Costa Rica and Cuba

June 1, 2024

Let's catch up with Joe as he tells us about his recent trip to Costa Rica and Cuba!
Pura Vida

This would be my first time walking through the winding streets of Havana, streets adorned with beautiful balconied colonial Spanish buildings, infused with Afro-Caribbean life and colour, salsa music igniting every small cafe and eatery, with people spilling out dancing in the humid glow of the evening sunset, the city is magical and bursting with so much life! Almost side by side along these streets stands both defiant beauty, alongside the crumbling relics of yesterday - and in so many ways, that sums up the indomitable spirit of the Cuban people, full of life, joy, purpose and destiny! A refusal to crumble, but to instead show the world the beauty of their soul.

We had just arrived from another remarkable country and culture, in Costa Rica we had spent time in both the urban setting of San Jose and the beautiful, but very needy region of Limón. As we would find in Cuba, our amazing Costa Rican friends, despite their significant challenges were also full of life, joy, God’s presence and what they lovingly refer to, always with a glint in their eye, ‘Pura Vida!’ (Pure Life!)
Pioneer International

Many of you will be aware that Links has been working in partnership with Pioneer International to support the growing network in the area of community development projects. Pioneer International is the overseas expression of the Pioneer Network of churches, which for any who may not be aware is one of the apostolic networks of the ‘New Church Movement’ in the UK. It is a relational family of international churches, held together by the values within Pioneer. It was a real joy to be able to travel with Billy and Caroline Kennedy, who lead Pioneer International, on this occasion too.

Since the beginning of 2023 I have been in close contact with several incredible partners in both Costa Rica and Cuba and would consider them to be great friends now, so it was a real joy to be able to meet with them in their home countries, both of which were new countries for me, countries I have long dreamt of visiting.
Training and Empowerment

In both Costa Rica and Cuba, we were able to carry out conferences, covering themes pertinent to the Pioneer Network, the initiation of a leadership and theological training school and several sessions on Links’ work and holistic missiology. These were really powerful times of learning and ministry together in both settings.

Alongside training in San Jose, Costa Rica and Havana, Cuba, we were also able to visit other regions, such as Limón on the eastern coast of Costa Rica. Whilst stunningly beautiful, with tropical surroundings and beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, Limón is also an incredibly poor area with villages with little to no access to amenities and with fledgling church communities trying to survive. Despite the extreme needs, the churches are full of faith and joy, and we had some wonderful times together with them. I was able to visit several settings with great potential for agricultural projects, alongside a clear need for micro enterprise development to begin to see the local micro economies within the villages have a chance to regenerate. It was also clear that finding leaders to train up as volunteer CHC leads would also greatly benefit the communities.
Revolutionary Faith

At over 35 degrees, with sweat pouring down our brows, we danced and sang Latin worship songs at the top of our lungs, whilst the people raised the roof with their praises. It was so great to see the boldness and fire that the Church in Cuba has, despite the subtle undertones of oppression and control. The Church was still very ‘loud and proud’ of what they believe and clearly had great respect in their local communities.

Seeing the way that communism has played out on this Hispanic island was fascinating. There is still a huge amount of creativity in art, architecture and music and a very strong faith influence, from both catholic and evangelical belief. Despite the hardships - often shops would be next to empty of any goods, medicines incredibly hard to find etc - the people were so full of life and joy, with community being very important and evident all around. Daily as either power cuts or water was shut off for hours at a time, people would gather and chat together, telling jokes on the streets outside their houses, until the power would finally return. It was so beautiful to see their love and care for each other.

We are really excited to be exploring how we could work with together with our partners in the areas of both economic needs, but also leadership/theological development, both of which, together with Pioneer International, Links is in a great position to be able to help with training and resources. It’s also clear that there are many opportunities to develop land in the rural communities for agricultural use. Alongside these opportunities we are looking to develop micro enterprise initiatives to bolster people’s livelihood through small businesses or services in the informal economy.

We look forward to telling you more about these exciting opportunities as we move forward together with our amazing partners, people full of God’s presence, resilience, and Pura Vida, connected to confront poverty and together to create potential!

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