Monday, June 18, 2018

Samantha Hasty: Seeing Hope in the Hopeless

ESR MDiv graduate Samantha Hasty offers the following reflection on her recent travel as part of ESR's Contextual Theology Intensive to Cuba May 20th-28th, 2018:

Time and again during our eight days in Cuba, we saw hope. There was never not hope there. I do not know why it was so surprising to me. Hope is a core belief of who I am, yet I could not stop myself from loving the shock and aww I felt over and over as each day we met a new person with endless amounts of hope for Cuba. I grew up thinking the worst about Cuba. I was taught it was led by an evil man with evil plans and filled with evil people because they would choose to stay there. The only people there we ever felt compassion for (at least in my childlike understanding of the Cuban existence) was the ones we heard about trying to escape such as the family of Elian Gonzalez in 2000. I can now say that I have spent time on the other side of this conversation, and in the words of my beloved Professor at ESR (Rev. Dr. Nancy Bowen), “it is complicated.” Indeed, it is complicated. On our American side, we have been given only our side of the story, and in Cuba they have been given theirs. My mother always taught me there are three sides to a story: yours, mine, and the truth. Somewhere in the middle of both our sides of propaganda and experience, there is truth; there is hope.

            Cuba showed our traveling group a wonderful side of itself. We saw the historical sights and witnessed Old Havana which is celebrating its five hundredth anniversary next year. The architecture everywhere is still under repair from the island experiencing the hurricanes last year. The people however seem unfazed. For them, as they told us throughout the entire week, it has been and always could be worse than what it is now. Repairing and restoring is simply what the Cuban people do. They are constantly finding a way to band together and make things happen for themselves. During the years after the Soviet Union collapsed and their main source of income was cut off (commonly known as The Special Period), the Cuban people knew a hunger that competed with the people in Acts 6 who witnessed their widows going without while the widows of the privileged had plenty. One young man shared with us that while he was growing up he was only ever given one maranga (Cuban potato) a day. He said now that he is a fledgling adult he will not go anywhere near a maranga. There is an entire generation of Cubans that have grown up only knowing the post-Soviet Union influence on Cuba. They are tired and worn out from thinking about what good the revolution (started in 1959 by Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries) can bring. Yet, even this younger generation has a never-yielding hope.

            No matter where I looked, I saw the hope that carries the Cuban people forward. They have known hunger, fear, poverty and separation. They all seemed to have stories of family in other countries. They are isolated from many of them that have made their way to the United States. Some Cubans speak with admiration of their American relatives and others speak with resentment of them for leaving the island. The people on the island understand something has to change if they expect their way of life to continue. Socialism to them, from my perspective at least, is simply and extension of how they already understand to do life as a community of people. They do not see themselves as individuals. They are Cuban first and foremost. Their socialist views simply back up what they already know about what it means to be Cuban. Hope permeates every part of that way of thinking. There is no amount of blockade, embargo, or isolation that will kill that kind of spirit. Some worry the younger generation will not be able to carry it on, but from where I sit, that kind of hope is hard to quash. Hope is what kept the starving people of Cuba alive in the 1990’s when there was no reason to believe they could survive. Hope is what makes them sure that things will only continue to turn around for them. Hope is why they rebuild old buildings while their people still struggle for basic needs. They know that they are in this together. Their work to keep it alive requires them to make personal sacrifices so in another five hundred years Cuba will still stand proud and independent.
            I have no way of knowing for sure what will happen in Cuba next, but I do know that along with them I now have hope for Cuba. Whereas when I was a girl I could only see evil, I now only see potential goodness in every corner of the island and its people. There is only hope that Cuba will find a way to survive as it has always done against all odds.
            My only critique is to us on this side of the story. Neither side has been perfect, but on both sides, there are starving widows. We are responsible for correcting that issue as the foundation of what it means to be a Christian and a Friend. As in Acts 6, we need to find the ones who are called and the ones who will go to resolve this issue. We need leadership to guide us to a place of peace and companionship with Cuba and her people. Our opportunity in Cuba to show love is as endless and full of potential as that of Cuba’s ability to hope.

Rev. Samantha Hasty is a church planter in San Antonio, TX. She is an optimist to the end and loves people in a deep and real way with more passion than is reasonable most days. She is an ESR graduate and has plans to go for her D.Min soon. Check out her church website here:

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