A mission team from First Baptist Church in Charlotte weathered Hurricane Ike in Cuba when the storm hit the island nation Sept. 8.
The eight team members were in Santiago in southeast Cuba, about 75 to 100 miles away from the hardest hit areas, said Truett Taylor, who was on the trip.
“The storm didn’t hit us full force,” he said.
The team saw a lot of wind and rain and was without power for a couple of days but otherwise fared well. Team members were even able to track the storm on a host family’s laptop computer as it approached.
“We didn’t have any life-threatening things,” Taylor said. “If we would have, they would have definitely moved us to a different location.”
The team stayed in a home that was donated to the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba. Some members of Cuban Baptist churches took shelter in an unfinished retirement home for one or two nights during the storm.
N.C. Baptists and others have been working on the facility for four or five years, according to Taylor. He described its current state as “pretty close to habitable” with strong, thick walls made of cinderblock and concrete.
“That was actually a good place to stay even though they didn’t have lights,” he said.
Taylor said the group didn’t get to do as much work as planned, but used the time to bond with the Cuban people, who he described as loving.
“It shows the love of God,” he said. “They are depressed form all sides yet they’ve got the spirit to carry on.”
Taylor said the team felt the prayers of people back in North Carolina.
“We made the best of what we had,” he said. “When you’re in a situation like that you do what you have to do and keep going.”
The team from Charlotte First Baptist was in Cuba from Sept. 2-10. Richard Brunson, the head of N.C. Baptist Men, said a group from Southside Baptist Church in Mooresville left for Cuba on Sept. 10 and is scheduled to return Sept. 17. A team from Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte is expected to be in the country from Sept.16-24.
Brunson said the teams might end up working on disaster relief efforts. He has sent a message to Baptist leaders in Cuba offering to help, but had not heard back from them.
Mission teams that go to Cuba have to have a license to travel there from the U.S. Treasury Department and a religious visa from Cuba, Brunson said. N.C. Baptists have a partnership with Baptists in the country.