereavement over leaving their home land and knowing they might never returned by attending the functions held there and developing friendship with people of the same past.

    Romans 8:28 (NIV) states “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”.

    A past now fleeting; giving way to a determination to survive in the U.S. As the years went by the memories faded, but every once in a while a song, a smell, or hearing common terms of endearment such as “mi nina”, “mi amor”, “mi cielo”, or “alabao”, took me back.

    The years had taken their toll on my parents. They continued working their home-base deli. By then I was about seven. Our lives were incredibly mundane, despite all that was happening around us. It was as if there was a hedge of protection around us. By then my parents’ business had been thriving for some time. In fact, my father made more money running a capitalist underground business then he did as an aircraft mechanic. Much more.

    It was a September morning in 1969, when the news arrived. My family finally had been granted the visa to leave Cuba and come to America. The celebration and joy was short lived when the government accused my mother of not having met her required voluntary work in the coffee fields. The paperwork documenting her months of voluntary work could not be found. The family was devastated. My mother insisted that the entire family leave without her. Many prayers and tears framed this period of time. I remember a feeling a profound sadness when I thought about not having my mother next to me. It was at the last minute that the paper so sought out after appeared. Praise the Lord. The entire family was leaving the island.

    I will never forget that day. Our neighbors came to visit. They were so happy for us. I remember them saying “you are going to ‘el Norte’ (to the north).” I had no idea what was happening. I surmised ‘el Norte’ was a good thing. I never thought where that was. It never dawned on me that the life I had for 8 years would never be. The beaches that I so loved, I would never see again. The government rationed the personal belongings we could leave with. I remember we were allowed one doll, one piece of jewlery, and the clothes worn. Still ecstatic, I will never forget the last drive by the Malecon. This is the famous seawall dividing the Altantic Ocean from the City of Havana. A long drive along a rural roadway delineated by tall palm trees followed. The drive’s destination was the Varadero Airport.

    Maria still has the doll in her possession, as her sister Lourdes. There are those that might think a doll, bracelet, scarf might seal the connection with the island, but I have found that the disconnect is so great that there is no possible bridging it. It is still a source of sadness. When I think of Cuba, I think of an island lost in time. It has been 55 years since Castro’s revolution triumphed. Much has occurred here in America. America has been very good to my family. We will always be grateful for its adoption: accepting Christ as Lord and Savior and rebuking old practices has to be the best reward in this journey.

    John 3:16 (NIV), states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

    Having repented for offending my Lord and Savior and asking for His forgiveness, I am amazed at God’s love and grace. My family did not know the Lord during those years on the island. Yet He knew us.

    Romans 8:29-30 (NIV) states "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

    He knew us. He foreknew, predestined, justified and glorified us. Even while my entire family was clueless about Him, He protected us. He created a hedge of protection around us. Because of His grace, my parents were very profitable in an economically depressed communist police state. This happened because His hand was upon us. So many things could of gone wrong during those times of trial and tribulation. My parents could of been killed, of incarcerated. Our family could of stayed stranded on the island. But it was the Will of God that we follow the path He had predestined for us. A beautiful path that introduced us to the most gracious people, a path that lead us all to Him. Indeed it was quite an adventure. He new how he would use us, and indeed He has. My entire family has repented and asked for forgiveness and salvation. Today the Lord Jesus Christ is not just the Son of God, and God in the flesh, but our Heavenly Father, Husband, Friend. For those of you reading this, please do not be deceived by the enemy. There is only one way.

    John 14:6 (NIV) states “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

    I have written this to document my family’s journey from Cuba to the U.S., but more importantly to glorify the Lord. I dedicate the Guava Diaries to my everything. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As my faith has strengthen I have come to realize that the price paid for me at the cross has been the greatest love story of all time. He loves me so much; and He loves you. It does not matter what you have been through, the scars that remain within your soul, or the injustices and betrayals you may have endured. The journey has been worth it. Just to know that you are a child of God. It really does not matter whee you are in life, or what you have done or failed to do. God loves you and if you repent and accept Him as your Savior and your Lord, you will have eternal life.

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