12/15/13 - Union - Hope Fund: Cuban refugee, family rely on strong faith
And Edilie Moreno Fernandez knew that, at some point, she would be arrested
before the day's end.
Fernandez was among several women - known as "Las Damas de Blanco" (Ladies
in White) because of their white clothing - marching the streets of
Matanzas, 50 miles east of Havana. They were holding a Cuban flag and
protesting the country's oppressive government.
Suddenly, undercover police emerged from the crowd and arrested Fernandez
and her fellow protesters. They were hauled away.
For many courageous, freedom-seeking dissidents in Cuba, that moment can
lead to their end of their lives.
But for Fernandez, it was a harrowing chapter that she can reflect upon
from the safety of Jacksonville, where she now lives with her family.
"I suffered [in Cuba]," Fernandez said through an interpreter.
Today, Fernandez is able to live a life of political and religious freedom.
But while she and her family are thankful for such freedoms - away from a
brutal dictatorship - they now face a different set of challenges in their
The family is surviving on a limited income, much of which comes from a
temporary assistance program. It has made daily life a struggle and their
financial future is uncertain at best - and grim, at worst.
Also, Fernandez has suffered from severe kidney problems for years and
currently receives dialysis each week. While that has helped Fernandez stay
alive, she requires a new kidney. She is currently on a waiting list for a
Still, despite the pressing financial and health crises, the devoutly
religious Fernandez remains hopeful and strong. "God is at the center of
everything," she said through an interpreter.
She is accustomed to sticking firm to deeply held convictions, even when
that comes at great sacrifice.
In Cuba, Fernandez's father was imprisoned for several years because of his
opposition to the Cuban government. The authorities also blocked the
family's ability to work and advance.
Eventually, Fernandez, her husband, Jose Souza Garcia, and children were
allowed to leave Cuba - except their youngest son, Higinio, 17, who was
ordered to stay by authorities because of bureaucratic red tape.
Fortunately, Higinio has now been given permission to leave Cuba and come
to the United States. But Fernandez will never forget the heartbreaking
emotions of standing in a Cuban airport and saying goodbye to her teenage
son, as she and other family members prepared to board a plane for America.
"The last thing I said to [Higinio] was, 'Don't worry, God will let you
come with us,' " Fernandez said, wiping away tears.
And he did.
It was an answered prayer. And it's an example of why Fernandez and her
family remain so positive, so upbeat, as they tackle the major obstacles
they now face every day .
They are eagerly learning English and have received some much-needed help
from the local chapter of World Relief: The nonprofit agency has provided
the family with food and furniture.
In addition, Fernandez said her family has been bolstered by their
friendships with neighbors, many of whom have also come to America from
other nations. Her husband, Jose Sr., leads a weekly Bible club session in
their home, a meeting that often draws as many as 25 neighbors.
It is the family's simple way of giving back to those who have given them
so much. And, as Fernandez puts it, it's about giving a blessing for every
one you receive.
It's that firm set of values - about believing in God and standing up for
what's wrong, even at great personal risk - that keeps Edilie Moreno
Fernandez strong as she seeks both financial and medical miracles.
After all, those values have already brought her a long way - and through
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