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by Dan Christopherson, Southwest District Mission Program, Inc. - Direct Line: 941-468-7209


JUNE 2023 -   Six Month Review for 2023

The action you take today is your destiny for tomorrow.  

Well, where do you want to start! The pace has been nonstop.

Cuba Trips Planned or Completed:

  • February 27 - March 3, Holguin Norte District
  • May 3 - 8, Ciego de Avila District, Two travelers
  • June 8 - 12, Sancti Spiritus District, Two travelers
  • June 23 - 26, Holguin Norte District, Led by Pastor Brian Brightly “Full Trip”
  • October 19 -24, Holguin Norte District, Approved by District Superintendent “Full Trip”
  • November 10 - 14, Ciego de Avila District Approved by District Superintendent “Open Space.”

Medicine Shipments:
We are averaging a shipment about every two weeks. Anywhere from one box to four. These shipments are going to District Superintendents, doctors, nurses, and other individuals. We are proud of the fact we serve Christians, non-Christians, and all of God’s children alike.

Matching Fund Drive:
It is astounding to watch God’s hand at work. We received donations from nine states. So, this was definitely not a local drive only.  $15,441 this will go so far in Cuba. Thank you, thank you.

Miscellaneous Gifts: 
The Southwest District Mission Program have put “ear to ear smiles” on six pastor faces with the gifts of a new cell phones. These pastors were in the Holguin Norte and Ciego de Avila districts. 

Talk about smiles; Twenty plus children from the Banes church were given a day at the resort! Yes, there is a resort in El Ramon with arcade games, swimming pool, sprinklers, plus lunch and ice cream. The Southwest District Mission Program gave Pastor Lemar funds to pay for all transportation and all expenses for the day. Investment in young Christian minds.  

Young Christian Investment: The Southwest District Mission Program again this year supported Camp Canaan Cuban youth camp. For five days at Camp Canaan six hundred Cuban teenagers’ study, worship pray and of course play in a Christian atmosphere. We thank Edgewater Methodist Church in Port Charlotte for being instrumental in this effort.

Future Plans:
We are looking to expand our water purification system program and should have news on this front very soon. Jorge Fernandez a Board of Director with Southwest District Mission Program, Inc. and his attorneys are instrumental in the effort. Prayers needed.  

At the end of June, I will be filling out applications and meeting with representatives of our “medicine suppliers.” This is to strengthen and enrich our relationships forged and bound together by the love of Jesus Christ. That together we can reach more of God’s children. Prayers are needed here also.  

We must increase our “Sister Church Relationships” the situation in Cuba is dire. We are a nondenominational organization so any church with a mission heart can have a sister church in Cuba. I need volunteers to get me names of local churches that you think would be receptive, representatives in that church. Ladies’ groups are always the best place to start. People that will approach them, envelope stuffers. Much of this can be done in your home. Contact me and we can talk. Pray and push.

APRIL 2023 - Matching Fund Drive Blessing

We have been blessed with the opportunity of $10,000. Matching fund gift by:

Hunter Felknor with the law firm of:
Walker & Felknor
12858 New Brittany Blvd
Fort Myers, Fl 33907
Phone number : 239-350-5444

Opportunities are just that, you can take it or not. Simple as that.  

You all have read my stories out of Cuba. Many of you have traveled the city streets, country roads, rode with me in horse carts, wagons, trucks and Jeep’s to reach our final destination.  Fond memories we will never forget. Combined with those treasures are the heart-wrenching sites, conditions and life long friends we have made along the way.  

$20,000 in Cuba can you just imagine how far that will go?  What ever the amount of your check is it will be matched!  

Starting from April 20, 2023 and the finale May 10, 2023.


  • All funds will be divided equally between three districts: Holguin Norte, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila
  • Funds will be used at the sole discretion of the Southwest District Mission Program, Inc.
  • Donor cannot designate location or recipient of funds
  • Yes, we can accept church checks, with the understanding of the guidelines
  • In the memo line put “Matching Funds” please do not use the word Cuba

I know many of you do not write checks any longer but for bookkeeping reasons we must simplify this so please send a check payable to:

Southwest District Mission Program, Inc
Attn. Dan Christopherson
125 Treviso Court
North Venice, Florida 34275


JANUARY 2023 - How do you eat an Elephant?

Philippians 4: 6 & 7, Do not worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. 7. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace.  

