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Crossing Borders of Belonging

by Kim Christman


June 22, 2015

Crossing Borders of Belonging

Kim Christman

Similar to our Vocation of Peacemaking series, The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this new series from the BPFNA!

While this was written during their time in Cuba, Kim and Stan have since returned to the United States.

My husband Stan and I crossed the border to come to Cuba July 1, 2014. We are living in Matanzas, teaching in the Evangelical Seminary and working with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba as well as with the Kairos Center in Matanzas. We will be here until the end of May and have found that we belong here in Cuba as much as we belong any place in the world. I still haven’t figured out how that can be, with our language, cultural and class differences, but it has been a pleasure to try and figure it out. At present, I chalk it up to God’s grace and peacemaking that happened while I wasn’t looking, the majority of the peacemaking work being done by my Cuban sisters and brothers.

Through participating in this work in these faith communities Stan and I have developed friendships that have become family. We are called, neighbor, sister and brother and have been involved in the life of Baptists as well as the wider community of Christians in Cuba.

In our sister church in La Vallita, Camaguey, Cuba, Sila the pastor has beautiful grandchildren. They call us, “Tía Kim” and “Tío Stan” (Aunt Kim and Uncle Stan). Sometimes they just call us, “Tía” or “Tío.” That simple act has cast a spell on my heart, a spell of love that will not be broken. I think that is being a member of the family of faith, that is peacemaking is all about. It means that I have not only begun to call them my niece and nephew, but I have also learned how to fill up buckets of water at the well outside Sila’s house. It means that Stan and I have finally been allowed to wash the dishes in her humble kitchen. For a long time, they did not want us to do that as we were “special guests.” However, when we told them that if we really were family, if we really were Aunt Kim and Uncle Stan, then we deserved the right to wash dishes. Finally, they relented and let us cross the border to the kitchen sink.

It means that we have learned where our neighbors in Matanzas, Wanda and Orestes keep the salt, the skillet and the extra fold-up chair when we come to eat. It means that we are encouraged to share our faith experiences, our reflections on the Bible and our faith in any setting, whether it be a devotion for the work week at the Kairos Center, a workshop or retreat for the Fraternity or during prayer request time during a church service. It means that we have been able to encourage our sisters and brothers here in their challenging and sometimes complicated journey of faith. It means that sometimes our hearts are broken with the particular struggles they endure as well as the everyday sadnesses of life.

Last August 14th, one of my friends, Tony, lost his father unexpectedly. Tony is from Matanzas. He was traveling to the United States at the time of his father’s death and had to cut his trip short and come back immediately. Stan and I went to the funeral here where he spoke eloquently about his father’s faith and the comfort and hope in God available to us all.

On December 24th, my father died. I made a trip back to the United States to be with my family. On the gravesite, my sister and I arranged seashells and rocks that had special meanings to us. I brought some of those rocks back to Cuba and on February 14th, I went with Tony and his mother to his father’s grave and put some of those rocks there. Afterward, we went back to his house and looked at photos of his dad and all his family, and found comfort in sharing stories with each other. Another friend here, Marisol, gave me a seashell from her province of Holguin to put on my dad’s grave when I go back across the border. One of my nieces from La Vallita also gave me a rock to take back. It will be a memory of the constant prayers of my sister church during that time of grief and loss as well as their continued prayers for Stan and me, for my mom, for my sister and all of our family. That is what peacemaking across borders is all about.

Kim Christman makes her home in Fairview, NC, with her husband Stan Dotson and their dog Charlene Darlin'. Kim took a year off from her duties as an ESL teacher in the McDowell County School system to live and work in Cuba. In Cuba she taught courses in English and Theatre in the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas, and facilitated the development of a Playback Theatre company in the First Baptist Church of Matanzas. She also preached, played the dulcimer, translated for groups, and led many workshops and retreats all across the island for the Fraternity of Baptists and for the Kairos Center.

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