jueves, 27 de octubre de 2016

A Late Post-Hurricane Report and More

I can't believe it has been almost a month since I have made a post! The time has been flying! Hurricane Matthew brought a lot of rain and some wind, but we had no flooding and barely even lost power where I am living. However, the areas near the river experienced a lot of flooding. A few of the students from the school's homes flooded, but not many. But here are some pictures I took when we drove around the area where the school is located and where many of the students live. This flooding continued to rise for days after the hurricane had passed and then took over a week to go down. Thank God that all of the students, teachers, and their families were kept safe and that the damages were not nearly as bad as they could have been.


There have been a few cool things going on at the school. One day, a finance company visited the school and gave the kids a talk about saving money, which is a skill that is very important for them to learn and begin to practice. I think what the kids remember most was the inflatable yellow mascot guy, though!

Also, yesterday the sixth grade class competed at the festival of songs in English. Students from multiple schools in the district came together and performed songs for one another in English. Natali taught the sixth grade class a song in English and they performed it beautifully!! They read the English lyrics on a karaoke version of the song to keep them in time with the music, knew what the English words meant, and were able to perform the song in sign language. It was an incredible experience. When they finished singing, the entire room stood up and applauded for them the Deaf way (by shaking your hands in the air above your head). Not only was this an amazing accomplishment for the students and something for the whole school and community to be proud of, but it also exposed many of those people to deafness and sign language for the first time. The audience got to see just how amazing and intelligent these Deaf students are and how beautiful their language is. Exposure like this is part of how we can change the perception of deafness in this country and give these kids and the future generations a better world to grow up in.
Each of them received a medal, which they were able to take home and show to their families. This is something tangible that these parents can be truly proud of, which will hopefully help them see the potential of their children and encourage better relationships between these parents and their deaf children.

In not so great news, I gave my first test to each of my classes. It did not go as well as I had hoped. I was feeling pretty discouraged and like I must not be doing a good job at being their teacher. I felt as though I did everything I could to prepare them, but I just hadn't done enough or that I had done it badly or maybe I had not been able to communicate the concepts well. However, when I handed the tests back, my students took it very well. They took it much better than I did, in fact. I explained to them that these tests were difficult on purpose because I intend to challenge them. I told them that they are capable of doing everything that hearing students can do and that I was going to hold them to that standard. That I refuse to treat them differently or lower my expectations for them, because they are absolutely capable!
I continue to remind myself that I am attempting to teach some advanced concepts to students who have very little knowledge base to build off of and understand this material. They also can only read and write on a very basic level, and the science language is very difficult for them. We will all continue to work together and find a way to make sure they get the best education possible. I am in a learning process just as much as they are, as this is my first year teaching. I know that the Lord is in control and that He will guide my steps through this process as long as I continue to trust in Him.

In my personal life, teaching English once a week is going pretty well. The class seems to respond well to me and it is actually a lot of fun. One day, I was having them debate different aspects of animal conservation and the power went out. It was already dark by this time, and some of my students tried to tell me that we needed to end the class early. That was not going to fly with me. We took out our cell phones and shined light on each pair of debaters until the power came back on. That was an adventure.
I also went out to the new 4D movie theater and the circus. The 4D movie theater was pretty cool. The seats shake and move and lift up and down, the seats in front of you squirt water and air, smoke rises up from the floor, and lights around the theater flash. The movie wasn't that great, but the 4D experience was rather cool. However, the Dominican women did not appreciate that their hair was getting wet! The circus was pretty fun too. There were magicians, jugglers, acrobats, animal tamers (snakes thicker than my head!), and a clown.

I know I say it all the time, but I truly am just so blessed to be here serving and being a part of this community. Even though there is so much work involved during this first year of teaching, more responsibilities are being added to my plate, grad school work is constantly looming over my head, and I often feel very overwhelmed, each day I get to spend with these kids and young adults is such a blessing. I get to see God working in so many incredible ways everyday. If you ever doubt whether God is truly working in this world or not, come visit us some time. You will see just how mighty He is.

sábado, 1 de octubre de 2016

A Report and a Request

Last time I wrote, I had just made it past three months being in the country. Well, I have now been here more than three months post-camp, which is actually a bigger deal because going to camp is part of my normal routine. Full disclosure, as the newness of the situation is wearing off, I am beginning to miss my old life and home somewhat. But I am still so grateful for this mission the Lord somehow saw fit to send me on, and I am truly loving my new life and serving in these new ways.

Ever since God called me to leave my life and plans for the future to come here and be a teacher to the deaf, I have often wondered why He called me. There are so many people better qualified to do this job than I am. I have no formal education in teaching (much less special education), I have very little formal education in American Sign Language, I don't speak Spanish, I have never been evangelistic, my knowledge in theology is rather lacking, and the list goes on and on. But the longer I'm here, the more I am starting to believe all of those reasons are exactly why He called me. Any success I have and any impact I make could only be possible through Him. There is no way that any human ability or institution can take credit for what I do while I am here. All of the glory is to Him and for Him. If you ever find yourself wondering why God has placed you where He has, just remember that if He put you there, He will provide everything you need to be able to serve Him as He intended.

One thing I have learned about Dominicans is that they celebrate EVERYTHING! There are so many special days and each one is recognized and talked about in the schools. For example, just this month we have had the Day of Alphabetization, the International Day of Peace, the Day of the Bible, the Day of Children's Rights, and the Day of the Deaf. The Day of the Bible was celebrated with songs and dramas presented by each grade teaching about the Bible and its power.


We also got a special visit from a missionary named Bob who is 84 years old and still traveling around teaching people about the love of Christ!

Things at the school are going pretty well overall. Teaching is going great and each of my students (even the more challenging ones) is such a blessing to me. The director's son comes in once a week to teach the older students about technology and computers, and his new project is to teach them how to fix computers, which could be a wonderful way for them to make some money in the future. If any of you have any old computers, laptops, or cell phones that are damaged and you are looking to get rid of, let me know and I can get them from you in late December to bring back with me to help out with this amazing learning opportunity.

However, the water business that runs out of the school and provides some income for the school has been struggling due to the lack of electricity in the last month. For the past month, the electricity at the school has been off more than it has been on. And without electricity, we can't run the water purification system and can't sell water. That money not only pays the incomes of those who work in the water business, but also for the gas and driver for the school van. The school van was purchased thanks to a lot of hard work in fundraising done by members of the team that comes to put on the camp every summer. This van picks up and takes home children who have no transportation to get to and from school and can't afford any public transportation, and it has been such an incredible blessing. Without income from the water business, the van can't run and those kids can't come to school. Thanks for God's incredible provision through generous donations, we were able to keep the van running this last week. However, once that money is gone, we're not sure what we are going to do. We definitely need prayers in this area. If you are interested in donating to this cause, you can visit http://www.handsofjoyforthedeaf.com/donate.html. All money donated to the Hands of Joy organization gets sent to an account for the school and will be used to meet its financial needs in order to give these children a better education. There is so much power in prayer and in coming together as the body of Christ in order to help our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate.