Since 2003, one Newcomerstown woman has made it part of her goal in life to continue missions work in Cuba.

Chasity Opphile, the Children's Ministry coordinator at the Christ United Methodist Church in Newcomerstown, has traveled to Cuba 17 times since 2003 to continue relations with a "sister" church in that country.

"Most of all, it's to make relationships with people there," Opphile said about her trips to Cuba where she also serves as an English to Spanish translator.

While there, she -- along with a team from Newcomerstown, anywhere from 4 to 12 members -- tries to connect with the sister church by preaching/teaching, Bible studies, Vacation Bible Studies and building properties.

Puerta Del Cielo Methodist Church in Cuba is Christ United's sister church. In Spanish, it is known as "The Doorway to Heaven." In all, they have about 200 members in the congregation.

"People are always surprised that it's not dangerous to go there," Opphile said about the people living in Cuba. "People are surprised to see how they live."

Getting to Cuba isn't hard but it starts with a trip to Toronto. Yes, she admits that getting to Cuba is easier if they leave from the Toronto, Canada, airport. They take one three-and-a-half-hour flight to Cuba. The missions team is listed with the U.S. government and each member of the team obtains a clerical visa from the Cuban government.

The most recent missions trip was the first week of January when a group of 12, including five youth from the Newcomerstown area, visited four different churches in Cuba.

While there, they stayed at a Presbyterian church which has dorm-type rooms and offers meals.

Opphile said her next trip to Cuba is tentatively set for the summer 2011.

She said the group tries to take supplies with them when they go on the missions work, including Sunday School supplies, toiletry, medicines, tools, etc.

"They can't get those things there very easily," Opphile said, and those items are always being accepted at the Newcomerstown church office as donations.

The Newcomerstown church will also have several fund-raisers throughout the year to help with the cost of airfare, travel, food, etc. expenses for those that go on the trip. She said the cost per person is $1,200 to $1,300 and the group usually stays for a week.

"Cuban people are very joyful, very intelligent," she said. "They trust in God. Their lives are centered around Him. That's what I take back."

If you would like to donate to the missions trip or would like to be a part of the next team, contact Opphile at the church at 498-8134, ext. 211.