miércoles, 27 de diciembre de 2017

Whether Your Needs are Big or Small, God Knows Them All

Merry Christmas, everyone! I have so much to catch you all up on so I will try to be brief. Everything can be summed up in this statement: God truly is the perfect provider. He cares about every little detail.

Our men finished up their power inverter class. They assembled a power inverter themselves and also learned how to troubleshoot and repair power inverters. These concepts are extremely advanced, so they certainly still have much to learn. However, we were able to provide them with a base of knowledge and skills and also certification. This should help these men to find jobs in this field or at least do some work on the side for their families, friends, neighbors, etc.

The women have completed two classes in the last couple of months. We had a jewelry and accessory-making class and a manicure and pedicure class. In the jewelry and accessory-making class, the participants learned how to make some beautiful products, which some of them have already been making and selling out of their homes! They also learned how to perform manicures and pedicures so that they can either find a job in a beauty salon or make a little extra money by giving manicures and pedicures to their families, friends, and neighbors.

During the manicure and pedicure class, one of the women asked the teacher (who regularly attends our sign language classes at the church) how much it costs to buy everything she would need to begin doing this work independently. The teacher responded that it had been a long time since she had purchased these items and wasn't sure. She told me that she would call the pastor of her church (who also regularly attends our sign language classes) to ask if she knew. The next day, the pastor showed up for the sign language class with a large bag. She handed it to me and said that she had purchased manicure and pedicure kits for every participant in our class. She told me that she had been wanting to bless us with an offering and that this was the perfect opportunity. I was so touched! God truly even takes care of the little things! The women were so grateful to receive this gift, as many of them cannot afford to buy these tools. Now they can start working!

The sign language class is going amazingly well! We have had four weeks of class (just one hour a week) so far, and we have a steady group of 20-30 hearing participants. They are all so enthusiastic and are learning so quickly! Many Deaf men and women come to the class to help teach and interact with the class. The participants are already able to have basic conversations in sign language. It is incredible how God is touching the hearts of so many people in the community to learn this language and support the Deaf Community.

We have received two visitors in the past month who have been an incredible help to this ministry. Our first visitor was a woman who has been working with the Deaf Community longer than I have been alive! Dr. Jeanne Prickett is the president of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She gave a one-day workshop to new teachers of the deaf. New special education classrooms for the deaf are opening up all over the country, but the teachers have not been trained in how to teach the deaf, nor do they know sign language! They went through the education program at a university and then were thrown into deaf classrooms knowing no sign language or strategies to teach the deaf. Dr. Prickett flew to the Dominican Republic to talk to these teachers about deafness, Deaf culture, Deaf education, and to teach some basic signs. What really touched me was that these teachers, who spend every day as fish out of water trying to teach students they don't understand in a language they don't know, were so enthusiastic, energetic, and eager to learn and improve. Please pray for these teachers.

Our second visitor was a good friend from Hands of Joy's annual summer camps. Rebekah is a CODA (child of deaf adults), which means that her parents are both Deaf. She has been involved in the Deaf Community her entire life and was able to come be a part of our work and share her experiences. She had the opportunity to speak to some of the children of the Deaf adults involved in the church and vocational program, and she was also able to give advice and encouragement to many Deaf mothers. I was so thankful to have her with us, even if it was just for a short time.

The biggest miracle of all was the success of the Christmas party at the church. Up until just a few days before the party, we couldn't figure out how we were going to make it all come together. There was no money to put together a Christmas party! Well, God had bigger plans than we could have dreamed. We received enough donations that we were able to have an amazing party and have some money left over to save for future expenses. Over 100 people came to church that Sunday morning, almost all of them Deaf. When you consider that we normally have 20-25 on Sundays, a service of that size is incredible! We had a church service with singing, praying, and a sermon about the true meaning of Christmas. Afterward, we were able to feed lunch to each of the over 100 people. With the help of some of the church members, we also put together 75 food bags. Each family took home a bag of food full of rice, beans, fruit, sugar, pasta, tomato sauce, oil, seasoning, cornmeal, oatmeal, canned fish, cookies, crackers, and much more. This way, even the poorest of these people could make their Christmas dinners. We even were able to buy toys for some of the children (all of the children are hearing. They are CODAs.)! It was just an incredible day. Hopefully some of those people will start coming on a regular basis! Pray for that!

This picture doesn't capture the full crowd. There were more in the back and off to the side.

75 food bags to give out to each family

Giving toys to the children

I am currently in the States spending the holidays with my family and friends. Being with them is such a blessing. I don't want this time to end, but at the same time, I am eager to get back to work. We have many exciting things coming in January!

