Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brethren Colony in Cuba

While the Brethren work has included missions in numerous countries over the past 300 years, many Brethren today might not know that the Brethren once established a church in Cuba a century ago.

Cuba received its indepence from Spain after the United States intervened in the Spanish American War. After four years under the United States, the government was turned over to the Cuban people on May 20, 1902 as the democratic Cuban Republic.

Inducements were made to the people of the United States to settle and help establish a stable government. The first Brethren to go to Cuba were George and Curtis Bowman, a widowed father and son. They settled in an underdeveloped town of Omaja. In 1906 they were joined by the Kreider and Snell families. In 1907 Elder Ira Eby and family joined the Brethren and a church was organized. In December 2007 they asked the General Mission Board that a missionary be sent to assist them in their church work. They also received authorization to solicit the Brethren in the States for up to $500 to build a church building.

In the spring of 1908 the Mahan family joined the group. Brother Mahan had served on the editorial staff of the Gospel Messenger and was moved to assist the new church in Cuba. In 1909 the church at Omaja, Cuba sent a letter of Greetings to the Annual Conference and received a response from the Conference officers which stated in part: We extend to you the love of Christian fellowship and greetings, commending you to the goodness and guidance of him who careth for you, that you may be blessed and ever be a blessing in his service.

A list of colonists who also went to Omaja include two individuals from Canada, several from Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and Ohio. The largest number of colonist families were from Indiana. Possibly the Omaja Church never numbered more than thirty. The cause of the decline of the membership was the collapse of the economic system and the return of the American families to the States.

A silent reminder of the Brethren colony in Omaja is the once Brethren cemetary, where lie the remains of nineteen bodies from Brethren families who worked and died there. The Omaja Church remained somewhat active until 1937, when Brother Charles Nye reported to Brother Grant Mahan that the church building was sold and thus ended the work of Brethren colonization in Cuba.

Source: summarized from Lest We Forget and Tales of Yester-Years, Vol. III, by Rolland F. Flory