At the beginning of June, we got three really special visitors. Two of them I have gotten to know through camp and one was a friend of theirs, and is now a friend of mine. They came a few weeks before camp to get a different perspective on how the Deaf live here and to help out with my vocational training program. It was so much fun to have them here with us! Not only did I get to speak soooo much English, but we also got to show them around the city, and I put them to work.
One of them spent a week teaching a Spanish literacy class. The majority of the Deaf here are illiterate due to a lack of education. For some of them, it is due to not spending many (if any) years in school. For others, the techniques used to teach them when they were in school were ineffective. There is still so much they need to learn, but it was great to give them at least a week to gain some knowledge they didn't have before.
I also took advantage of the other two to teach soldering and welding. These are skills that could earn those men a little extra money fixing phone and computer cables and stuff like that, or they can find little side jobs doing some welding. The men really enjoyed learning these skills.
During these few weeks, we also had a woman come in and teach the women how to make rugs that they can sell for between $30 and $50 a piece. She also taught them how to make different types of bows they can sell.
Two of our newer members (a married couple) got baptized! They have been faithfully attending church and Bible study for almost a year now and they felt that God was leading them to get baptized. They got baptized with a larger group from our mother church (all hearing), and the husband was given the opportunity to share his testimony about how his life has been changed since coming to know Christ. He spoke about how he, his marriage, and his family have been touched. The ceremony was beautiful and moving. We are so happy to have this amazing couple as our new brother and sister in Christ!
I also had one of the most touching things happen. The Deaf men and women who have been attending our classes organized a little surprise birthday party for me. They tricked me into leaving for a few minutes to buy something we needed for a class and quickly decorated with balloons. They bought me a cake, and some of them even used the little bit of money they had to buy me presents. It was sooooo sweet! I'm not a person who cries, like, ever, and I almost shed a few tears. Then, a few hours later, some of the Deaf and a hearing teacher from the school came by with ANOTHER CAKE and I had a second little birthday party! I can't even begin to describe how full my heart was that day. It was so reaffirming to see the effort they all put in to show me how much they care and that they are grateful for the work I do.
Finally, it came time for camp. I say finally because I was so sick of the word "camp" by the time the date arrived! The amount of work and preparation that goes into that camp on this end of things is CRAZY! So the time FINALLY comes, but we ran into some serious last minute issues with permissions for the children and leaders not wanting to take responsibility for their groups due to fear of legal ramifications and such. These same concerns were voiced by multiple groups from around the country. Due to all of this, we ended up with less campers than we had last year. But we got between 115 and 140 campers for each camp, so it was still a good amount! And God knew what He was doing because the North American staff team was significantly smaller than in previous years. So everything worked out perfectly. The campers and staff alike enjoyed chapel time, dramas, singing, discussion groups, science, sports, crafts, and pool time. The theme was service and being good servants, which is a relevant and necessary message for the Deaf community here. Everything went smoothly, and a total of around 60 campers went up to the altar to accept Christ!
My perspective this year was VERY different. In past years, I have been a group leader or a station leader. This year, I don't know who started the rumor that I know everything and am in charge of anything, but my name very quickly became the most used in the camp. I was approached with an incredible range of problems and questions, by campers AND staff members! I couldn't even complete one mission without being stopped on the way at least once with another problem to solve! I'm not sure I'm cut out for this whole being a leader thing. It's EXHAUSTING! But we all survived.
|Group picture from one of the camps|
|Dramas to help explain Bible stories|
|One of my sign language students leading a worship song!|
|Learning about the lungs in science|
|Discussion groups to emphasize what was learned in chapel|
|Some of our new church members leading a worship song in chapel|
|So many campers went up for the altar call!|
When I got back, I took a week or so to actually rest and then got back to work. We had some college students come and teach how to make simple wallets and purses out of felt.
We also got a barbery class going! A lot of the Deaf men have been requesting this class for a long time, and we were finally able to make it happen. ACOPRO, the organization who has been working with us in this process of vocational training, got us hooked up with the barbers' association for this area. The president of the association promised us that those who complete the class and show promising skill will be immediately placed in barber shops to start working! I really hope they keep that promise...
Another new development is that we just started a singing class/choir group this week. Many Deaf men and women have approached me saying how they want to lead worship songs in church, but that they don't know any songs and that they don't know how they can learn. So we started a class where they will be taught Christian songs and can then form a choir, if they would like. They seem to be pretty excited about this. We'll see if it works out!
I also decided that those who stuck with my sign language class have learned enough to incorporate themselves into our Bible study for the Deaf. There isn't much more they can learn in the classroom setting, and now I am forcing them to get involved in the Deaf community so that they can practice and learn more from the Deaf themselves. I have a whole list of people who didn't or couldn't start with the last group and have been waiting for me to start a new class, so I will be doing that as well.
For those of you who are interested in seeing more of what my day-to-day is like, one of our before-camp visitors made an awesome video that you should check out!
Please continue to pray for this ministry, this church, the Deaf community, and for me. It's not easy work, and there are times when I get really down and homesick, but there is truly nothing better than knowing that you are doing the Lord's work. And there is nothing more humbling than to know that He chose you to work through to touch others.