Drs. Gene Wilkes, Stephen Hatfield, and Adlin Cotto, along with her husband Robert Cotto, traveled to Camagüey, Cuba, for a teaching trip during the week of September 17-24. For the first time, a domestic Carroll master’s level student accompanied the group. Natalie Powell is a first-year student in the M.A. in Counseling degree program. Classes were held at the Buddy Rees School of Ministry.
Dr. Adlin Cotto, Director of Master’s Degree Programs and Hispanic Studies Programs, reports that the new cohort is made up of 29 students, including three women, from twelve different areas in the Island. Dr. Cotto remarks:
Some shared with us their excitement about being part of Carroll. They had been waiting since 2009 when the second cohort was developed. One student told me he had been presented with another option to do some studies in Cuba, but he chose to wait for an opportunity to study with Carroll Institute. We have three non-Baptists students. This third cohort provides a great opportunity for churches to adopt a Cuban student and provide for their tuition which is around $2,400 a year – $1,200 for 2 courses per teaching week twice a year.
The intensive seminars presented on this trip were Leadership in Ministry, taught by Dr. Gene Wilkes, and Philippians, taught by Dr. Stephen Hatfield, Carroll Board of Governors member, Resident Fellow, and Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lewisville, TX. Dr. Hatfield comments:
I was raised speaking superlatives, so I would have to say the privilege I had to teach in Cuba for Carroll was the best experience ever. The students came prepared. They traveled great distances and stayed attentive from morning to evening. I have never seen such commitment to learn and sharpen ministry skills. I came prepared to teach. I left humbled and blessed to have crossed paths with some of the choicest believers I will ever know.
The Carroll Institute exists to prepare global Christian leaders such as the thirty-two pastors and leaders who spent the week with us in Cuba. My prayer was that when I looked back at the experience I would smile, knowing God had been with us. I prayed at the end of the week, and I smiled.
Carroll student, Natalie Powell, was asked to share her impressions of the Cuba learning experience:
I absolutely loved Cuba and the experience I got to have while I was there. Going to Cuba was like getting in a time machine and going back in time. The cars were from a time period long before I existed. The homes were filled with character and told stories of their own. The government runs the country under conditions I can barely fathom. However, with all of the synthetics and history aside, the people were what made the trip to Cuba. From getting to know my professors to seeing the Cuban Church thriving against all odds, from being in class with Cuban pastors and leaders to walking among those living out their daily lives, the people of Cuba gave me a new perspective on life, school, and work. I love that B.H. Carroll offered this experience, and I would highly recommend it to everyone!
Although the team is back safely from Cuba, Dr. Adlin Cotto’s task is not over. Since all of the Cuban students’ work is done in Spanish, she will continue to read and grade all of the assignments. As coordinator for Hispanic studies, Dr. Cotto has made 12 teaching trips to Cuba since she began traveling there in 2009. There are always unforgettable moments that stand out from each trip. Adlin shared the moment that was the highlight of this trip:
We celebrated a graduation ceremony for Carmencita Peralta Mesu during the worship service on Sunday morning. We used the same official script in Spanish that we use for Carroll’s Convocations in Texas and granted her a diploma for the Master of Arts in Theology degree. She got a standing ovation! Memorable!
“Uncle Buddy,” as the Cubans knew him, brought together the leadership of key churches and institutions in Cuba for a joint venture in Christian training. What a blessing to see students—pastors, teachers, and church leaders— come together from all across the island. Now, his friends and family wish to honor his enduring legacy and tireless devotion to this work by naming the ongoing ministry “The Buddy Rees School of Ministry.”
Your generous gift can go a long way in providing theological education for Cuban leaders training for ministry in their own country.