I have just returned from two weeks in Cuba with discussions with three new District Superintendents. The verse echoed through my mind as the District Superintendents talks about covid and the after effects. Plus the losing of leadership personnel with the migration to the United States.  These are two new issues in my three years lapse I have not heard before. A long time friend and new District Superintendent “Pepe” in Holguin Norte start with his comprehensive list of concerns. Many are old time gremlins; 

  • Lack of food
  • Absolutely no medicines
  • Need of cell phones
  • Computers

We travel from Antilla in Holguin Norte on to Ciego de Aliva church in the district of the same name. Talks with another new District Superintendent we are sitting in front of a parsonage damaged by a hurricane seven years ago. Yes, you read that correctly.  We have damaged parsonages and churches here in the Southwest District. What if I told you that’s the way it was going to be for the next six year? Trust me there would be a mutiny from within. But this is Cuba and that is just another “elephant” they deal with every day. This was the initial time the word “elephant” entered our conversion. We walked through the catastrophic remains of this once home of girls nine and ten years old. Seven years of rubble, weeds cover what was once a home filled with love. Further in the back yard was the shed that has been their home during this time. So we add another gremlin or elephant to this list:  

  • Parsonage and church repair

We traveled from there to Patria, I had visited with Hector and his family a few years ago. This time my heart was broken when I heard the news that his twenty year old daughter, three months earlier had die with dengue because of no medicines. A disease spread by mosquitoes totally treatable with common over the counter medicines. How could this happen in 2022? The answer is it’s Cuba, there is no medicines. As much as we do “we need to do better”.

On to the Sancti Spíritus district and another new District Superintendent. He had asked me, “what I wanted to see?” I told him, “I love the little church where no one would ever want to visit.” Well he did not disappoint me. We traveled for forty five minutes on a “Cuba path”, I can not even call it a road. I do not have much experience on a horse but trust me it could not have been worse. When we finally reached our destination standing on the street to greet us were a young pastor and his wife with one little girl in their arms and another by their hip. No his church was not the grandeur cathedral you see in Havana. Yet the pride on his face told me in his eyes this little church (La Sierpe) with dirt floor, split bamboo poles defining the walls, canvas roof with many holes lacked nothing. His heart over flowed with the love of Jesus Christ and was wanting to share it with others. What more do you need?

In conversation with the District Superintendent the list continues to grow. 

  • Travel cost for seminary students
  • Lack of Bibles
  • We need more water purification systems

After fourteen days in Cuba, much of it sounds familiar. So many elephants. So tell me, How do you eat an elephant?  

We all know the answer but how do I tell Hector and his wife this?  

Janet and I wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Dan Christopherson

OCTOBER 2022 - Uncertainties

Very seldom am I loss for words, yet I can honestly say in the last two week I have been loss for words numerous times. The pettiness of everyday life’s decision seem so trivial today. Hurricane Ian has changed the Southwest coast of Florida forever.  Gone are the single wide old mobile homes and parks. Gone are the quaint water-front hangouts and restaurants. Gone are homes with legacies of two or three generations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, memories of grandma cooking in the kitchen and grandpa watching football games with the family. Yes, gone is the mega home build to withstand the mightiest of storm.  

I am speechless when I hear my sister-in-law say, “everything is gone, thirteen years of my life gone in twenty-four hours.” My heart aches for best friends that say the roof is gone water damage everywhere. Just this morning dear friends said to me, “the damage is so bad we must demolish and build new.”  How do you reply to that? There are hundreds and thousands of situations similar to this.  

I have not even mentioned the catastrophic damage to churches and properties in the district. The storm did not limit its damage to old, big, little or new church. Picturesque century old trees on the grounds of Old Miakka blown over.  Damage to the roof at Fort Ogden. The church was completely rebuilt after Hurricane Charlie just eighteen years ago. There was major damage to the sanctuaries at Gulf Cove in Punta Gorda and Englewood. This is not to say anything that happened in Fort Myers, Cape Coral area. All churches were affected some way. Please remember these are buildings and they can be repaired and replaced.  The true “church” are the parishioners within.  Yes, we are bruised and beat up, yet I have seen the goodness in people’s hearts that I know God’s love, determination and persistence will prevail.  

My “Whatsapp” account is busy with concern friends from Cuba. How is my sister church, how are you and your wife, how is Chris.  My sister church has always been there for us. Please let them know we are praying for them. This is after the hurricane went over the western end of Cuba in the Pinar Del Río area.  

Please know the Southwest District Mission Program is praying for every single one of you. I believe it would be a complete a falsehood saying, “I understand your circumstances and situation,” again I am left speechless.  

I cannot close this without mentioning the cancellation of our Cuba Event with Pastor Jose Ramon. I have no idea when and if we will reschedule this, but we will keep you informed. We are contemplating a way to best enlighten you on the many happening in 2022.  

