Cuban pastor Jose Ramon Ruiz Perez and his family
Cuban pastor tells of hurricane damage
Before he became an ordained elder in The Methodist Church in Cuba, Jose Ramon Ruiz Perez was a medical doctor there.
Rev. Perez visited Oklahoma recently, asking Oklahoma churches to help with hurricane recovery where he ministers — in one of Cuba’s poorest regions.
Before Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. eastern coast in October, people in the Holguin province suffered its force, in what is called East Cuba.
Many were left homeless as communities were devastated, Perez told Volunteers In Mission (VIM) officials and other Conference staff on April 22 in Oklahoma City.
He pastors St. James Methodist Church in Mayari, with about 300 worshippers. That’s an increase from 200 people in 2011, he said. Due to the growth, the crowd far exceeds the church’s space, with many people gathering outside just to be part of worship.
St. James Church reaches out to communities with food, shelter, clothing, and hope. But the 106-year-old building, already in decline, was damaged by the hurricane. Roof, walls, and kitchen were torn away.
Perez asks for volunteers and funds to help repair the building as the church struggles to continue its witness and help its neighbors.
"Oklahomans know well the destruction that nature can create," said VIM Coordinator Lori Foster. She has served four VIM missions in Cuba and will return in 2014.
She vividly remembers seeing people kneel and pray for an hour on Wednesday mornings at St. James. "They prayed for the community. There was a waiting list to go pray there," Foster said.
Before they are received as church members, people complete specific Bible studies, Perez said.
Foster said a religious tourist visa or educational tourist visa is required to enter Cuba. The government allows 24 teams per year to enter for construction purposes.
Perez also serves as superintendent of 31 churches in the North Holguin District. He is the son of a Methodist pastor.
Watch a YouTube video, provided by Perez, about the devastated church and communities in Cuba: http://youtu.be/fsD8S0oW2Yw.
To learn more, contact Lori Foster, firstname.lastname@example.org, 405-530-2070.
— Holly McCray