BY SUE ERWIN – The Venice Christian Ministries Agape Flights took off for Cuba on Tuesday, August 23, the first time the local missionaries have taken goods to the country since the travel restrictions in the United States and Cuba were eased. The Boca Grande Methodist Church and Englewood United Methodist church were both instrumental in obtaining donations for the trip.
The pilots, Jeff Yannucciello and Steve Koch, left the Venice Regional Airport in the Embraer 110 plane heavily loaded with boxes of food and 26 water filtration systems. Water One, Inc. of southwest Florida donated the purification systems. The food packages were donated by Tender Mercies, a Midwest food bank in Illinois. The flight to Cuba was 260 nautical miles.
After landing, Agape Flights’ CEO Allen Speer coordinated with local church groups that would distribute the items to people in need.
Speer planned to meet with representatives from the Cuban Council of Churches, Dan Christopherson (United Methodist South West District Cuban Coordinator) and millions of Cuban residents ready to receive the gifts.
“We pray that God will multiply the loaves and fishes,” Speer said.
Kenn Visser, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Water One, Inc. flew to Cuba with colleagues in advance of the flight and will be spending some time there setting up the purification systems at the 26 churches.
“We’ll be staying at the Cuban Methodist church that is the sister church sponsored by the Methodist church in Boca Grande,” Visser said. “This is the first historic flight and there will be a reception in Havana when the plane arrives.”
The 26 water purification systems, purchased by the Methodist Churches of the South West District of Florida, will go to churches within the Holguin District in Cuba. The units will give Cubans access to clean water, filtered at the source. The 64 boxes of Tender Mercies food packets, donated by Midwest Food Bank, will provide more than 10,000 meals to those in need of nourishment.
Funds to cover the cost of the inaugural flight were donated by a member of the Church of the Pines, Royal Coachman Park, in Nokomis, Fla.
“We’re not only bringing water and food, but ultimately we’re bringing hope and life, in not just a physical form, but spiritual life to the people of Cuba,” Yannucciello said.
Agape Flights, a 501(c)3 nonprofit Christian aviation ministry, has been delivering critical supplies to nearly 400 missionaries since 1980. The organization takes weekly trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to deliver food, medication and vocational training and tools to the underprivileged. The number of people helped is growing to nearly 30 million as Agape expands cargo service to the largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba.
“Agape” is a Greek word, meaning “God’s unconditional love.”
For more information, go to agapeflights.com.