From Cuba, By Faith
I am the first Hispanic president of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women, but my journey began long before this time in my native Cuba. The United Methodist Board of Mission built a clinic near the Methodist church in my hometown. “Ms. Louis,” a missionary, was God’s angel sent to help me get well in that clinic.
My mother was active in the Woman’s Society of Christian Service, a predecessor of United Methodist Women, and served as treasurer for many years. She took me to their meetings, and I helped her raise funds and do different tasks, like cooking and sewing.
Loving the work of the “Woman’s Society,” as we called it, was part of my growing-up years, and I wanted to serve.
When I became a teacher, my first job was in a newly opened Methodist school in central Cuba, away from home. I felt like a missionary.
Then I married a pastor’s son, moved to another town and was elected to an office in the Woman’s Society. Still in my 20s, I became a district president.
It was in 1968 that the Morales family was able to come to the United States as refugees. In Cuba my husband’s life was in danger, and I was fired from my public school teaching job for religious reasons. We brought our two sons with us to the United States. The youngest one was only 27 days old.
Detroit, Mich., was our first residence in United States. As lifelong Methodists, we looked for a congregation with Spanish-languages services but found none, so we worshipped with another denomination.
Still, we kept trying to establish a Hispanic Methodist congregation.
With the help of Hispanic churches in Chicago, I took a local pastor’s training at Garrett Seminary and started a Hispanic Mission at Immanuel United Methodist Church in East Detroit. I was invited to the United Methodist Women’s meetings, but I was not active because of the language barrier.
In 1976 we took another giant step in our faith journey as we moved to Miami, Fla. Many doors for serving opened. I became involved in the local, district and conference United Methodist Women.
Any space is too limited to write about the amazing opportunities and experiences that followed. Serving on the Women’s Division and General Board of Global Ministries boards of directors from 2000-2008 and World Methodist Council Executive Committee 2001-2006 have been highlights of my blessed journey in Christ’s mission.
Seeing firsthand what our women’s organization has done in the past and is doing now all over the world is one of the reasons why I am so proud of being part of United Methodist Women. I tell my story every time I have the opportunity.
Let us make our theme come alive through Faith • Hope • Love in Action.
Nelida Mora-Morales is the president of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women.