Dallas pastor talks Cuba mission, Castro, breaking barriers and building trust

Photo courtesy of Dr. DeShawndranique Grey

Dr. Michael Bowie Jr., senior pastor of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church, led a seven-day mission trip along with 14 others to Cuba. The group was in Cuba after the death of President Fidel Castro and upon their return last week to the States, Bowie shared their experience, along with rare photos with rolling out.

What was the purpose of the mission trip?
The goal was not to build brick and mortar but to build relationships, remove barriers and restore trust. Think about being locked in a place for over 50 years with no guests [being allowed] in. Being followers of Jesus, we came to show love.

What was the Cubans’ reaction when they encountered your group? Contrary to popular belief, they love seeing Americans, and they really get excited about seeing Christians. They were drawn to our love. We thought we were coming to bless them but they really blessed us. Some of our members were really overwhelmed by the Cuban people’s spiritual wealth in the midst of abject poverty and that provided us a sense of hope. They were smiling, very resilient and extremely resourceful. Just seeing the cars that they drive and places that they dwell and worship. One might think they are in a time warp in comparison to what we have grown accustomed to, however, these people live with great joy and humility.

Many of the photos that you have shared depict your interactions with the Cuban people, share how you witnessed to them? People were coming from all around, a baby that had a cold, a gentleman with a broken arm, and there was a lady who was missing a limb we prayed for them all. The setting was unusual, as we would minister in the street on porches or wherever the spirit moved us. I found myself preaching 6 to 7 times a day. I might have been tired but I was so inspired to keep going.

While you were in Cuba, there was some historic news released, President Fidel Castro passed away. What was the mood and how did it change your group’s visit? Yes, on Saturday morning we found out that Castro had died on Friday evening. Everything stopped and was shut down immediately. We literally had to stop our plans to be a part of a country that was grieving. Mind you, this is a country driven by tourism but they were sincerely in mourning and we joined them to comfort them. Mathew 5:5 says “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Unlike what you saw here in Miami and other places outside of Cuba, the mood was sad and somber, as they began their nine days of mourning. Despite what we think of the man, we respected them and supported our Cuban brothers and sisters.

We were also able to obtain one of the newspapers distributed on the day after Castro’s death. They were reluctant to share these papers with “non-Cubans” as they did not want to be mocked or disrespected, however, they understood our sincerity and allowed us to take one.

How has this trip to Cuba impacted your life and what were some of your key takeaways? 

Although I have been there before, this particular trip was different. To be there for this historical moment is only God’s work. One thing I can say is that we are truly blessed in America. They don’t have drug stores or retailers like we do, so we tried to provide items that they don’t have access to. The things that we take for granted, toiletries, toothpaste, soap, everyday items are a luxury. Things such as warm water, toilet seats, and transportation, for example, a bicycle is like a Bentley in their environment.

They are resourceful, so the things we complain about are minuscule in comparison. Key takeaway, we are blessed to be a blessing to all.

Note: Castro’s remains were cremated, and his ashes were taken around Cuba until the state funeral on Dec. 4.

For more information about Dr. Michael Bowie and St. Luke Community U.M.C., go to http://slcumc.org/.

Check out the amazing photos provided by Dr. DeShawndranique Grey.

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