Margate middle schoolers visit Cuba
11 students from Abundant Life Christian Academy visit church in El Cotorro
HAVANA – People-to-people missions are one of the more popular reasons Americans travel to Cuba, as are opportunities to learn more about the communist country.
A group of middle schoolers from Margate got to experience this week what life is like on the island.
The streets are dark and not fully paved in a neighborhood called El Cotorro.
It's not a long ways from home for the children geographically, but it is distant when it comes to a way of life.
About 100 American and Cuban children of all ages waited to get inside a small protestant church during the trip.
"It's a life-changing experience," Abundant Life Christian Academy principal Stacy Angier said. "To me, it's so important that we understand that God's love does go beyond borders and it goes beyond problems and everything else."
The Abundant Life Christian Academy in Margate has been bringing students to Cuba for four years, and brought 11 middle school students this year.
"You don't know who they are, but they'll hug you and greet you," seventh grader Gaetanne Lubin said.
Lubin said she is not surprised by the Cuban landscape, the poverty or the people, because her parents are from Haiti.
She and others were hand-picked for the trip, as the visit tends to be filled with long, exhausting days from early morning until late in the evening.
"Some of our kids in America are kind of soft and they don't understand how to really reach out to other people, and Cuba offers such a wonderful opportunity for them to come to the church and get to know people, get to know other children," Angier said.
"They take the smallest things and they make the biggest," student Elijah Williams said. "I learned that I need to be more satisfied and more grateful for what God has given me."
The pastor of Ebenezer Church, Angel Toledo, said the visit was a blessing because the neighborhood is far from the center of Havana, and they don't get as many foreign church groups.
But this group, he thinks, always exceeds expectations by focusing on children.
Toledo said they really have a passion that leaves his church with a blessing.
That's something great, he said, given that the church in Cuba has always faced challenges of continuing its Christian faith.
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