Jennifer was one of 10 students who traveled to Cuba this summer as part of a mission project with the Florida Baptist Convention.
In addition to the missions opportunity, Cuba held a particular interest to Jennifer. She is a Cuban American, born to Cuban parents who immigrated to the United States as children.
While it was not her primary motivation for joining the team, Jennifer admitted there was some mystique about visiting the land of her heritage. She wanted to see for herself what life is like in the nation her parents once called home.
As she prepared for the trip, Jennifer also remembered that she has relatives in Cuba that she had never met.
A few weeks prior to leaving the Graceville, Fla., campus, Jennifer confided to missions professor Rich Elligson that she had an uncle living somewhere in Havana.
"Jennifer casually mentioned an uncle in Havana, and wondered aloud about the possibility of meeting him there," Elligson said. Knowing the rigors of the schedule, the remote location the team would be working, and the complexities of arranging such a meeting, he was skeptical of a reunion.
"I basically told her that we were going to the interior to work, and would spend very little time in the capital city," he said. "But I said we would see how things went. I didn't want her to get her hopes up."
After an intense week of ministry concluded, the exhausted team boarded the bus, headed to Havana for their departure back to the States. Content with her week of ministry, Jennifer still wondered about meeting her uncle.
"Jennifer had a couple of potential phone numbers for her uncle with her," Elligson said. "I encouraged her to go ahead and call. Who knows? Maybe something would work out after all."
Jennifer's uncle answered the phone almost immediately, and he graciously offered to meet her in Havana before the group departed. The next morning, she embraced her mother's brother for the very first time.
But there is more to the story.
With the team headed to a local marketplace, Jennifer's uncle decided to join her and the group. For the next few hours they visited and caught up on family news. The conversation eventually turned to the team's purpose for being in Cuba -- and the Gospel. A volunteer team leader reached for his Bible, and a student translator joined them at a wooden table while mission team volunteers quietly prayed.
Jennifer's uncle said he believed in God, but was not sure how Jesus fit into his life. He said he wasn't sure how God could really love a man like him. During the next 30 minutes, Jennifer's uncle learned of God's great love demonstrated in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross.
"He was very intent," Kelsi, a missions major who helped with translation, said. "Before the conversation ended, he was answering his own questions. It was exciting to watch."
Jennifer's uncle said yes when asked if he wanted to trust Jesus. And as the conversation concluded, Jennifer led her uncle to faith in Christ.
"Our God is an amazing God," she said. "I know we shouldn't be so surprised when He does abundantly more than we ask or think, but I am sure glad on this trip He did just that. What an amazing trip … and what an amazing God."
Sandra Richards is director of enrollment management and marketing at The Baptist College of Florida (www.baptistcollege.edu). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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