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Clean water in Cuba flows from Agape-Church partnerships

Twenty-five years ago, there were only 94 documented churches in Cuba. Today, there are more than 35,000 home churches in the communist island nation. The spread of spirituality is real—and it has prompted attention to some real-world needs.

Venice-based Agape Flights, a Christian missionary program that sends charitable goods to many foreign lands, is partnering with the 43 United Methodist churches in Florida's Southwest District to provide desperately needed water filtration units for Cuban churches.

When Agape's flight landed safely in Havana on Sept. 6, 2018 carrying 2,926 pounds of cargo, including 24 water filtration units, the Cuban Council of Churches offered a quick response.

Gloria a Dios!!!! Glory to God!!!!

"The Methodist Church is very vital and very vibrant in Cuba—probably among the most vibrant church communities I have seen anywhere,'' said Allen Speer, chief executive officer of Agape Flights, who has nearly three decades of experience with humanitarian missions to Cuba.

"It's amazing to see the cooperation and fellowship generated by the Methodist church in Florida and the Methodist church in Cuba. They not only adopt them but pay for the water-filtration systems to be built for them. They might be set up at the church or the pastor's house, but numerous people in the community can use them for clean water. Water is life. It's a ministry tool.''

Allen Speer is the CEO of Agape Flights.

And that's the idea behind Agape Flights.

Agape Flights serves seven locations, including Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and now Cuba.

How was such a relationship established?

Speer, who joined Agape Flights in 2011, made his first ministry trip to Cuba in 1992 and believed it to be a one-time experience. He has since traveled to Cuba more than 100 times, forging bonds with religious officials and the Cuban government.

The systems purify the water to the highest standards through ultraviolet light that kills all bacteria. The systems cost $2,400 each, which includes freight, Cuba taxes, ground transportation and installation.

"You get a lump in your throat to see what this is doing for the people," said Dan Christopherson, the Cuba coordinator for the Southwest District. "You hear stories of people saying, 'My son is in the hospital with parasites he got from drinking contaminated water' and you know it shouldn't be that way. We are acting on the problem, and it is very satisfying for all of us to help them."

"If you have nothing, anything is an incredible blessing. We might bring a trinket, something that would cost a few dollars, and the Cuban people would think you just gave them a new Mercedes-Benz. 'This is for me?' Clean water is more than just a trinket. It's a significant life-changing moment. The satisfaction is immense and amazing.''

The Water One water-filtration systems, along with 64 boxes of Tender Mercies food packets donated by Midwest Food Bank, are tangible reminders of the work provided by Agape Flights and the Florida Conference.

Joey Johnston, freelance writer, Florida Annual Conference website

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.

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