Food packed for Cuba

A Cuban national shows a box of meals from Lifeline Christian Mission. Southeast Christian Church members packed a million meals for Cuba in August.

Pastor Eduardo Otero flew 493 miles from Havana, Cuba, to Louisville with a message for the church: “Muchas gracias.”

In Cuba, Otero helps distribute meals packed by Southeast Christian Church members.

Several years ago, Otero told a gathering of men and women at Southeast about life in Cuba.

“We are in a hard situation with no food or medicine,” Otero said. “People are hungry. Shelves in government-run markets are empty. People wait eight to 10 hours in line just to get in. There are no basic necessities. There are long lines to get bread. There is no cooking oil or chicken. It’s impossible to find toothpaste or diesel.”

Electricity on the island is intermittent.

A while later, Otero got a call from Steve Scott, a friend from Southeast who has been to Cuba some 50 times.

“Steve said the church approved four containers of food for Cuba. I didn’t know what to do. I started calling brothers around the island. It was an act of God to make it happen,” Otero said.

It took 18 months for those first containers to arrive and clear customs. Now a million meals packed at all Southeast campuses in August are beginning to arrive. In what Otero calls a miracle, the Cuban government is allowing those containers to enter the country.

A network to distribute the food is already in place through the 105 house churches established by Alamar Christian Church throughout the island. One container includes an X-ray machine, ultrasound unit and over-the-counter medications. A truck engine to fix a vehicle is in the shipment so deliveries can be made.

Each container has 260,000 meals.

“It takes us about a week to distribute each container of meals,” Otero said. “When possible, we add a little pork to the packets so the people have meat, but we can’t always get it, even for $6 a pound.”

Otero gives food packets to other churches on the island that help children and the elderly, to those running feeding programs and to the senior Jewish community in Havana.

“I have a good friendship with the Jewish rabbi,” Otero said. “They are so grateful for food and medicine. They didn’t even mind that the boxes say Lifeline Christian Mission.”

Medicine is another pressing need throughout Cuba.

Otero kept some over-the-counter medicine at Alamar Christian Church, praying they would be able to have a medical clinic. They weren’t able to do that due to restrictions of COVID-19, but the medicine provides help for those who come for help.

“We call it ‘holy acetaminophen,’” Otero said. “That medicine in the hands of the Lord is helping people dealing with all kinds of issues.”

Churches in Cuba have only been open a few weeks at 50% capacity.

A three-dose vaccine developed in Cuba is available but not yet approved by the World Health Organization.

Otero said partnership with Southeast means they are not alone in facing challenges.

“I met Dr. Dan Garcia in 1995,” Otero said. “I didn’t speak English, and he didn’t speak Spanish, but we managed. Southeast began supporting us in 1996. Teams helped with all kinds of projects. They pray for us, provide for us, help us grow ministry and outreach. We are so grateful.”