Shalom to all who read this!
My name is Gavin Brandenburg, a senior at Huntington High School, and a member of First UMC of Huntington in the Western District. From December 27th to January 13th, Gabe Papadopoulos and I joined the Northeast Jurisdiction Council on Youth Ministry’s Mission of Peace trip to Cuba, to represent the wild and wonderful Conference of West Virginia, our cities, and home churches. The best way to understand the Mission of Peace is to understand shalom.
Shalom is a whole or holy bringing of peace, health, joy in sorrow, hope and despair, community, and home. Our Mission is, “Mission of Peace is in Cuba to live in Christian community and deeply experience Cuba so we may spread shalom.” Which is exactly what this body of United Methodist youth did, we had fellowship with orphans, handicapped individuals, other Christians, pastors, churchgoers, and the Cuban people.
The work that the Mission of Peace has done, is to build Christian community for all that we encounter, to tear down the walls of a language gap, and truly be brothers and sisters through Christ Jesus, the one who died for the sins of the entire world. We went to different churches in Cuba and experienced what God is doing for the Cuban people and learned about the history and struggles that have endured. Each time we would go somewhere someone would say, “You and I, we are friends.” Their scope of hospitality is vast in so many ways, even though they barely have anything. The people of Matanzas, Jovellanos, Carlos Rojas, Havana, Bay of Pigs, Varadero, are Christ-like people. These people are instilled with the Love of Jesus, the hospitality of God, and the ever-flowing faith of the Spirit.
These experiences in Cuba, has taken me deeper in my path of discipleship with Jesus Christ. Going to Cuba has opened my eyes to poverty, sacrifice, and beyond else- love. Love for my fellow person, love for the God who loves us all, and love of Christian community built in Cuba and here in The West Virginia Conference.
During a time of worship in Cuba, we shared a Call to Worship and it goes,
L: “Let us remember that we are in God’s presence: “We always hope, and in all things, it is better to hope than despair. When we return to really trust in God, there will no longer be room in our souls for fear.” (Goethe)
L: Lord make me an instrument of Your peace
R: Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
For it is in giving that we are pardoned;
And, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Muchas Gracias and Godspeed!