One factor I want to mention; we are getting medicines into Cuba.  Flights every two weeks, with home delivery throughout Cuba. I know your priorities have changed, so if you have funds available for your sister church for medicines just forward to us and we will manage the rest for you. We can assist you that way, God Bless. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

AUGUST 2022 - Announcement!

 The Southwest District Mission Program, Inc. is proud to announce a special addition to the Cuba Program; Dr. Joseph (Joe) Chirillo a long-time resident of Englewood, Florida. Plus, a member of the Englewood United Methodist Church. With his expertise in the medical field and knowledge of medicines he will be our Advising Physician. He will be facilitating our effort to a new horizon in receiving and the distribution of much needed medicines in Cuba. Welcome Dr. Joe!


JULY 2022- Cuba Annual Conference

At Cuba Annual Conference appointment changes announced:

Major change in the Holguin Norte District the new District Superintendent is Yamel Miranda Romero (Pastor Pepe) of the Antilla church. Pastor Pepe has been at Antilla for eight or nine years so he will stay in Antilla now as the District Superintendent. With the District church being moved to Antilla from Mayari. I have known Pastor Pepe and his wife Zailidedios for years. Not to mention I have been blessed to eat Pepe’s cooking; he is a great chef. Change is inevitable, I am looking forward to working with Pepe.   

Antilla is an enchanting hillside village by the sea. The Antilla church is on a hilltop with uninterrupted panoramic views of the bay below. The sunsets from the parsonage dining room table are like a symphony of colors, which sings humans and other living things to sleep. What I am saying is I think you will enjoy Antilla!  

Pastor Alcibiades Negret Castro will continue to lead the congregation in Mayari. We wish him the best. 

In the Ciego de Avila District, the District Superintendent was not changed. Pastor Andres Rodriguez in the Ciego de Avila church will continue in his leadership position there. In Cuba, the District Superintendents have double duty as pastor also.   

Pastor Gaspar Garcia Cue will also continue his duties as District Superintendent in the Sancti Spiritus District plus pastor at Fomento Church. This district continues their tremendous growth with two Mission churches achieving the status of full-fledged churches.  

After a two-year absence of Annual Conference in Cuba I received reports of twelve hundred in attendance at Camp Canaan.

JUNE 2022 - News out of Washington and Havana

The explosion at the Saratoga Hotel in the Old Havana section of Havana is a “blow” to Cuba in multiple ways. Even the novice traveler to Havana is familiar with Old Havana, the Capitol building, enchanting Saratoga hotel right in the heart of the city. Extensive renovations were nearing completion; in fact they were only days away from President Andres Lopez Obrador of Mexico ribbon cutting ceremony.  The void of the Saratoga leaves a gaping hole in the prime tourist area of Old Havana. 

Adjacent to the Saratoga is the Calvary Baptist church. The façade of the hotel was blown through the rotunda of the church causing extensive damage. Sorry to say the church is facing some unprecedented challenges for the foreseeable future. Many prayers needed for Pastor Alejandro Gonzalez and the Calvary Baptist church in Havana. 

In the last couple weeks there has been some difficult negotiation and deliberation in Washington about present day Cuba policies. This is a political football that is being kicked around for nothing more than power and votes. It’s best I just report the changes or not and pray for wisdom. 

Some of the pending changes:  

  • Lifting of restrictions on cash remittances
  • The renewal of “People to People” educational travel to Cuba
  • The gradually restaffing of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba
  • The ability of flights from the United States to fly into other airports within the country
  • Changing of the invitations to the Ninth Summit of the America’s in Los Angeles next month
  • The extension of being able to take in medicines duty free thru December 31, 2022

Cuban diplomat Ricardo Alarcon who led the Cuba’s negotiations with Washington for two decades, concisely. Summed up the logic of engagement, “ We are two neighbors who have has abominable relations,” he said, “but unlike people, we aren’t able to move away.” 

Two major contention points that has not changed: Removal of Cuba from the“Terrorism Country” list.  Cuba was put on the “Terrorist list” by the Trump administration to make it difficult for the Biden administration to make changes. Now it is that political football being kicked to appease a voting block. 

Lifting of the archaic sixty two year old embargo. Cuba has problems that far exceed the United States embargo. Tell me why we continue to give Cuba the excuse to blame the United States for everything. Just lift the embargo, is this going to solve all of Cuba problems? No it is not, so let’s just kick that political football down the road for another decade. It makes no sense.

MAY 2022 - Scarcity…..

In the last couple of years scarcityis a word that I would use to define the frequency of hearing “Good News.” I am determined to emphasize the positive factors that have developed through “challenging times." 

