I sent a press release to the Portland Press Herald, when my mother decided to make a trip to Africa in 2000. I thought it might make an interesting story, and they agreed. They sent a photographer and reporter, and this is the resulting article, written by C. Kalimah Redd and published on November 11, 2000. For the record, the writer got a few facts wrong. We’ll ignore those for now.
Following the article are a few photos from her trip. On the day before her flight, Stella was hurrying downstairs to give Doug some information he needed to arrange the transportation of the three keyboards she was taking with her for the churches there. As she came downstairs, she missed a step and seriously injured her leg. We really thought she should cancel her trip, but she refused to do so. She even extended her trip, despite the pain and challenges she encountered once she was there.
My mother was always a role model for me in life, but even in death she continues to remind me how to live.
ON A ROAD THAT FAITH BUILT
Author: C. Kalimah Redd
The Rev. Stella L. Mosqueda lives in pain.
A leg problem forces this 69-year-old Kittery resident to walk with a cane (though she walks an hour every day), and the severe arthritis in her joints has long slowed her down. But these things will not prevent her from stepping on a plane Wednesday for a two-day journey to Webuye, Kenya. There, she will work as a missionary and preach for a month.
“If an opportunity comes up for me to do something , even though other people think I can’t do it, well — I’m Irish, and I can,” she said. “I’m stubborn and independent. I have no interest in doing the same thing every day.”
Mosqueda (pronounced Mos-ke-da), who technically retired from the ministry in the mid-1980s after her husband died, has lived a life reminiscent of a Hollywood script: A farmer’s daughter moves to Cuba as a missionary without knowing a word of Spanish, meets and marries a Cuban evangelical preacher, escapes the county during the 1959 revolution, then travels throughout South America and the United States championing missionary causes while raising three girls.
Steven Spielberg, eat your heart out.
But Mosqueda’s life is no fable, and her journey next week to the east African country represents a lifetime commitment to helping others. Her faith, she says, tells her that she will blend in and love the people there, that everything will be all right.
“God really has been good to me,” she said. “It’s easy for me to love people, so I expect to have the same result in the Kenya.”
Years ago, it was Mosqueda’s faith that led her to the decision that would change her life forever.
Then Stella Cooper, she left her house in Columbus, Ohio, for Miami, against her parents’ wishes and with less than $10 in her pocket. She had a one-way ticket to Cuba.
Until then, at 21, Mosqueda had never left her home state and had never even met a Spanish-speaking person. She grew up on a farm with no electricity, the fourth of 11 children. Her family had gone to the small church closest to her home and only once had she spoken from a pulpit, when she was 9 years old and was called upon to read from the Bible.
One day, Mosqueda briefly met with a Cuban missionary who came to visit her church. They kept in contact and he invited her to join his family in the tiny country to work as a missionary.
“I knew nothing about being a missionary but figured there are things that I could do, and those I didn’t know, I would learn,” Mosqueda recalled.
Getting to Cuba was the first challenge. It was 1952, and no one could enter the country with a one-way ticket, she said. The airport clerk receiving Mosqueda saw the discrepancy after first questioning why “a pretty girl like” her wanted to go to Cuba.
Telling the clerk of her goal to be a missionary produced an unlikely outcome: He paid for her two-way ticket in full.
Upon arriving in Cuba, she could not remember what her Cuban visitor looked like and she could not speak Spanish to ask. Luckily (Mosqueda would say miraculously) she ran into another missionary woman from Ohio who led her to the missionary’s home.
Within six months, Mosqueda had control of Spanish and began working throughout the country teaching children and spreading the gospel of the Pentecostal church.
In 1955, she married Ignacio Mosqueda, and the two canvassed the country preaching and establishing churches. Many of these congregations still operate today.
By 1959, the Cuban revolution was in full swing. Ignacio knew Fidel Castro personally, but that connection did not mean he and his wife had less to fear from an unpredictable government. The Mosquedas escaped the country that year by disguising themselves as tourists, donning colorful clothing, sun glasses and a camera while boarding a government plane. “I was shaking like a leaf,” Mosqueda remembered. “I could hardly get on that plane.”
Safely in America, the couple continued their missionary crusade. They lived in or traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii and throughout the United States. They settled in California, where they raised their three daughters and Stella Mosqueda received a bachelor’s degree from Latin American Theology Seminary.
Mosqueda’s husband died in 1986 of a heart attack, and she returned to nursing to support her children. In 1997, she moved to Kittery with her eldest daughter, Caroline. There, she has enjoyed helping to raise her two grandchildren and volunteering in the community.
Less than one year ago, she joined the Dover Church of the Assembly of God in New Hampshire, where she occasionally preaches. Her pastor, Glenn Hurley, 32, said he is in no way surprised by Mosqueda’s desire to travel to Africa, and he is confident her journey will be a success.
“It’s years and years of trusting God and years and years of Him supplying the need,” Glenn said. “Once you learn it, you never go back.”
For her part, Mosqueda hopes to go back to Cuba to visit her family still living there soon. After her return in December from Africa, Mosqueda will likely tutor a Latin American family in English. She is considering avoiding the cold Maine winter by visiting one of her other daughters in Florida.
Mosqueda said she has no plans for any more big trips. Her physical limitations and increasing age turn simple tasks like packing into a major chore. “(But) who knows,” Mosqueda said. “My life is open.”
Copyright (c) 2000 Portland Press Herald
If anyone is interested, I would be happy to scan and share the rest of her photos from Africa. These are just the few that included her. ❤