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Commentary: Opening your home to a missionary: an experience of a lifetime

Commentary: Opening your home to a missionary: an experience of a lifetime

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Commentary: Opening your home to a missionary: an experience of a lifetime

An e-Review commentary by Reneé Kincaid | Sept. 24, 2009 {1081}

NOTE: A headshot of Kincaid is available at

I left my native Cuba 48 years ago this past June with a very firm resolution never to go back while the current government was still in place, and that might be a very long time. I did not feel the same as many of my compatriots who thought they’d be back in six months when everything would be over.

Being lovingly welcomed in my new adopted land and receiving Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at Bayshore United Methodist Church in Tampa was life changing. Being part of the mission team at Bayshore and the (conference coordinating team) for the partnership between the Florida Conference and The Methodist Church in Cuba has given me and my husband, Pete, a great burden for those who are in the world sharing the word of God and a great desire to be part of the Great Commission in our retirement years.

As we travelled to other countries to visit the missionaries to whom our church gives financial support and shared their lives, we realized the richness in their spiritual lives and the relationships they nurtured among each other by being centered in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

When these missionaries visit the United States, we are privileged to invite them to our church and home. We are reminded of the Bible verse, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it,” and we sure have.

With translation help from Reneé Kincaid, the Rev. Pedro Castillo, pastor of San Juan Methodist Church in Santiago de Cuba, helps lead a prayer service at Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church during the final day of his nearly monthlong trip to the Tampa area earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Reneé Kincaid. File photo #09-1093. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0968, 01/30/09.

What is it like to offer our homes to those brothers and sisters who have given their lives to proclaim the word of God and make believers and disciples of Jesus Christ? It, too, is a life-changing experience.

Pete and I have been hosts to three Cuban pastors this year and, overnight, an American couple who will be missionaries in Vietnam as soon as they have their second child and are able to travel there.

Having Pastor Pedro in our home was a hoot! I know this is not a very spiritual description, but it really was. Pastor Pedro woke every morning with a praise song on his lips, full of energy and enthusiasm. He instilled in us the desire to go out and conquer the world for the Lord. In every church and ministry he visited he preached and left a special blessing. Although he came to Tampa as a sort of Christmas gift Dec. 24, 2008, to visit his sister church, Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church, and strengthen this relationship with its pastor and members, he said he felt God had also sent him to bless Tampa. And he did, abundantly.

At our home he gave massages to Pete to relieve his arthritic pains and planted yucca roots. He went with us to pray for my terminally ill friend and, when she died, accompanied her family and me in making funeral arrangements, giving all of us the hope of our eternal life. We shared our family concerns and prayed for the Lord Almighty to touch the lives of our children.

In March, Pastor Ernesto, Superintendent of the Sierra Maestra District in Cuba, arrived unexpectedly, about a year after our letter of invitation to him. A sudden exit permit enablde him to make the trip. He called from Miami and said, “I am here.” He visited with a pastor friend in Miami and came to Tampa to spend several weeks at the “Kincaid Bed & Breakfast.” Pastor Ernesto preached in many Methodist churches, and he especially reinforced the relationship with his sister church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, through time spent with its members.

The stories of how God has blessed the Cuban churches with new construction, ministries and members makes one see the hand of God in all that is happening there. Our home, once again, was blessed by having this man of God staying in the guest room and offering prayers and special anointing in all we did.

While Pastor Ernesto was here a missionary couple transitioning from Central Asia to Vietnam was also visiting. They shared their experiences at a special dinner gathering at Bayshore and then came back to our home to continue talking (with translations) about all God was doing in their part of their missionary world. We felt like special guests in the Lord’s Great Commission worldview.

In May, Pastor Orimar of the Niquero Methodist Church in Cuba, sister church to Bayshore, was given an exit permit to visit the United States. A former sister church in Tallahassee had sent a letter of invitation to visit last year; that church and Bayshore shared his visit. Pastor Orimar was greeted at the Miami airport and came to Tampa in an Amtrak train. All at once, Pastor Orimar came into our home and into our heart. He was taken to the homes of family, other friends and churches and introduced as family. We sat for hours sharing our troubles, joys and prayers. We looked at Christian movies with subtitles (in English or Spanish) and translated news from television and radio. Pete learned a few more words in Spanish (or sign language) and Pastor Orimar learned some English (and sign language).

Bayshore United Methodist Church member Bob Trotter prays during the prayer service at Lake Magdalene United Methodist Church. Representatives from 13 Florida United Methodist churches and two other denominations gathered to pray for the partnership between the Florida Conference and The Methodist Cuba in Cuba, the people of Cuba and Florida, and the nation on the eve of the U.S. presidential inauguration. Photo by Reneé Kincaid. File photo #09-1094. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0968, 01/30/09.

Now we are looking forward to seeing our brothers, once again, when we go to Cuba in October to an event of The Methodist Church in Cuba in Bayamo. We will visit our brothers and sisters in Christ and strengthen our relationship in Christ even more. Although the partnership between the church in Florida and Cuba is experiencing changes, and it will soon have a new name (formerly it was called the Cuba/Florida Covenant), it will still have the same purpose, and that is to continue praying and relating with our Cuban brothers and sisters.

Others say their experiences with visiting pastors have been equally enriching.

“I have had the privilege of hosting four Cuban pastors and their wives in my home; one couple for an extended stay,” one member said. “There is no effective way to narrow down all of the emotions in one or two sentences. I would say the interaction with my family, specifically my young children, and the pastors was always a site of joy. In every instance there was an immediate family connection, as if we had known each other our entire lives. We shared a mutual respect and bond that is unequal in any other facet I have experienced in my life.”

“One joy of hosting Cuban visitors is seeing them delight in things that we take for granted: soft sheets, hot water, a more spacious house than we need, boundless varieties of stocked food in groceries, a family car,” another member said. “Our Cuban friends leave the gift of refreshed awareness and gratitude for the magnitude of blessings that arise simply because we happen to live where we do.”

“There but for the grace of God … ,” said another.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Kincaid is secretary of the task team for the Florida Conference partnership with The Methodist Cuba in Cuba and a member of Bayshore United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla.