viernes, 12 de agosto de 2022

Building update, Rochester, and Ecuador

Since I last wrote in April, we poured the concrete for the roof and columns, installed all of the PVC to run the electricity for the building, dug the septic and cistern, and applied a cement layer to the entire interior and exterior of the building. Though we still have a lot to do, the structure itself is finished.


View from the front

Parking area and cistern

The sanctuary
Sanctuary (pulpit will go on that wall in the back)

View from pulpit to the other side of the building
(Door on the left is the kitchen. Door on the right is to bathrooms and storage)

Kitchen

Hallway to the bathrooms and storage area under the stairs

One of the bathrooms

Storage under the stairs

The next steps are to install metal bars on all of the windows and doors, pour the cement for the flooring and the parking area, install windows and doors, lay the tile flooring, install the bathrooms, and install the fans and lighting. Once all of that is finished, we will be able to move in to the building while we continue building upstairs!

Though the building isn't quite ready to start holding church services regularly, we did have our first service in the building last month. We received shoe donations from Children's International and food bag donations from the Dominican government that month and decided to make a special activity out of it. We held our regular church service, gave out the food and shoe donations, and had juice and snacks. We were thrilled to see many people that we hadn't seen since the COVID shutdown, see a couple of new faces, and also see all of the hard work on this building really pay off. Raising money for the construction has been very difficult lately, and even now we have put everything on hold for lack of funds to continue, but the fact that we were able to use the building for the activity was such a necessary reminder that God is in control and that everything will come together in His perfect timing.





The last five weeks have been insane for me because I traveled to both Rochester, New York and Quito, Ecuador. The trip to Rochester was related to a qualitative research study conducted with the Dominican Deaf community, focusing on language deprivation and healthcare experiences. The research is being done by the same multi-institutional collaboration that did the census project, the Dominican National Association of the Deaf (ANSORDO), the University of Rochester, Deaf Worlds, and a Dominican university called Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM). Over the past couple of years, Deaf Dominicans were trained to conduct interviews and then proceeded to interview over 100 other Deaf Dominicans from different provinces throughout the country. Some interviews were done over Zoom and others in person. The interviews then had to be interpreted into English, transcripts created by an AI program from the interpreted audios, Deaf eyes looked at parts that were unclear to the interpreters, AI errors in the transcripts cleaned up, transcripts formatted, and now we are coding the data, which will then be analyzed.

First, a small team from the University of Rochester traveled here to the DR to work with a team of Deaf Dominicans and make sure that the interpretations were accurate and to clarify parts of the interviews that were unclear to the interpreters. We spent 10 days working on that. Then Pablo (a Deaf man who is the president of ANSORDO, also works in the Bible translation project, and is a good friend of mine) and I went with the American team back to Rochester for a week to continue cleaning and formatting the transcripts and start coding. There was a lot of work to be done, but we had an amazing time with some absolutely incredible people. I also got to see some good friends from camp and catch up with them a bit! It has been such an honor to be involved in such important work. I cannot wait to see the results of this research and to see them published so that it can be used for advocacy for the Deaf community here in the DR!





Pablo and I got back from Rochester late that Saturday night and left for Ecuador early that Monday morning with the rest of our Bible translation team for a two-week workshop provided by the United Bible Societies. Already exhausted from working 10-12 hour days for the last three weeks, I had to dig deep to find the energy to keep pushing forward. But wow, was it worth it. Sign Language Bible translation teams from 14 Latin American countries attended. I was much more confident not only in my Spanish but also in my ability to use gestures and learn new signs from each country to break the barrier between different Sign Languages than I was in 2019, so I was really able to take advantage and interact with all of the amazing Deaf translators and interpreters. 

The first week focused on literary genres and devices in the Bible and how to translate them into Sign Language. Many people don't realize that Sign Language does have poetry, and that this poetry has rhyme, rhythm, inflection, alliteration, parallelism, etc., etc., etc., just like written and spoken poetry do. Every auditory device in existence can be recreated in a visual way! 

The second week focused on New Testament history and culture. We learned about New Testament manuscripts, variants in those manuscripts, some history and context behind different books in the New Testament and their authors, the Greco-Roman influence during that time, etc. 

Both weeks were full of so much important and interesting information that will help each translation project. This was the first in person workshop since COVID began, and we were all so grateful for the opportunity and the time together.










