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Marilyn R. Bierling Collection



Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Project, 2011-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project"

Project, 2013-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project"

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Marilyn R. Bierling Collection, 2011-2013 | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

By Julie Busscher, Ed Gerritsen, and Richard Harms, 2012-2013

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Collection Overview

Title: Marilyn R. Bierling Collection, 2011-2013

ID: COLL/518

Primary Creator: Bierling, Marilyn R. (1949-)

Extent: 0.5 Cubic Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: Folder level description

Date Acquired: 00/00/2011


Professor of Spanish at Calvin College. The collection includes eighteen videotaped interviews, with transcripts and translations that detail the stories of the first Cuban refugees who joined the Christian Reformed Church. Also includes stories of various members of the CRC who worked in the Good Samaritan Center and Good Samaritan Church in Miami, Florida, in the 1960s and 1970s. [See also the Campus Titles Database.]

Biographical Note

Marilyn R. Bierling was born in 1949. She graduated from Calvin College with a BA in 1972 and earned her MA at the University of Michigan and her PhD at Michigan State University. She is a professor of Spanish at Calvin College. She has traveled widely throughout the Spanish-speaking world and has directed several off-campus programs in Spain, Honduras, Peru, and Mexico.

Administrative Information

Repository: Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 Boxes

Acquisition Source: Marilyn R. Bierling, 2011, 2013

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Project, 2011-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project", 2011],
[Series 2: Project, 2013-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project", 2011-2012],

Series 1: Project, 2011-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project" --- 2011
Box 1
Folder 1: "The Cuban Immigrant Experience within the Christian Reformed Church," (with McGregor Fellow, Elena Brubaker) --- 2011
Folder 2: Ester Marina Ordóñez Marina: DVD [HHM518-1], Spanish transcription, and English translation --- 2011
Marina discusses her experiences with the founder of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Cuba, Bessy Vander Valk. She describes the beginnings of the church there, specifically how the ministry was spread around the area with the help of CRC missionaries Clarence and Arlene Nyenhuis. The work of these first missionaries included English classes, Christian education in the form of the Ebenezer school (which Ester describes in detail), and Sunday church services in multiple locations. Marina also mentions an episode that took place during the Bay of Pigs Invasion where one of the church founders drove his station wagon to the battle site to cart wounded Cuban soldiers to the hospital. She goes on to describe her own work as a secretary in the church. She concludes that the CRC has done good work to decrease suffering in Cuba, but calls for attention to the needs of pastors in Cuba.
Folder 3: Ramón and Norma Borrego: DVD [HHM518-2], Spanish transcription, and English translation --- 2011
The Borregos discuss their experiences with the CRC in Jagüey Grande, Cuba. Ramón talks about his seminary education at Los Pinos Nuevos Seminary. He was the director of the CRC in Cuba from 1962-1966, before the family travelled to Spain in order to facilitate communication with the denomination. The couple goes on to describe their five-year mission trip to Argentina and all the different missionaries they came into contact with over the years. They explain that their attraction to the CRC stemmed from the CRC's belief in the life of people as being whole in Christ. Norma says that Cubans were attracted to the denomination because they came with little and church members were very generous and loving. Ramón adds that Nicaraguans fleeing the Sandinistas appreciated this help as well. The Borregos also mention the difficulties the Church had in Cuba as a result of Castro's regime there. They point out that in the CRC was willing to accept these Cuban immigrants because its members were at one point Dutch immigrants who struggled with the same difficulties.
Folder 4: Ana Pellecer: DVD [HHM518-3], Spanish transcription, and English translation --- 2011
Pellecer talks about her experience leaving Cuba in 1970. She highlights the difficulties in immigrating to the U.S., primarily her struggle to learn English and her mother's difficult work schedule. She describes her family's journey to join the Good Samaritan Christian Reformed Church in Miami. She marvels at the way CRC theology allows salvation by faith and compassion for the needy. Pellecer ends by stressing the importance of the Church retaining its youth, and suggesting that the Church incorporate more English into its services.
Folder 5: Marisol Fernández de Pérez: DVD [HHM518-4] and English transcription --- 2011

De Pérez relates her experiences under Castro's regime while living in Havana. Only 6 at the time, she recalls a specific incident where militiamen came to her school and gave the children candy, saying that it was Castro who would give them candy, not God. She talks about her father's business troubles and her move to Miami. De Pérez exposes the issues she faced with segregation against Cubans in Miami, especially in the workplace. Marisol describes how her family was brought to the church through the generosity of the Good Samaritan Center. She laments the ten years her father spent in a Cuban prison once he was caught by the Cuban authorities, describing the terrible time he had there. She also describes her brother's life in the United States. De Pérez states that the church is a trampoline for Cuban refugees, most of whom still hold out

Project, 2011-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project, 2011" (contd.)

the hope of one day returning to their homeland. She finishes by describing the differences between Mexican migrants and Cuban refugees.

