The Cuba 20 Leadership Conference – Part 3

Bienvenido de regreso! I sure hope that means “welcome back” in Spanish. I hope you enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 about our trip to Cuba. A quick recap on part 2…We meet our Cuban contact and make it to our hotel that is pretty much a resort. Along the way we see some really awesome old cars and meet a Cuban hero. We are taken to the location of our conference and Darrin the Baptist pours a 5L jug of water onto the food our hosts had so graciously prepared. We see some old friends who are building a temple and then attend a church service in a crowded old building. Man…so much in such a short post.

Ryan Eller Jerrod Murr Cuba

Part 3 of this story takes us to the actual Cuba 20 Leadership conference as we all learn what it means to sacrifice, to love, to persevere. We even start a nation-wide crazy of “Teeter-Totter”

The Start Of The Conference

We had no idea what to expect as we started Day 1 of The Cuba 20 Leadership Camp. We knew people were coming from long and far to learn from us, but we had no idea how many people or how exactly the day would process. Before we had left the states, we had determined to run this event like the conferences we attend in the US: an opening plenary session, breakout classes, and finish with a group closing. It’s just that not all conferences are in an exotic location with over 300 people stuffed into the backyard of a communist country.

We knew we wanted to start the Opening Session tons of energy, so the ultimate hype man, Jerrod Murr, translated by Mario, hopped in front of the group and started some group activities. Things were going fairly well until Jerrod decided to teach the Cubans a ridiculous sing-along called Teeter Totter.

As you can tell from this kindergarten version, Teeter Tootter is awesome. If you think a group of 300 Cubans who didn’t speak English would think a small group of Americans teaching them this song were crazy…you would be right. They absolutely thought we were crazy. I mean, we had just met them for crying out loud. I even thought Jerrod was crazy for starting this song.

However, after about 30 seconds of singing solo, the Cubans joined in enthusiastically. They didn’t just like Teeter Totter, they absolutely loved it. We had an understanding from the get-go that regardless of country of origin, it was OK to get downright silly.

Cuba Leadership Conference

Waiting for the Conference to Begin

Paradigm Shift Cuba

Jerrod Leading the Group in Teeter Totter

Breakout Sessions

After the opening plenary, we broke out into smaller sessions with each member of our team leading a traditional class (Josh was our official cameraman). On day one Jerrod talked about goals and dreams, Darrin spoke on giving, Mario spoke on faith, Aaron spoke on legacy, and I led group activities.

Mario Teaching

Mario Teaching

My Awesome Translator

Darrin Looking at His Phone

Darrin Looking at His Phone


Jerrod Murr Leading

This is when I met my awesome translator. He was Ethiopian, and had come to Cuba to study medicine. He spoke languages and was probably the smartest man I have ever met. He wore a constant smile and spoke impeccable English. I approached him and informed him that I was going to lead my group in some fun games. I don’t think we quite understood, but he said he was certainly up to the task.

One of the first activities I led the group in was group Thumb-Wrestling. In case you were wondering, it does not translate well. He looked me straight in the face, smiled his huge smile, and said, “Show me!” What a perfect way to translate. I led him through one round of Thumb-Wrestling, and he took over from there. That’s when it got awesome.

Instead of me teaching them games, they just started playing. I am talking about men and women who lived hard lives playing in the yard underneath a mango tree. They taught me games, I taught them some games, we all played together. This was my experience with every group all day long. Still to this day I haven’t led group workshops that were better..or more fun. It was one of the many lessons I learned during this trip. I came to teach and inspire, and left as the inspired student.

The Group After my Workshop

The Group After my Workshop

Throughout our morning workshops I could smell the cooks preparing delicious food in the outdoor kitchen. The aroma of the meat and vegetables completely encompassed the conference workshops and made all of us blatantly salivate. They had caught a pig and roasted it over the old hub caps. The pig, fresh fruit, and fellowship helped build relationships that will affect me for the rest of my life.

Cuba Lunch

Cuba Lunch

Cuba Lunch


Cuba Pig Roast

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent playing, learning, teaching, and team building. We spent time at the loud, packed church that night and brother Jerrod brought the house down again. It was later that night that I had one of the most important conversations of my young life.

The Night That Changed My Life

Jerrod and I bunked together at the resort hotel, and as laid in our beds debriefing the nights activities we started to get excited about what had happened over the past few days. We started to dream big and talk about future plans. It was this night that I decided to follow my dreams and facilitate across the world. It was this night that Jerrod and I decided to host leadership conferences across the world. It was this night that affirmed my future plans.

Laying in a bed in a communist country I decided to change my life forever, and so far it has been wonderful. This was one of the first steps for me on my Live Your List journey, and a night I will never forget.

Cuba Changed My Life

Cuba Changed My Life

That is it for part 3…tomorrow I will finish up our story. I will also throw in a story or two covering the team’s juggling skills and tell you the saddest story we had ever heard. I will end detailing our quick escape from Cuba and our long journey home. Stay tuned!


One comment on “The Cuba 20 Leadership Conference – Part 3

  1. Pingback: The Cuba 20 Leadership Camp – Part 4 | Ryan Eller

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