HAVANA, August 23th When pilots Steve Koch and Jeff Yannucciello touch down in Agape Flights’ Embraer E100 at Jose Marti international Airport in Havana, Cuba, at about 9 a.m. Tuesday, a new chapter will officially unfold for the 36-year-old Christian aviation ministry.
Agape Flights typically delivers supplies for visiting mission groups in the Bahamas, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But in Cuba, Agape will work hand-in hand with the Cuban Council of Churches.
“The folks that we’re serving in Cuba, they have nothing,” said Yannucciello, who also is Agape’s director of missionary services. “They are Nationals and so, this is a flight that is being sponsored by folks here in the States and the Cubans don’t have the means to pay for it. It’s very different in that nature.”
Instead, churches and nonprofits from the U.S. are picking up the tab for roughly 3,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies.
The Methodist Churches of the South West District of Florida bought 26 water purification units that will be delivered to 26 Methodist churches within the Holguin District in Cuba.
The cost of the flight was donated by a member of the Church of the Pines, Royal Coachman Park, in Nokomis.
Agape is also delivering 64 boxes of Tender Mercies food packets, donated by Midwest Food Bank, that will provide 10,240 meals.
The partnership with the Council of Churches, instead of vocational missionaries working in country, makes the Cuba trip unique but the impact is the same as other trips, Yannucciello noted.
“We’re bringing water and food but it’s going to bring water and life, spiritually to the people that are down there,” Yannucciello said. “In that sense we’re doing the same thing.”
Nancy Prins, chairman of the missions committee of Englewood United Methodist Church, which has three sister churches in Cuba, took a break from filming the plane being loaded, to note that the trip is the culmination of a long process.
“These water systems are going to help prevent cholera and they are going to be attached to either the churches or to the houses and they’re going to provide water for the whole community,” Prins said.
Prins already has visited the Cuban churches twice and said she looks forward to a third trip in the future.
“It’s very poor, they lack for everything,” Prins said. “When we go, we take over the counter medicines, toothbrushes, toothpaste, we take aspirin — we leave our towels, we leave our sheets, we leave our clothes and our shoes.
“Things are rough, very rough.”
That being said, the countryside and people are beautiful, she noted.
“I must say, the people are so warm, so friendly, so joyous and for me, the worship services, they are just so full of spirit and children,” she said. “They’re wonderful.
“I would love to go again.”