At the end of this month, Pablo and I will be traveling again. This time, to Italy. Pablo has been invited by the United Bible Societies to teach a workshop to future Bible consultants for Sign Language translation projects about technological necessities and challenges in Sign Language translation video production. Until then, I am trying my best to balance rest with catching up on things that I had to put aside for the last five weeks while also trying to raise enough money to continue construction on the church. Seeing how our leaders at the church have stepped up in the last few weeks shows me that things are moving in the right direction. Every single day God shows me that He is in control. As my grandmother would say, "God's got this." And that as long as we have our hearts open to receive His guidance and are obedient, all things work together for good. As always, prayers for the church and all of these projects are so needed and appreciated. God bless.


























lunes, 18 de abril de 2022

Emergency Need for Donations!

Happy Easter, everyone! Well, our building excitement was put on hold for a few months while we dealt with City Hall and a building permit. That is a long story that I won't get into, but I'll just say that they were intentionally making things difficult and we never found out why. It was many months of back and forth, during which time we could not continue with the construction. I did keep quite busy during those months, however, working with the Dominican National Association of the Deaf (ANSORDO), the University of Rochester, Deaf Worlds, and a Dominican university called Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra on a Deaf census project. I had been interpreting virtual meetings with this project for nearly a year, and it was finally time to do the field work. We traveled to six randomly chosen provinces and surveyed nearly 3,000 households in different randomly chosen sectors of each province. It was such a cool experience that allowed me to see so much of the country, including extremely remote areas. We even got stuck in the mud in the middle of no where one day. This was the first population-based census of the Deaf population in the Dominican Republic, and quite possibly the world. The papers reporting the results are currently being written up for publishing. 





In December, we had our annual Christmas celebration. Because we have been raising money for the church construction, we were thinking about having a small celebration this year. We were going to prepare a few small food bags and just have a gathering with those who had been regularly attending church (a growing number, but still recovering from the pandemic) without serving lunch. However, God basically slapped me on the wrist for my lack of faith when He began to touch people's hearts both here in the DR and in the States to donate money, food, clothes, and shoes. We ended up having one of our most amazing celebrations to date with really big food bags for every family, a prepared lunch with so much food that many people took seconds home, toys for each child, and enough clothes and shoes that each individual left with 2-5 articles of clothing. It was absolutely incredible and so much fun!! What an amazing blessing and testimony to how faithful God is!!






Finally, in late January, we got our building permit and were able to start building again! Things have been moving so fast since then! I have been in awe watching each step of the building process. The way these guys have such a well-oiled system to work quickly and precisely is amazing. The next step is to pour the concrete for the ceiling of the first floor. Unfortunately, building anything right now is crazy expensive. Building materials have nearly doubled in price in the last few months. Numbers that we crunched just two months ago are now not even close to the prices we are having to pay. When we priced concrete a couple of months ago, it cost about $80 per cubic meter. Now it costs $120. We thought we had raised enough money to get the first floor to a point that we would be able to use it for our church services, but we now find ourselves quite short. It took a month to get the wood and rebar structures ready to pour the concrete. The wood belongs to the people who put it up, and they are saying that they are going to need it back very soon. If any of you have considered donating but have been waiting for the right time, or if you have already donated and might consider giving something more, now is the time.  You can donate by clicking the "Donate" button on the right hand side of this page. We have some Dominican donors who have committed to donating toilets, windows, doors, etc., but we need to get that concrete poured before we can do anything else.

I know that God's timing is perfect and that if He wants this church built now, that He will touch hearts in order to provide exactly what we need and exactly when. I have been told that God is never late, but He is rarely early. He is always exactly right on time.

Check out these pictures of the building process so far!



















As always, I thank you all for your interest in this ministry and for all of your prayers and donations. None of this would be possible without each and every one of you.

martes, 21 de septiembre de 2021

Breaking Ground

We broke ground! We are officially building! As soon as we had the blueprints for the first floor in hand, we found a contractor (after going through a few) and he got started that very day. God really does work everything out perfectly. The contractor we settled on is married to the woman we are currently renting the church from, and they live right around the corner. Some of our Deaf church members have experience in construction, and he has agreed to include some on his work team. This church that will be such a blessing for so many has already become an economic opportunity for a few families. 


We are currently starting work on the foundation, which is the most difficult and most expensive part of the whole construction. This will be a 2-3 story cement block building in a country where earthquakes and hurricanes are pretty common occurrences, so we want to make sure we build a strong foundation with good quality materials. Once the foundation is ready, we will focus on the first floor, which will include the church sanctuary, an office, a kitchen, bathrooms, and a couple of small storage rooms. With this, we will be able to move our church services into the new building while we continue fundraising and building the second floor, where we will have classrooms. 