First, I want to congratulate Myakka City UMC, Myakka City, Florida, and Pastor Matt Curley for their adoption of Villamil, in the Ciego de Avila District in Cuba. As many of you already realize “the church that changes the most when you adopt a sister church in Cuba, is not the church in Cuba. It is the church in the United States.”  Welcome, Myakka City, I am excited to see where God is going to take you! 

First Sarasota UMC in Sarasota, Florida under the direction of Pastor Sam Wright has adopted their third sister church Cananova, in the Holguin Norte District. Thank you Pastor Sam and First Sarasota UMC. 

How is that for a start! Yes, you can have more than one sister church. 

To my surprise a couple of months ago Yunior Castillo Gonzalez fulfilled a lifelong dream to immigrate to the United States. Welcome Yunior! We in the Southwest District know Yunior well from his time in Mayari and are utilizing his many skills. Thank you, Pastor Rini Hernandez and First Cape Coral UMC for your assisting Yunior manipulating the challenges of a new immigrant. Here is the latest news; Yunior has been accepted to Asbury Theological Seminary!! This is a momentous accomplishment for this young man. I ask for continued prayers as he reaches for the stars. Go Yunior!! 

The Southwest District Mission Program is working in junction with the Atlantic Central District to send prescription medicines into Cuba. I thank Ginny Derrough and Ray and Barbie Dunfee for their assistance with this effort. These medicines originate in the Netherlands and, to avoid any connection to the United States, they will be shipped from the Netherlands directly to Havana, Cuba. Because some of the medicines are prescription medicines, we need a doctor in Cuba involved. The doctor and local District Superintendent will distribute the medicine. Minimum ordered is $2,500. So, this is not a small project. You cannot designate for one church or “your sister church.” But you can donate.  The more money we receive the more medicine we can purchase. 

Send donations to:
Southwest District Mission Program, Inc.
Attn: Dan Christopherson
125 Treviso Court
North, Venice, Florida 34275

APRIL 2022 - Side Effects

Another factor effected by the storages in Cuba is animal abuse that occurred in Sancti Spíritus, a province many of you have traveled.  Through a publication on Facebook, the Antillean shared images of a horse that is used to transport people in the so-called “carts”, which collapsed in the middle of the street after its strenuous work in the sun. 

It’s an enchanting ride through the city streets hearing the rhythm of clickety- clack of the horse’s hoofs. I must admit I have been on carts with six or seven people Americans plus the driver. Maybe even some luggage. The pace labors going up some inclines.  

We have witnessed that during “normal” times the physical appearance of many fall short of being in good condition. In Sancti Spíritus and the rest of Cuba, animal-drawn carts abound.  

According to the young animal rights activist, carts are used in Sancti Spíritus “to transport up to 8 and 10 people from one place to another and excessively heavy loads.” 

A similar case was reported last September in Havana. At that time, a jurist reported a case of animal abuse that occurred when a horse lay on the ground with signs of fatigue.  

The defenseless animal spent more than eight hours exposed to the sun and heat there, as its owner abandoned it at the scene after not reacting to the blows and kicks inflicted. 

We can see what is happening to the equine cart haulers. What is happening behind closed doors?  

A portion of this article originated in article from Havana Live.  


FEBRUARY 2022 - Extraordinary Accomplishment

I have never acknowledged one church achievements over another church. I honestly believe it does not do justice to either church. Every church has a personality unique to their area, community, plus the people that make up the body of each “church.”  

Methodist United in Prayer (MUIP) is a Florida organization, yet this church is like no other church in the state, because it is not in Florida, it is in Michigan. The Wacousta United Methodist church is in Eagle, Michigan. That factor by itself shows the mindset of this church. Jerry Thompson that resides in Michigan during the summer and during the winter in Englewood experienced Cuba with me in 2019. He was blessed by the experience and took it back to Wacousta. Where he presented the program to his Church Council and “now here is the rest of the story.” 

A resounding yes votes came down from the Church Council. This church congregation of forty to fifty people led by Pastor Yoojin Kim spontaneously opened their hearts to the Cuba program. 

Jerry had met Pastor Raul at the District Superintendent’s in Moron, Cuba because he was the chef for Pastor Carlos and Deborah during our stay in Moron, Cuba. When asked if they could adopt Pastor Raul and his church at Chillante we just made it happen, Hallelujah. I was at awe watching God orchestrate this relationship. 

The church immediately started to raise funds to make life better for their brothers and sister in Chillante. Jerry was aware of the contaminated water situation in Cuba so one of the first projects was a new water purification system. With the establishment of this need they fulfilled that obligation within months. 

