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Conference receives license to send funds to Cuba

Conference receives license to send funds to Cuba

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference receives license to send funds to Cuba

By Jenna De Marco | Jan. 20, 2009 {0963}

After waiting nearly two months, the Florida Conference received a key license in December from the United States Treasury Department that allows the conference to transfer funds to hurricane-stricken Cuba.

“We are able to fulfill our mission, and that is to respond to our brothers and sisters in Cuba,” said the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, executive director of the Florida Conference’s global mission and justice ministries.

Volunteers repair a home in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province that was damaged by hurricanes during the 2008 tropical storm season. Photo courtesy of The Methodist Church in Cuba. Photo #09-1087.
The funds, as stipulated by the license and based on the needs of The Methodist Church in Cuba, are to be used for repairing and replacing several dozen damaged and destroyed house churches and parsonages across seven districts.

The license was approved because the Cuban conference collaborated in the application of the license by sending detailed information about the damage to each building and the inventory and cost of all the building materials, Rankin said.

Icel Rodriguez, associate director for global missions, did the primary research and application for the license.

“I hope this is God’s glory showing, and we really prayed for this when I completed the whole application,” Rodriguez said. “It was like a month trying to put together all the things that (were) requested. We put hands on the application, and we prayed. I really believe this was God’s intervention … so, we are happy.”

Leaders of The Methodist Church in Cuba are happy to receive the funds.

“The people of the Methodist Church are very grateful to all the sisters and brothers who, one way or the other, have contributed for this blessing,” said Oscar Carpio Licea, the Cuba conference’s general administrator, via e-mail. “We are especially grateful to our God that always fulfills His promises and constantly accompanies the Cuban Methodism.”

Carpio praised the relationship between the two conferences.

“We cannot ask for more from the Methodists in Florida, as we have received already their support in these difficult times,” he said. “We know that the ties that bind us together are unbreakable and that their prayers for us have been constant.”

The license permits the Florida Conference to send up to $100,000 through Dec. 15, 2009. As of Dec. 31, 2008, the Florida Conference had transferred $74,563 in donations to Cuba. The application for the license, however, indicates damages to churches and parsonages totaling $468,049. If the Florida Conference reaches the $100,000 limit in transferred donations, the conference will request another license to continue its relief efforts.

“We (will) apply for a renewal and keep on going, and if we time it right, we can probably get their renewal as we hit that limit,” Rankin said. “The main thing is that we are in the loop. (The U.S. Treasury Department) recognizes us as a viable charity-giving entity.”

Rankin also said the incoming Obama administration could change the license application process.

In 2006, both the Florida Conference and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) were denied renewal of their licenses for aid to Cuba. Like the Florida Conference, UMCOR recently received its license to transfer funds, Rankin said.

Bishop Ricardo Pereira of The Methodist Church of Cuba will oversee the receipt, spending and disbursing of the funds. The church’s district superintendents know the priorities of their areas, and the money will be spent quickly on such supplies as roofing materials, wood, lumber, siding and posts, Rankin said.

Carpio said the magnitude and timing of the tropical storms will require the church “to use many resources for the recovery of the affected areas.” Funds will be distributed to affected districts, following the list of projects sent to the Florida Conference. Check-up visits will be performed later at the sites, with funds reaching locations in stages.

Volunteers pray during their work to repair churches and homes in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province. Photo courtesy of The Methodist Church in Cuba. Photo #09-1088.

“For example, for a complete restoration, initially we will release funds for the foundation. Once that stage is concluded, we will send funds for the next stage, and so on,” Carpio said.

While the Florida Conference was waiting for its license, a group of bishops and co-presidents from The Methodist Church in Cuba issued a declaration urging more immediate action for relief in Cuba. Former Bishop Armando Rodriguez Borges of Illinois signed the declaration. He is spending this winter in Florida.

“I can tell you, in the first place, that I am very pleased to know that the Florida Annual Conference was granted permission to send money to Cuba,” he said. “And in the second place, there is a great necessity in the church in Cuba, and many of our temples and parsonages have been damaged, and many members of the Methodist church have suffered a lot. And in the third place, this is a great opportunity to show our love and goodwill from the brothers and sisters in the Florida Conference to the brothers and sisters in Cuba.”

After talking with friends who have seen the conditions in Cuba first-hand during the past month, Rodriguez said they are reporting the situation is “10 times more difficult than we can think.” He said people are enduring a great deal of suffering, and there is a shortage of materials for repairs.

“The crisis of the people is the opportunity of God,” he said. “And our pastors and our leaders in Cuba are doing a great testimony and a great work with the people in Cuba. The work of the church is more significant now in this difficult time.”

Reneé Kincaid, secretary of the Cuba-Florida Covenant, said whatever assistance the Florida Conference can provide will be put to use in Cuba.

“They will get to work as long as they have some money to buy materials,” Kincaid said.

Individuals wanting to make financial contributions should make checks payable to Florida Conference Treasurer and designated “Disaster Relief, Methodist Church in Cuba” in the memo line. Checks should be sent to Florida Conference Center, 1140 E. McDonald St., Lakeland, FL 33801.

Information about the Cuba-Florida Covenant is available at The Methodist Church in Cuba may be reached via e-mail at
News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.