New England Yearly Meeting

A community of Quakers and Quaker meetings across New England.

Exciting Field Report from our Inter-generational Delegation in Cuba!

Jun 20, 2017
Abigail Adams (Storrs)

The delegation's Scribe paints a delightful picture of a VERY full day of music, crafts, worship, and deepening friendships at Vista Alegre Friends Church. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Up early, packed and out the door at 7:30 to spend the day at VistaAlegre. This is a neighborhood of Holguin that used to be quite poor, located quite close to the center and the Holguin church. The story goes that the mother of Maria (China) was quite the Pied Piper and gathered together many of the children of the neighborhood for Sunday school and fun and instruction. The children involved their parents, a clear faith community emerged, and they requested to form a separate congregation. The Holguin pastor of the time gave permission, not necessarily in his own church's interest, given the numbers and energy of the Vista Alegre crew. He had a condition which was that Maria stay at Holguin, which she accepted.


The jovenes are at the church with refreshments for us, plenty of spark, and lots of work. The leadership of the youth are the ones who joined us on the outing to Salto de Gustavo. We spend the morning painting outside patio walls a great aqua/teal color and then all the grillwork (bars for security over every door and window) in yellow cream in an oil based horrible paint. They put together a delicious break of lemonade, fruit and mayonnaise sandwiches and then start cooking spaghetti with homemade sauce. 


It is a lovely little church with a small but open and airy meeting room, the outside private patio behind and a small bright kitchen. More and more people come by to help and they take over the grillwork painting, to my relief. Several of our young people and the jovenes climb up walls and roofs to do painting higher up. Lively friendships start to form.


After lunch, we sing and decide on what to share with the children at their afternoon service. We put together the crafts -- friendship bracelets, god's eyes, bead bracelets and necklaces and coloring sheets of birds that migrate between New England and Cuba. 


The children gather for the service, led by Jorge, in singing and sharing and then off to do crafts with us. The crafts end up being a great time, almost meditative, with the kids and teenagers riveted. The friendship bracelets , taught by Daniel, are The Big Hit. People are obsessed, weaving away and consulting with Daniel until 11 at night, through dinner, worship, fellowship, planning, they just cannot put these down. We leave to go to separate houses in the neighborhood to shower and dress for dinner and the youth worship service. The jovenes have built a fireplace in the patio to boil the caldoza they are preparing for our dinner. This is a thick soup with a squash base, and then all kinds of starchy vegetables such as corn, malanga, boniata, yucca, platanos and then finished off with smoked ham sautéed in onions and garlic.


I go to the house around the corner of an older lively couple Zoila and Otero and their grown children who pop in to visit. We are treated to a great shower, tea and conversation. Zoila prescribes tincture of bitter orange for our swollen ankles and gives us a bottle. She has four children, one daughter in Miami, one who just moved to Ecuador, another around the corner and a son as well around the corner. Their house is clean and bright and they have a lovely garden in front with orchids, one blooming, roses, hibiscus and several other flowering plants and medicinal plants. Maggie receives a handful of tilo and another plant which can be used for a tea to help with sleep. Otero was a government dentist and is now retired but does work from his house including creating prosthetics. 


Back to the church for huge bowls of caldoza and then in to the culto de jovenes  which features everyone from the afternoon and our other Adventures plus new faces some of them Zoila and otero's grandchildren. A toddler girl runs around cared for by all the little kids and her mother and father, who sit on opposite sides of the church. A couple in crisis. We share some songs and words about ourselves and again our music is outdone by the skill and preparation of the jovenes. Before the service, they teach several of us merengue steps, dancing to the rhythms of the Christian Latin music that is always playing.


After the service, we are treated to ice cream and then finally everyone clears out of the church and heads over to the Central Park to sing some more. Daniel is recruited to play guitar, sing and make bracelets and off he goes for another hour and a half. Most of us are too beat to do anything more than lurch towards the church and sleep. I head to bed after we walk into the church's fellowship area and see that the staff has transformed it! They have also tidied up our dorms with much love. The last excitement of the evening is when Maggie climbs onto her top bunk-- and it collapses, fortunately with no injury to her! I was half asleep on my top bunk-- and find myself standing in front of her to help, with no memory of how I got there.

/s/ Abigail Adams (Storrs) 


New England Yearly Meeting of Friends

901 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602

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