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24 June, 2009

Mission possible, Nicholas White volunteers in Cuba

http://www.petoskeynews.com/articles/2009/06/22/news/doc4a3f75d6589b4... Mission possible, Nicholas White volunteers in Cuba ...! By Marci Singer News-Review Staff Writer Monday, June 22, 2009 9:38 AM EDT Petoskey architect Nicholas White has collected a lot of art, primarily prints and paintings, as a result of his mission trips to Cuba. He is donating one of his favorite prints (on left) for the 2009 D'art for Art. (Marci Singer/News-Review) Nicholas White is leaving his mark in Cuba. The 61-year-old Petoskey architect has been traveling to Cuba since 1996 with the Methodist Church to restore churches from the turn of the century to just prior to the revolution that have been abandoned as a result of Communism. In eight trips, he's worked on four churches, three parsonages and a seminary. "It's hands on work," White said. "I do whatever they need me to do whether it's leading the team, directing the work or offering advice." On his first trip, White was in a very small town 14 hours outside of Havana. What surprised him most was that everyone was standing in line for the necessities of life as well as other rations. "I had not been in the Third World and Cuba is absolutely Third World. I came home from that trip somewhat in a culture shock," he said. "There was a big line out on Lake Street in 1996. Someone said Beanie Babies had just arrived at Shorter's. Because of being in Cuba, I had strong feelings about standing in line for something that you absolutely did not need." "Cuba is a country where absolutely everything is owned and controlled by the government and what little territory they have they protect with a vengeance, whether it be architecture or local government," he said. White said when people are dependent upon government for absolutely everything, it takes away initiative. "It's basically you support the government or else. In Cuba, there's a lot of 'or else," he said. "They have multiple ways of affecting your life. I've seen people refused rations or lose jobs because of their faith. I know people who have spoken out in opposition to a governmental policy and been denied education. That's the dark side of Cuba. The bright side is that Cubans cherish their children." The greatest thing he's learned as a result of his travels? "These folks are absolutely no different than us. They have the same love for their children and the same desire to get ahead financially, socially and educationally. It gives me a perspective on what's really important," White said. "I try to give my kids a sense of perspective that there are people who are working just as hard and who are just as educated, but because of the country they live in, cannot do the types of things we can here." For White, mission trips provide an opportunity to give back. "I want to be able to really give," he said. "This is the greatest country in the world — the greatest country the world has ever known. We take for granted everything we have. Trips like these are a small way to give back everything that's been given to us. We are blessed with the opportunities we have here, particularly in relation to other parts of the world. They all live much less lavish a lifestyle than we do." White said volunteering equates to both culturally and emotionally stepping off a cliff into the unknown, whether it's volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or going on a foreign mission. "I go with a sense of giving always, but there's a great sense of guilt because I get so much more out of these missions. You get 10 times what you give and it humbles you." Marci Singer - msin...@petoskeynews.com Petoskey News-Review - News - Mission possible, Nicholas White volunteers in Cuba (22 June 2009) http://www.petoskeynews.com/articles/2009/06/22/news/doc4a3f75d6589b4...

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