The White Rose Ministry hosted two special visitors from Cuba on November 17 and 18: Reverend Elmer Lavastida-Alfonso and his wife Reverend Gisela Pérez-Muñiz, joined us to further strengthen the ties between our institutions and our respective countries. Reverend Lavastida-Alfonso preached on Sunday, November 18. In cooperation with our White Rose Ministry, the Reverends Lavastida made a presentation during Fellowship Hour highlighting issues such as their programs in the Santiago area of western Cuba, the impact that hurricane Sandy had on Cuba, and general challenges affecting the island. Hurricane Sandy decimated much of western Cuba on its march northward. Elmer and Gisela have hosted many members of First Church during our visits t Cuba.
Rev. Lavastida-Alfonso and Rev. Pérez-Muñiz visited from Second Baptist Church, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. They both graduated from the Baptist Theological Seminary in Santiago de Cuba in 1964. Since then they have served in four Baptist churches in the Eastern region of Cuba—the first two while they were still singles and the last two together. Their present pastorate at El Salvador Church spans 37 years. They have raised two daughters while there, and they now have a number of grandchildren.
The decade of the 90´s ushered in a climate of political and social openness that allowed the churches to resume the social responsibilities that they had historically held, and the churches in Cuba have grown in membership and in a diversity of ministries as a result.
Leaders of several evangelical churches with shared interests have organized so as to benefit both the churches themselves and the Cuban communities surrounding them. The Center was established in 1995, uniting the churches in a holistic mission which includes the study of the Bible, new forms of worship, and Christian testimony on such different areas as family health, ecology, and gender. In addition, the Center promotes social service—or diakonia—through small projects related to agriculture, repairing of houses, and neighborhood ecology, with a focus o water supplies and alternative energy. More than 50 of these homes and farms are functioning now. During the 17 years since the founding of the Center, Rev. Lavastida-Alfonso and Rev. Pérez-Muñiz have shared pastoral and Center responsibilities: Elmer as senior pastor of the church and Gisela as chairperson of the center.