Stan Dotson, an AC Reynolds and Mars Hill University alumnus, met his future wife, Kim Christman, a Demon Deacon from Winston-Salem, in 1985 when they were both seminary students in Louisville, KY. Back then, neither of them had even visited Cuba. Today, they split their time between their home in Fairview, NC and their lives in Cuba.
Two homes: Fairview, Cuba
Here, they live on land that has been in the Dotson family since before the Civil War. One of Stan’s brothers has a house a stone’s throw from theirs; the other brother lives not too far away in the Reynolds community. The Dotson clan is close-knit and not very far-flung; many cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews live right here in Buncombe County.
When Stan and Kim aren’t here among the Dotsons, they are likely travelling back and forth to Matanzas, Cuba (and across the island) to be with their other family: a family they’ve adopted through love. They have Cuban daughters, sons, aunties, sisters, brothers and parents—relationships that have been growing for two decades.
The beginning: Kim to Cuba
It all started in January of 1992. By then, both Kim and Stan were ordained Baptist ministers, co-pastoring a church in Stoneville, NC. Kim was invited to go with a delegation of Baptists from the US—mostly women—to participate in the ordination service for the first three women to be ordained as Baptist pastors in Cuba.
Kim recalls her first impression. “It was a difficult time in Cuba, much like it is now, and it was obvious that the whole society was suffering. I remember feeling sad for the dogs and cats in the street; they looked so hungry.” She shakes her head at the memory and continues. “But we were so welcomed! It had to be a sacrifice, a hardship for them, but you would never know it. They really gave us the right hand of fellowship.” Kim was inspired and captivated, moved by the gracious welcome.
She struggles to put words to the feelings she had on that first trip. As she speaks, her hands raise to help form the phrases, “The power and spirit . . . and their faith and fire . . . it was just . . . ,” she says and her hands fall back in her lap. Eyes shining and smile bright, she says that when that first visit ended, she knew one day she would go back.
The middle: 7 years and a big trip
It would take seven years for Kim to realize that dream. In the meantime, the couple moved back to Fairview and began building
their house—a process that took awhile because they did a lot of the work themselves with the help of family and friends. Stan went to work at Mars Hill University and Kim had various jobs, including a stint over at McCormick Field as Ted E. Tourist. Eventually, though, she accepted a position at McDowell County schools as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. “I took the back roads,” she says of her commute between Fairview and Marion. “Many mornings, I’d see more turkeys on the road than cars!”
Finally, in 1999, the opportunity to return to Cuba presented itself. Paula Dempsey, a colleague of Stan’s at Mars Hill, had a long-standing relationship with Baptists in Cuba. Paula and Stan worked together to organize a student trip to the island. Counting Kim, their group totaled 11.
“It was an amazing trip,” Stan recounts. “Truly transformative . . . for all 11 of us.”
More Middle: short trips lead to a year-long venture
Stan and Kim started taking groups from churches or the community annually, and from time to time, their Cuban friends have come to the States to visit Dotson Mountain as well. As they introduced their Western North Carolina family and friends to their beloved Cuban relations, the bonds became even stronger. Trips to the island introduced biological nieces and nephews to Cuban cousins. Sisters flew from Havana to see brothers in North Carolina. For more than a decade the connections grew and relationships deepened.
Until one day in 2013, a friend said to Stan and Kim, “You should just come and stay here in Cuba!” It sounded like a great idea to them, so in 2014 they moved to Matanzas for a full year, working with the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Matanzas, First Baptist Church of Matanzas, and its ministry partner the Kairos Center. The year passed too quickly; they needed to make a more permanent move.
From then until now: a long-term stay interrupted by a worldwide bug
In 2017, they left their Fairview mountain house in the care of family members and moved back to Matanzas. And that’s where they remained and would be still, if the pandemic had not shut the whole world down.
These days, they are back to short-term trips, leading groups to see all that their home-away-from-home has to offer. Eventually, maybe, they’ll be able to move back. But for now, they are grateful for the split life.
“We do love it here. The mountains are home,” Kim and Stan say. “It’s just now, Cuba is too.”
Want to support Stan and Kim’s partnership with Cuba? Consider joining Ecclesia Baptist for the annual Bar-be-Cuba event! Click here for more details and to respond to the Facebook event!