Cuban. American. Adventist.
I am a Seventh-day Adventist today because, in part, young Seventh-day Adventist colporteurs demonstrated unimpeachable character to my great-grandfather in the eastern part of Cuba. He was so impressed by these young men that he decided to send my grandmother and her brother to the young men’s school—Antillian College, when it was still in Cuba.
I was born in the United States because, in part, my mother and her family fled communist rule on the island to make a new life in America. And I am an Adventist, in part, because the same diaspora brought another Cuban young woman to New York City and into my mom’s life when she was a teenager, reconnecting our family with the Adventist church.
My Cubaness, Americaness, and Adventistness, you see, are inextricably linked. This manifested itself in unspeakable emotion today as the news broke that President Barak Obama is normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and that Pope Francis had a role in bringing my two countries back together.
As a Cuban, I was overwhelmed with joy that my country of birth would no longer blacklist my country of ancestry, that possibilities long denied to those who remained may now be realized.
As an American, I am proud that my country, or at least the President, recognizes that something that has never worked will never work, and it is time for a new approach. I am thrilled that this will limit the blame the Cuban government can place on the United States and their misrepresentations of who we are and what we stand for.
And as an Adventist, it is not lost on me that one of the most radical changes in U.S. foreign policy in the last half century seems to have been very heavily influenced by Pope Francis. In his address to the nation, President Obama openly acknowledged “His Holiness” and his part in the process that led to today’s announcement. How could anyone with an Adventist worldview and understanding of Scripture not think of our prophetic interpretation of Revelation 13 when hearing this news? The Pope told the U.S. and Cuba to play nice—and they listened!
The convergence of my three strongest identities at this moment is overwhelming and surreal. Nonetheless, I am ecstatic.
Being bicultural (tricultural?) has helped me better understand that this world is not my home, though it is where we prepare to be citizens of Heaven. See Hebrews 11:13-15 and Philippians 3:20-21. I am the child of a Cuban, living in America, who taught me about my heritage so that when I went to Cuba, I understood the culture, the food, the language—I knew how to be a Cuban. In the same way, I am a child of Heaven, still living on this earth. One day, that home will be open to me, and my learning how to live as a citizen of Heaven now requires me to depend on Jesus to learn how to have a sterling character, the same type of character that first attracted my family to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Even more than I’m longing to go back to Cuba for another visit after hearing today’s news, I’m longing to go to Heaven. Taking into consideration how things have developed, I cannot help but think that the wait will not be much longer.
My sincerest hope is that this shift in U.S. policy will eventually bring broad changes to Cuba, and that this would include increasing the influence of the gospel in that land. I hope that Adventist Americans will travel there, as missionaries, on business, and eventually for vacation, and that by coming in direct contact with the Cuban people, they will influence them toward new life.
Finally, seeing these developments before my very eyes, things I was not sure would ever happen in my lifetime, makes me so excited. Forget the Castro brothers. The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and He shall reign for ever and ever. And that day is coming very soon. Hallelujah!
Amy Lee Sheppard