Missions to Honduras an uphill battle for Cuban nationals



When it comes to supporting The United Methodist Church in Honduras, many Cuban nationals have found themselves at a distinct disadvantage. Mounds of government red tape have made it virtually impossible for these would-be volunteers to obtain visas to travel to the Central American country.

Elina Iglesias and Manuel Sardinas were Cuban missionaries in Honduras in 1999. Now looking to return to the country, Elina been unable to secure a visa through the Honduran government.

“The cumbersome process for a Cuban to get a Honduras visa doesn’t depend on the situation in Cuba but on the reluctance of the Honduras government to allow Cuban nationals in Honduras,” said Icel Rodriguez, director of Global Missions for the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. “This approach might have something to do with the fact that many Cubans use countries in Central America as stepping stones on their journey to the United States.”

Rodriguez, who is from Santa Clara, Cuba, knows of this challenge firsthand because her mother, Elina, is seeking such access. Elina and her late husband, Manuel, served as missionaries in Honduras in 1999, helping the country recover from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch. Although in their 70s, Elina, a retired pediatrician, provided free medical services to the impoverished community of Talanga, while Manuel helped build 60 homes for people displaced by the storm.

“My father rode a bike every single day at that age to the outskirts of the little town to supervise the construction of the houses,” Rodriguez said. “And my mother, she walked several blocks from their house to the clinic.”

Now Elina would like to return to Honduras but has not yet gained approval. “My parents planted two churches in Talanga that over the years have continued to grow,” Icel said. “I would love for my mother to see that the seeds they planted for the kingdom are bearing fruit and very much serving God’s purpose for Talanga.”

Rodriguez would like to see her mother make the journey, but she isn’t hopeful the situation will improve in the near future.

--Kari C. Barlow is a freelance writer who lives in the Fort Walton Beach area.


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