We had to shed a lot of baggage to get to the top of the mountain. Up there, life is simpler. There’s no electricity and no running water, unless you count the rain which cut deep ruts in the trail that wound around the mountain.
It was four-wheel-drive country and we had a minivan. Really, it was a horse or oxcart trail and most people came to the church on foot.
We drove across the island of Cuba – seven people and our filming equipment stuffed into the minivan. To go, we had to drastically trim our luggage.
We’d already done that once, leaving a third of our clothes and equipment back in Cancun. Now we sliced again, trying to anticipate equipment needs. We ended up taking two sets of clothes – the ones we wore and a clean set – for the four-day journey.
We walked the last half mile up the trail, allowing the minivan to lurch and bump its way without our extra weight. As we turned the final corner, we saw over 100 people in the clearing waiting for us.
A small group waited under a tree, gathered around an oxcart. Children were playing in the shadow of the church and knots of people stood near the parsonage.
The women came to kiss our cheeks and the men, after a quick handshake, took our bags.
We were whisked into the house for a cup of espresso – the cup of hospitality in Cuba – and allowed to change to fresh clothes.
“When does the graduation start?” I asked our director.
“Right now,” he said. “As soon as we get there.”
This seminary, tucked away in the mountains nearly 600 miles from the city of Havana, had instructed 14 students in Bible knowledge for three years. This was their first graduation and the mountains were alive with excitement.
They had waited for us, the church exuberantly decorated with flowers and ribbons.
Tomorrow: their sacrifice