Life on this Caribbean island has become anything but paradise since the coronavirus lockdowns began, but locals are bringing heaven to earth as they care for one another.
Since March 24th, the Cuban government has shut down all tourism, hotels, schools and local transportation services in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Borders have also been shut down, cutting off major sources of supplies and the ability for many to find work.
With just a few exceptions in major cities, all grocery stores have been closed by the government to ration food supplies throughout the entire country.
With many Cubans already stressed to meet basic needs, these new measures have brought about crippling living conditions where even being able to eat one meal a day has become a struggle.
A Web of Strict Laws
Not only are food and finances scarce but traveling into the city to pick up food has become its own challenge with all of the restrictions in place.
The government has been placing citizens under arrested for any reason that could be categorized under “spreading an epidemic.” Article 187 in the Cuban penal code provides blanket criteria regarding public health’s enforcement and calls for punishing those who “violate the measures or provisions issued by proper health authorities for the prevention and control of contagious diseases” with fines or jail sentences up to a year (Torres, 2020).
According to one of the pastors we work with, people over 60 or under 18 years old cannot leave their homes without severe consequences. Those who fall into the age range that is allowed out of doors still have to be careful that they don’t accidentally run afoul of any governmental coronavirus laws.
If the worst they could be hit with was fines, that would be bad enough, but several people have been jailed for things as small as not wearing masks.
Community Drawing Together
Even with these appalling nationwide circumstances, there is still hope. These difficult times are pulling people together and creating stronger communities around the certainty of God’s love for each person and how this love reflects into their relationships with one another.
Our rural partners have been traveling once a week to the city to purchase what they can and share with those who are stuck indoors.
Many of the people that our teams work with have decided to cultivate the land they live on and share their crops with the community’s most vulnerable members. One elderly lady donated her sewing machine to the team so that our volunteers could make masks for those who are going into the city to scour for food.
The seeds of transformation that have been sown by community volunteers, in real meaningful relationships, are bearing fruit. Members of the church, Christ’s body, are coming together and sharing the resources they have been given. In whatever ways they can be, they want to be a blessing to one another.
God is being glorified, and the message of the gospel is reaching desperate places in both word and deed.