Jerry is a “potter” he spends his summer days with his hands in clay holding and molding articles of beauty to sell at his Fall Festival. While his hands are always busy his mind can wonder and with each sculptured piece Cuba thoughts poured through his mind. Why not make this a fund raiser for Cuba? 

Isaiah 64: 8 And yet, Lord, you are the Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are formed by your hand.  

The potter had formed the idea of “Clay for Cuba Fall Festival.” The Wacousta United Methodist raised five thousand dollars ($5,000.) for their sister church in Cuba. Therefore, I have elected to bring this to your attention “Extraordinary Accomplishment” and that is the rest of the story! 

2021 - Year in Review

Below you can see the activities and accomplishments in the year 2021.  I have told you before I am a numbers person so these numbers are pathetic. You will see the word “canceled “ prevalent throughout the report, that is 2021. The highlights though few have taken us down a path less traveled. I also know I am not alone on this path; God can accomplish what man cannot. I put my faith in him. 

One factor we are very proud of is three new sister church relationships. These are not made over night, some of these have taken years of cultivation and praying.  I thank my staff for their persistence and patience during these very difficult times.

New Sister Church Relationships:

St James UMC Sarasota                    Ciego de Avila (Ciego de Avila district)
First UMC of Clewiston                     Pina Resurrection  (Ciego de Avila district)
St. John’s UMC Winter Haven         La Palama (Ciego de Avila district)

Reconnected Relationships:  None

Lost Relationships:   None

General Information on the District: 
Number of churches in Holguin Norte District: 53 
Number of churches in Ciego de Avila: 24 
Number of churches in Sancti Spiritus:  12 
Number of new churches (3 districts) 2020:
Number of Cuban churches (3 districts) with a sister church: 56 
Number churches in the Southwest District: 72
Total Number of travelers that went to Cuba in 2020: 0
Number on Youth Trip: 0
Number of first time travelers to Cuba:  0
Number of churches represented in the travelers 0
Non-alliance travelers that went to Cuba: 0
Number of Cuban pastor visits to the United States and Southwest District: 1

Adopt a Pastor:  The Methodist church in Cuba continues to grow so the churches without sister churches in Cuba also continues to grow. The Southwest District was blessed with establishing three new sister church relationship in 2021. This is a true blessing when you think churches struggling with the coronavirus here in the United States still felt the need to reach out to assist others less fortunate.  Thank you, Southwest District. 

The “Adopt a Pastor” Program continues to make sure every pastor in our three districts receive a salary. It took creativity to accomplish this in 2021. We thank God for doors he opening for us. 

Number of churches in the district without sister church yet salaries all paid: 
Holguin Norte: 11      
Sancti Spiritus: 9       
Ciego de Avila: 12     

Bibles for Cuba:   Because of the lack of trips this year we were not able to purchase any additional bibles.  We have money in this account and look forward to our continuation of the disbursement of God’s written word, plus Galcom recorded bibles through out Cuba in 2022. 

Out of state sister church trip: 
We were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Appleton, Wisconsin to promote the Cuba program plus assist with raising funds for their sister church Turiguano, Cuba in the Ciego de Avila. With a thinking outside of the box mindset this is a little church in Wisconsin were able to raise funds not possible under normal circumstances. Hallelujah! 

Lisy’s Dream Daycare:  I do not have much to report here. We do know they were closed for months due to the coronavirus. We have good people in place so we are praying they have been successful in the realignment of procedures to reopen as soon as possible.  

Youth Trip: The Youth trip for 2021 was canceled. 

October Cuba Event:  We did not know how this event would go because it was our first back together event scheduled in year and half.  It turned out great as eighteen churches were represented in attendance. A delicious BBQ pork lunch was served with raving reviews from all. Guest Speaker was Rini Hernandez and he kept people on the edge of their seats as he spoke about growing up in Cuba. Plus he spoke about the present conditions with the coronavirus, lack of medicines and food. 

I spoke about the challenges of doing business in Cuba at the present time.  We mentioned new avenues of sending funds and getting medicines into Cuba. All come with a cost that now seems to be the only option we have. This event was held as an informational symposium as per a fundraising option and was well received as such. 

Summary and the future:  In summary we are about to complete the second year in a roll of no travel, high stress because of the circumstances and conditions in Cuba.  Though we are seeing cracks in the doors of sending funds and medicines into Cuba, it still takes time and money to complete each. 

Chris Sherrod and I both agree with the travel cost, the unknowns with visas, the difficulties and restrictions of travel between districts, plus scarcity of food and gasoline there will be no group trips until after September 2022. We will continue to evaluate the situation and will keep you informed. 

We are living in a changing world, changing atmosphere, changing churches and changing policies.  Stay tuned as we adopt accordingly.