Stan Dotson didn’t mean to start an international incident when he wrote a book about his 11-month stay in Cuba, but his publisher said Nov. 18 the matter has been resolved and Cuba: A Day In the Life should be once again available for purchase within a few days.
Dotson, founding director of In Our Elements, a leadership and curriculum development resource for churches and community organizations based in Asheville, N.C., and his wife, Kim Christman, have visited Cuba more than 25 times through the Alliance of Baptists’ long-running partnership with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba.
After returning from an extended stay in 2014-2015 and with the announcement of a historic thaw in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba after 56 years of Cold War enmity, Dotson resolved to capture the still-fresh memories of cross-cultural misadventures and stories of everyday life in rural and urban Cuba on his computer screen.
The book came out Aug. 24 and was receiving rave reviews when the Treasury Department ordered a halt to publishing pending investigation into whether it violated federal regulations for doing business in Cuba.
Dotson said he didn’t know his plans to donate all book proceeds to church ministries in Cuba might violate the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba until his publisher received a letter from PayPal saying a $23.90 purchase was being held in escrow under regulations of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Parson’s Porch Books publisher David Russell Tullock said Nov. 18 what triggered the investigation was Dotson’s use of the term “micro enterprise” when he announced proceeds of the book would go to fund a backyard chicken-egg project in a rural village and feeding program associated with First Baptist Church of Matanzas, Cuba.
Tullock said after he managed to explain “that it was a church ministry, not some subversive political coup,” PayPal agreed to reactive his account after shutting it down for four days.
Tullock, who served five churches as pastor for a total of 25 years before going into the publishing business in 2010, called it a “headache” and said he “never had an issue like this before.”
Based in Cleveland, Tenn., Parson’s Porch is an innovative nonprofit corporation and publishing company founded in 2004. It is funded by donor support and profits from publishing, with 100 percent of donations going to people in need.
The publishing arm, which averages 48 books a year and has a total of 270 books on the market, pays overhead for the charity and after meeting expenses subsidizes the giving side. Since 2004, the company says it has given away more than half a million dollars.
Tullock, a native of East Tennessee who attended Carson-Newman College and Southern Baptist Seminary, is a writer, speaker and pastoral counselor.
Dotson, who briefly thought he would win the award for the shortest run of a published book ever, said he was surprised by the controversy. A few years ago the Cuban government liberalized its economy to allow for private enterprise called particulares, and most of the Fraternity of Baptist churches have some kind of backyard garden, crafts cooperative or other way to help support the economy of the families in their community.
“You would think our government would celebrate this small scale move toward capitalism,” he mused.
When in Cuba Dotson serves as guide and translator for visiting groups, teaches at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary of Matanzas and facilitates workshops for the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba.