50th Anniversary Tour Leader Reflection: Jack & Irene Suderman

Learning and Loving in Cuba

TourMagination Tour Leaders Jack & Irene Suderman have been leading faith-based cultural tours to Cuba since 2015. They have a 30-plus year history of connecting with Cubans and helping to train Christian leaders in the country.

Below, the Sudermans share one of the many special interactions that happen on their Cuba tours:

When we visit the offices of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC), with tears in their eyes the Cubans tell our groups the story of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) helping them during the very difficult years known as the “special period”. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, they cut aid to Cuba. MCC sent high-protein canned food—designated for pregnant mothers.

One year, it so happened that John Lapp, who was the MCC Executive Secretary during these times of aid to Cuba, was on the tour with us. I told the president of the CCC that John was in the group, but did not indicate which one he was. When the president retold this story, he said: “I understand that the Executive responsible for MCC during that time is here among us.” Without me indicating who John was, the president walked across the room and gave John a very emotional hug. John too was overcome.

Later I asked the CCC president how he had recognized John. He said, “I saw pictures of him in your newspaper, and I immediately remembered.” Later, the CCC administrative assistant and her husband asked me to translate because they wanted to speak to John. In Spanish, they told John that the husband’s mother had received some of the canned meat while she was pregnant with him and that this had saved his life. They embraced John with high emotion.

Jack and Irene add: “Cuba is a place rich in history and culture. The Cuban experience with Fidel Castro’s revolution (1959) and beyond has led to endless intrigue about how to understand social change, political dynamics, and church-related experiences. The church in Cuba has been forced to think and re-think its basic positions on a whole variety of issues, including economic structures that benefit the marginalized, and how God functions in history. The Cuban church has experienced marginalization, some persecution, and approval. It has been a lively ‘living experiment’ that has countless lessons for those who are open to learning them. The Cuban people – in and beyond the church – are very eager to engage in conversation and learning with outsiders. And this, without exception, makes the interchange with Cubans an interesting and exciting thing to do. “

The Sudermans appreciate that TourMagination was willing to take a chance on the first Cuba tour in 2015. With the Suderman’s in-country knowledge and TourMagination’s travel expertise, the tour has become a way for open-minded North Americans to learn about and engage with people who are very different from them. “TourMagination gathers together a great constituency of folks eager to learn and that is always a blessing for us as leaders,” say the Sudermans.

Jack & Irene Suderman will be leading another Peace Building Tour to Cuba, January 21-31, 2021. 

Cover Photo: Jack & Irene Suderman at the Christian Centre for Reflection & Dialogue in Cuba. Photo Credit: Ken Ratzlaff.

Add a comment