Folder 6: Jorge Fernández: DVD [HHM518-5] and English transcription --- 2011
Fernández discusses his family's exit from Cuba as a result of the effects of Communism there. He talks about how his nine-member family struggled in poverty before contacting the Good Samaritan Center, which donated food, clothing, and other essential items to satisfy the needs of Cuban refugees. He goes on to describe his family's sponsorship and subsequent relocation to Holland, MI. Jorge mentions the tough time he had speaking English and becoming accustomed to American culture while he was attending Holland Christian School. He moves on to describe his professional life and return to work with the Good Samaritan Church. Fernández praises the intellectual draw of the CRC, saying that he liked it because it challenged the Catholic theology he grew up with. He believes that the CRC has a great outreach and shows Christian mercy well, although he thinks its members should be more aware that the CRC is a global church rather than just a Dutch church.
Folder 7: María Infante and Ileana Lamberts: DVD [HHM518-6], Spanish transcription, and English translation --- 2011
Maria recalls the arrests Fidel Castro made of those who he saw as opposition. She discusses her struggles as Castro's men searched for her anti-communist husband. Maria and her three children were eventually able to make it out of Cuba via the Pan-American Freedom Flights, to be joined by her husband six months later. Ileana describes the event from her then six-year-old perspective. The women highlight the help that LaGrave CRC in Grand Rapids gave their family as they transitioned to life in Miami and then Grand Rapids. They express gratitude and wonderment at the help that they received from the Church. The women go on to describe their new lives in Grand Rapids. Maria's husband went to work as a lawyer for Amway, and Ileana attended Oakdale Christian School. Lamberts tells of their family's desire to join the CRC because she had truly accepted Christ into her heart, which was different than the nominal Catholicism she grew up in. She states that her family's story demonstrates an incredibly faith and trust in God.
Folder 8: Rosa Caro: DVD [HHM518-7] and English transcription --- 2011
Caro talks about her experiences with her husband being a political refugee in Cuba and her son's flight on the Peter Pan flights. She describes the beginning of her life in the United States, including how The Good Samaritan Church helped her and her family get on their feet and led them to the Church. Caro describes her life in Michigan and the struggle she had getting a good job because of her poor English language skills. She praises the CRC for being generous and friendly to her and her family, which led them to learn more about the Church.
Folder 9: Jim Tuinstra: DVD [HHM518-8] and English transcription --- 2011
Tuinstra describes how he became the director of the Good Samaritan Center in Miami. He elaborates on how exactly the Center met Cuban refugees' needs. He also outlines the importance of the people who sponsored refugee families to come and live near them. Tuinstra mentions the Freedom Flights that left Cuba, remembering that Castro had delivered an address claiming falsely that no one would ever want to leave Cuba. He points out that President Johnson said he would let anyone enter the country who wanted to. Tuinstra believes that Cuban refugees were attracted to the CRC because of the Christian love that Church members gave them.
Folder 10: Arlene Nyenhuis: DVD [HHM518-9] and English transcription --- 2011

In this interview, Nyenhuis relates her and her husband's experiences being the first CRC missionaries to Cuba. They arrived only two months before Castro took over.

She then describes their work at the Good Samaritan Center when they moved back to Miami. She mentions the Peter Pan program, but focuses on talking about the work they did with families in particular. Nyenhuis claims that Cubans were drawn to the CRC because she and her husband had been recent missionaries there, so the refugees knew that the CRC cared about and was familiar with Cuba. She emphasizes a continuing need for Spanish-speaking and bilingual churches.

Folder 11: Betty Diemer: DVD [HHM518-10] and English transcription --- 2011
Diemer talks about her family's work with the Good Samarian Christian Reformed Church. She discusses the troubles the church had in forming a consistory because there were so few members who were men. Diemer points out the work of the church's women's prayer group, who played a strong intercessory role. She finishes by pointing to God as the one who made everything possible and expressing her faith and trust in Him.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Project, 2011-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project", 2011],
[Series 2: Project, 2013-Interviews: "Cuban Refugees and the Christian Reformed Church: An Oral History Project", 2011-2012],

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