Mission trip to Cuba ends in hurricane

Billy Gray
Baracoa, Cuba

What started out being a dream mission trip to Cuba, a place I had hoped to visit often in the future, became the hardest mission trip I had ever been on, one I never want to relive again.

After arriving at the Santiago airport, we piled into a six ton dump truck with bench seats along the sides and two rows in the middle for a six hour drive on a mountainous road to Baracoa.

Many people keep asking me if I saw old cars. What I saw was more like what would be seen in an Amish country, a lot of horse and buggies, little to no classic old cars.

Baracoa is one of the nation’s oldest and most historic towns. It was visited by Christopher Columbus. Some of the buildings have been standing since the 1500s.

Baracoa is also the hottest place in Cuba. It was 110 degrees while we were there. The only air conditioning we experienced was when we finally made it back to our hotel rooms late at night. None of the vehicles, stores, restaurants, houses or churches had air conditioning.

The day we were scheduled to leave was the day the forecasters predicted the category 4 Hurricane Matthew to hit Cuba. As we attempted to make arrangements to leave the country a day early, we found out that the airport we were to fly out of had gone bankrupt the day before. Finally, we got a flight out of St. Claire.

We were told to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m. Shortly after falling asleep, I was informed that the plans changed and that we had to be at the airport at 2:30 a.m. Seventeen people piled into a 13 passenger bus for a three hour ride to the airport. We arrived on time, we had everything in order, we waited, and we waited, and we waited. Finally, at 2:30 p.m., 12 long hours later, we boarded the plane to Miami.

Yes, this trip was exhausting, and difficult, but glory to God, 1,070 people accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Thankfully, they did not wait for another day. They did not say, “I am ALMOST convinced that Jesus is my Savior.”

Just days later, hurricane Matthew tore through this little town like a football team busting through a paper banner. Some areas were hit by 24-foot waves. Ninety percent of the homes were either damaged or destroyed. The power grid was impaired. The hotel we stayed in is no longer standing. Some lost their lives, others were physically hurt, all are suffering.

Billy Gray, local pastor at The Gathering in Sandestin and missionary, has just published his fourth book, "Missionary Man," which can be published at creatspace.com.