Our trip leader, Polly Paulson sharing thoughts on the upcoming trip. Read her story below!!
Why I’m Going to Cuba
Three years ago, I embarked on my first mission trip to Cebu City in Cebu, Philippines. Prior to leaving, I was struggling with the aftermath of a recent divorce and the depression and shame that accompanied it. I felt distanced from the Lord, disconnected from the Church, disappointed in myself. I knew I needed help, so with the guidance and encouragement of godly counsel, I resumed attendance at Forest Hill Church, joined a Life Group, and got involved. I even decided to take a giant leap of faith and travel across the world to the Philippines. I prayed that God would use the trip to transform my life.
While on the trip, I began to dig into the Word and to spend time in reflection. I realized how much damage my recent circumstances had done, yet I was hopeful that the Lord was just waiting to restore me. Isaiah 58:8 speaks of this very restoration. It says, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear.” Verses 10-11 continue with, “Then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Oh, how those verses spoke to me. Oh, how I wanted all those things!
As I continued to meditate on this scripture, a certain word caught my eye…then. Then always follows an if, so I reread the passage to determine what the first part was. I discovered that the answer to freedom from depression, shame, and negativity is quite simple. Quit focusing on self! Isaiah 58:6-7 encourages us “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke, to share food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, and to clothe the naked’’ That’s the if. If I became a followed Christ’s example and became a servant, if I shifted the focus from self to others, the darkness would lift and the healing would come. I desperately needed this promise to be true.
Want to know the good news? The promise is true! When I served the Filipino people, when I put others first, I could feel the Lord transforming my life. I could sense the beginning of a great and mighty healing. If fact, my life’s focus hasn’t been the same since that trip. Serving in Cebu opened my eyes to the great needs of others around the world, and I have been so blessed to travel and serve in many other countries including Colombia, Rwanda, and Cuba as well as here in Charlotte. Each place, each trip God has used to continue to mold me into His image. From the people I have met, I have learned so much about joy, worship, faith, hope and love, and I always return with wonderful memories and new friendships.
Cuba is one of those places God has placed in my path. I travelled to this beautiful island nation in 2010 and 2011, and I look forward to returning in April and August of 2012. I am eager to resume my friendships with the pastors and their wives and families. I look forward to practicing my slowly-growing conversational Spanish with the teenagers and children. I long to worship freely and passionately with this body of believers. I desire to serve and encourage in whatever way I can. Quite simply, I go to bring glory to God. My life is in His hands to use as He sees fit. I’m so thankful and humbled that He sees fit to use me in Cuba.
As I prepare to return to Cuba in a few months, I can’t help but think back to that very first trip in 2009 and the way God spoke to me through the passage in Isaiah. I also remember how the next year, while sitting in the Havana airport, God confirmed His promise to strengthen my frame and make me a well-watered garden when He revealed to me Ezekiel, the 36th chapter. Verse 36 says, “Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.” He surely has. He has done it. He has rebuilt my life. He has replanted, restored, redeemed and rescued. He longs to do the same for all of us. That is the Gospel of grace, and that is the news I go to share.