We have been raising money for a while and had some funds for the initial costs, but we now have some immediate needs. I made a table breaking down the material and labor costs required for the foundation of the church, and I am reaching out to all of you to see how you can help. Every little bit helps. Every bag of cement, every rebar, every cinder clock gets us closer to having our own church building. 




If you would like to donate, you can do it through the “Donate" button on the right hand side of this blog. All donations are tax-deductible. You can even set up a recurring donation. Please note that this button does not show up if you are on a cell phone. You must access the blog on a computer. No idea why that is, to be honest.


As we get close to finishing the foundation, I will be sending out another table breaking down the costs to finish the first floor. If everything goes well, we will reach that point in a few months.


Material

Quantity Needed

Cost per unit

Total cost

Bags of cement

600

$6.63

$3,978.00

Rebar 3/8

296

$3.85

$1,139.60

Rebar 3/4

96

$16.00

$1,536.00

Rebar 1/2

98

$7.15

$700.70

Cut wire C-16

200

$2.12

$424.00

Square meters of sand

36

$36.00

$1,296.00

Square meters of gravel

28

$31.81

$890.68





Labor cost

$7,068.39





Grand total for foundation

$17,033.37

martes, 13 de julio de 2021

A Dream Come True!!!!!

WE DID IT!!!!! We finally got the land for the church!!! It has been a long and often frustrating process, but it's ours! This is the most exciting, most important day of my time here so far. I almost can't even believe it. I have to admit, this whole process has gone on so long that it sometimes felt like some far-off dream. But we also knew that if this was the land that God wanted for His church, that He would be faithful and deliver in His perfect time. And that He did. Soon, we will start construction. We have raised enough money to get started, but we will now be looking for more donations as well as mission teams who want to come down and help with the construction. If either of those requests touch your heart, you can e-mail me at ashelamer@yahoo.com for more information.


While we have been sorting everything out with the land, we found a little place right across the street from the lot available for rent. We opened church in-person in late April. We have continued to do our Friday afternoon Bible study online, but we are holding Sunday morning church in that small space. I have to be honest, I thought we were going to have a hard time figuring out how to fit everyone in there. However, we have had a much harder time than expected encouraging our members to develop the habit of coming to church again. We have a strong group of faithful Deaf leaders who have really stepped up to lead the services, supervise the protocols (COVID numbers have peaked here once again), and encourage their friends to come back to church. A large part of the problem is that the van broke down...again...and we have not been able to pick up the young ones or those who live further away and can't afford public transportation. Not to mention the risk of packing a bunch of people into a small van. We are strategizing and praying for solutions.




For the Bible translation, we decided to work on Luke 22-24. No, we haven't translated chapters 6-21 yet. But with this section, we will at least have the birth of Jesus, the start of His ministry, five of His teachings, and His death, resurrection, and ascension. A good overview for people to use while we continue to work. As I have mentioned before, it is a slow, complex, and extremely interesting process. We have an amazing team, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this project.

When the COVID numbers started to go down for a bit and after we got vaccinated, we started to take some short trips to different places around the country. The DR really is such a gorgeous country with so much to offer. It has been a real blessing to see more of it this past year or so.

















On a personal note, these last few months have been very difficult. My grandfather got very sick in late March, and I went back to the States for six weeks to help care for him in the hospital. Thankfully, a lot of my work is still virtual, so I was able to be with my family without having to abandon everything going on in the DR. They actually opened in-person church without me! Our amazing pastor and group of fantastic leaders moved us into the new space and opened church the same week that I left for the States. That was very encouraging to me because it showed that all of our work up to this point has paid off. That they can do it without me!
My grandfather started to improve significantly, so I returned to the DR. A couple of weeks later, he got another infection and his heart gave out. This has been a very difficult loss for me and my family. I am so thankful that I was able to travel back to the States for his celebration of life and to spend a couple of weeks with my family and especially with my grandmother. 

Now I'm back in the DR and we were immediately able to purchase the land. As always, I thank all of you for your prayers and your support. None of this would be possible without all of you. I am so ready to get started building this church!!! If you are interested in supporting with your gifts, you can donate online (tax deductible) by clicking the "Donate" button on the right hand side of this page. If you are interested in supporting with your service, you can contact me at ashelamer@yahoo.com.