If you would like to see more pictures from our classes, events, and the Christmas party, check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/manosdediossordos/ or search manosdediossordos on Instagram.

lunes, 13 de noviembre de 2017

A Little Down Time

These past few weeks have been a little bit slower, which has been a nice little break for me. We haven't had a vocational class going on during the week, so I have been taking advantage of the time to catch up on my own classes! Also, the owners of a grocery store chain called Bravo and of a hotel have decided that they want to hire pretty large numbers of Deaf employees. I have spent the last few weeks making, collecting, and sending CV's in hopes that some of these men and women can get jobs. Please send up some prayers for them!

The power inverter class in going well! God is so good and provided me with an interpreter for this Saturday class, which has allowed me to rest and work on my own studies. These men are learning a lot of really complicated stuff!

A couple of students from the Deaf school where I used to work got the opportunity to model and give a short presentation about an English speaking country (they chose Dominica) at the English Song Festival for this school district. They absolutely stole the show! They looked great, they modeled great, and they gave their presentations perfectly. These opportunities are so important for increasing awareness of the Deaf Community. Many students, teachers, and important people in the education system got to see these two Deaf students shine and were exposed to Sign Language.

Speaking of awareness, two Sundays ago, a hearing church nearby brought their children's program to interact with the Deaf and see how we worship God using Sign Language. All of the children and adult leaders were so enthusiastic, copying the songs, asking the Deaf questions about their lives and experiences, and are all interested in learning Sign Language. This experience was so important because I believe that educating today's youth about these diversity issues and sparking their interest in this ministry while young may be one of the best ways to change the future for this Deaf Community.

For yesterday's service, we decided to have our church service at a park in town and then spend the afternoon playing sports and enjoying the outdoors. The thing is, the weather has been terrible lately. It has been raining all day, every single day for the last week. But this was the only week we could do it until after the New Year, so we decided to give it a go. We had a very small turn out and right as the service was ending, it started pouring down rain. After eating in a gazebo and waiting out the rain a couple of hours, we decided to call it quits and head home. It was a very pretty service with the lake in the background, surrounded by trees and nature, and the fellowship was good despite the rain. Maybe we'll try again some other time!


Drama about the anointing of David

After months of being pressured by many enthusiastic people, I finally feel ready to start a Sign Language class for the hearing community. I already have a list of 40 people who are interested, and some of those 40 have told me that they have more friends who want to take the class as well.  Some of these are people who have Deaf family members, some want to learn in order to preach to and support the Deaf Community, and I'm sure there are some who want to learn just because they think Sign Language is cool. I'm not sure how this is going to work out with so many people and the fact that I have to teach the class in Spanish, but I know God will work it out.

Please send up some prayers for health! There are some nasty colds and bird flu going around right now, and a lot of people are getting sick. As always, thank you for your support and your prayers. God bless!

domingo, 15 de octubre de 2017

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

I feel like every time I make a post, I say the same thing: These past few weeks have been filled with so many exciting experiences! But it's always true! There is never a dull moment. International Week of the Deaf was celebrated near the end of September. ANSORDO (National Association of the Deaf Dominican Republic) celebrated by visiting many government institutions to express the difficulties and needs of the Deaf Community. At the end of their tour, they and groups of Deaf people from around the country (probably about 200 in number) all met at the Senate Building to debrief. There are currently numerous Senators who support the demands of the Deaf Community, and there are people working on legislation to give the Deaf more rights in the workplace, access to interpreters, etc.

I arrived with my group of Deaf men and women from the church at the time we were told, but that ended up being two hours before the ANSORDO tour would arrive. For those two hours, groups from all over the country arrived. And for those two hours, I was the only hearing person who knew sign language. I had people grabbing me by the wrist and pulling me this way and that to interpret between the Deaf Community and those who work in the Senate Building. Interpreting between my second and third languages is a bit of a challenge, but I sure am getting a lot of practice at it lately!

Our power inverter class is up and running! The men have been enduring the boring part of any class: the theory, vocabulary, etc. However, we did spend one class learning how to solder and desolder. Apparently this skill is extremely important when working with power inverters.

Our decorations class has come to an end. It was a very exciting, but also kind of sad day. The women in the class put everything they have made in the last seven weeks on display and we invited their families and friends, people from ACOPRO (the organization that sponsored the class), and also some important community leaders. Everyone, including me, was absolutely stunned at how everything came together. The displays were beautiful! These Deaf women have learned and accomplished so much in the last seven weeks! Yes, they made and put up all of this themselves, with the instruction and guidance of their teacher (NO, not me hahaha).

If you would like to see more pictures of this event, check out the church's Facebook page Fundación para Sordos Manos de Dios or @manosdediossordos on Instagram.

These women now have the opportunity to find jobs at event planning businesses or make and sell their craft out of their homes. My job since this class ended has been helping these women make their resumes, as most of them do not have one and it is difficult for them to communicate with professionals to get help making one. We are also currently planning a manicure and pedicure class, which will begin soon.

