Mission Trip to El Centro Presbytery of Cuba:  February 5-13, 2018 The trip will be led by Ken Lasseter and Pat Zinn.  Ken and Pat are co-chairs of the Central Florida Presbytery Cuba Leadership Team (CLT), and were on the 2015 and 2017 mission trips to El Centro.  Ken is an elder at Wekiva Church, serves on the CLT and the Presbytery’s Mission Development Committee, and participated in the installation of the Living Waters for the World system at Paraíso Obrero (Cabaiguán) in May 2016.  Pat is an elder at Pineda Presbyterian, serves on the Cuba Leadership Team, and was co-leader of the 2017 mission trip. This trip is for you if:  You would like the opportunity to develop a relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters in Cuba and explore the possibility of your congregation establishing a relationship/partnership with a congregation in El Centro Presbytery. The estimated basic cost of the trip is $1,100, which includes round trip airfare from Florida to Santa Clara, Cuban visa and exit tax, and lodging, food, and transportation in Cuba.  It does not include incidental expenses you might have while you are there.  It is likely everyone will stay at churches the first five nights.  When we come back together for the final two to three days, we will probably stay at a location outside of Sancti Spiritus.  In many cases the rooms at the churches have several bunk beds in them, but it depends on the individual church. The application is attached.  Everyone needs to complete an application.  You can fill in an electronic version and email it to Pat Zinn, pezinn@bellsouth.net, or your can print the application, write in the information, scan it and email it to Pat. Here are a few important points to keep in mind.
  • Space is limited to approximately 25 people. It will not necessarily be on a first come first serve basis as we want to make sure we are able to have representatives from as many churches as would like to go.  (This hasn’t been an issue in the past.)
  • There will be two important orientation meetings in the three months before we leave.
  • We plan to fly out of Orlando on Southwest Airlines, with a transfer in Fort Lauderdale. We’ll be able to check our bags through to Santa Clara at Orlando.  Currently the flight is scheduled to leave Orlando at 11:30 a.m. with the return flight arriving in Orlando at 9:20 p.m.  Note:  If plans change and we fly JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale, we’ll need an overnight in Ft. Lauderdale before the flight.
  • Everyone is required to have a Religious Visitor visa from the Cuban government. The cost of the visa must be paid upfront and needs to be applied for by our Cuban hosts at least 13 weeks in advance of our departure.  Therefore:
a) The application deadline is October 6. b) A deposit of $150 must be paid by October 13. It will be refundable up until that date. However, the deposit will be non-refundable once we notify our Cuban hosts on October 16 who will be coming and they start the process of applying for the visas.  All funds will flow through Karen Daniel at the Presbytery office.  How to pay the deposit and the balance of the cost of the trip is included on the application.  Please wait to pay this deposit until after you are notified your application has been approved.
  • Passport information is needed for the visa application. If you do not have a passport, you need to start the process now.  If you have a passport, you need to make certain it is valid for at least six months beyond February 13; otherwise your visa application will be turned down.  In other words, be certain the expiration date of your passport is after September 30, 2018.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides current health information, including updates on the Zika virus, for travelers to Cuba. The website is:  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/clinician/none/cuba.
  • We hope to arrange a cultural visit while we are in Cuba. On the 2015 and 2017 trips, we visited the city of Trinidad, which is near the southern coast in the province of Sancti Spiritus.  It is a well preserved Spanish colonial settlement and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This trip will be similar to the 2015 and 2017 trips in that we will spend all of our time in the two provinces, Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus, which make up the Central Presbytery of Cuba.  We will not be going to Havana.  We will further explore whether or not individual congregations would like to build a relationship/partnership with one of El Centro’s 13 churches.  Therefore, the plan will be for individuals to have the first five days at one or two churches, spending time with the pastor, the Session, participating in church activities, sharing meals together, and spending time with church members in their homes.  We will come together for the final two to three days to share our experiences and meet with their Council.  This trip is really about a ministry of presence and building relationships.  In the years to come I am sure churches will organize their own mission trips to your partner churches.  This trip is a first step in that process. Some of you may be uncertain which churches you want to visit, which is understandable.  There is a Data Base on the 13 churches on the CFP website.  (There is a wealth of other information about the partnership as well.)  Though there is a place on the application to fill in which church(s) you want to visit, you do not need to make that decision before deciding whether or not you want to go on the trip.  However, you will need to make that decision by the end of November so our Cuban partners can plan the visit.  In addition to the Data Base, those who went on the 2017 trip would be happy to speak with you about the churches we visited.  The names and churches of everyone are available at the Presbytery website (see the link for the Cuban Partnership Webpage at http://www.cfpresbytery.org/serve.html and then the list of 2017 Cuba Mission Trip Participants). You are welcome to email or call Ken (ken.lasseter@yahoo.com) at 407-810-9123 or Pat (pezinn@bellsouth.net) at 321-848-1051) if you have any questions.