However, by far the most exciting update is the growth of the church. The church has doubled in size in the last two months. We may have to start looking for a new building or raise money to construct one of our own because we already barely fit in the building we have! And I know that it is going to continue growing. In the last month, eight adults have accepted Christ and committed their lives to the Lord for the first time. EIGHT! These newcomers are so hungry to learn about God and what He says in His word. In addition, many of them are bringing their hearing children with them to church. This is so important, because these CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) are this community's future interpreters, teachers for the Deaf, and hearing supporters. God is really using this project to reach a community that was being largely ignored. I am so thankful that God is allowing me to be a part of His work here in this community.

miércoles, 27 de septiembre de 2017

Two Storms and a Ship

This past month has been a non-stop adventure! Between our daily decorations classes, starting the power inverter class, two hurricanes, and numerous special events, this month has been crazy! We were very blessed in that neither of the hurricanes did us any harm. I live and serve in Santo Domingo, which is the the southern part of the island. The provinces in the north experienced some scary winds and flooding. I am very pleased to announce that there was no damage to our home nor to any of the homes of the Deaf community where I work (that I have heard of). We did get some rain and wind and decided to cancel classes for a couple of days with both hurricanes for safety's sake, but neither storm lived up to the hype (THANK GOD!).

This month a missionary ship called the Logos Hope, part of Operation Mobilization Ministry, has been docked here in Santo Domingo. It is the largest floating library in the world, has over 400 volunteers from 67 different countries, and travels all over the word giving knowledge, hope, and help and preaching the gospel. It was a total God thing how I got connected with them. Our Deaf church is a chapel connected to a much larger church called Templo Calvario. About once a month, we bring our group to the large church and interpret the service for our Deaf congregation. It just so happened that the one day last month that we brought our group to the larger church was the same Sunday that one of the missionaries from the ship visited the church because she had heard that there was a Deaf ministry. I talked with her, and it turns out that she was attempting to plan an event for Deaf students on the ship but had only been able to contact one school. I was able to help her contact other schools and interpreted the event since the common language on the ship is English. The final head count for the event was about 287 people, including the Deaf students as well as teachers and assistant teachers. They did games, dramas, and songs. It was a great success!
There was a whole other row to the right as well.
Ramen noodle eating contest.

Sumo wrestling

Clown act

"Good, Good Father" by Chris Tomlin performed in ASL
In addition to us visiting the ship, some of the missionaries from the ship also came to visit our church. We had a special event one Sunday morning and so many people showed up that we couldn't fit inside! Fortunately, we saw this coming and set up a tarp to hold the service outside. Over 50 Deaf came! Before that day, we were averaging probably 13 people on Sundays. Our lovely teacher from the decorations class put up some balloons, an amazing group from a hearing church came and performed a fun song and a very moving drama, one missionary shared her testimony, another missionary preached about the importance of the Deaf taking responsibility for the salvation of their community, and we served a little food and juice. It was a fantastic event!

We haven't reached 50 again yet, but the master plan is working. Slowly but surely, the participants of the vocational classes are beginning to attend church on Sundays. In the Sundays since the event, we have had around 20 in the congregation. Pretty soon we're going to need a bigger location!

The decorations class is going absolutely fantastic. We have a group of about 20 who come everyday, and they are learning to make so many cool things for birthday parties and baby showers. They are all so excited and are proud of the products they are creating. This class ends in two weeks, and we are currently trying to plan the next class.

For the kids to wear at a unicorn birthday party.

Little shoes for a baby shower

These are made from toilet paper rolls that I have been saving for the last year and had no idea why!

Fake cake so you can keep the decorations display pretty and make the cake mess in the back.


Another piñata

Cupcake stand for a unicorn party

Cupcake stand for a baby shower

Cupcake stand for a baseball party
The power inverter class has been struggling since it is only once a week and the hurricanes have forced us to cancel class for two weeks. We will see how many show up this week!

All of this progress is happening so much faster than I could have ever hoped for. To be honest, I imagined that I would be sitting alone in an empty building trying and failing to get something started for at least six months. But God has taken control, and in the past two months that we have been open, we have had incredible success and seen so much growth. I am beyond excited to see where all of this leads. I have so many hopes and dreams for this project, but not enough time, hands, or money to make it all happen yet. If God has proven anything in the last two months, it is that He provides everything we need in His perfect timing. Please continue to pray, because your prayers are clearly working!!! Thank you all for your prayers and support.

If you would like to follow the church on Facebook and Instagram to stay caught up with what is going on, special events, pictures, announcements, etc., you can like and follow "Fundación para Sordos Manos de Dios" on Facebook and search for @manosdediossordos on Instagram.