lunes, 11 de noviembre de 2019

Stretched a Bit Too Thin, But I Always Wanted to Be Thin

Is it fall? I really can't tell. No pumpkin spice anything, no Halloween decorations, no colorful leaves, no cool fall breeze. But we sure are excited for Christmas! Christmas lights and decorations have already been up for over a month now! I also know it must be fall because it's time to start planning our annual church Christmas party! More on that later.

The Bible translation is going well. The team will be traveling to Ecuador at the end of this month for more training and to present our pilot project (5 passages from Luke). There will be 13 (I think) other Bible translation teams from different Latin American countries at the conference. We still have a lot of work to do before then and are really praying that we can get it all done! We are now working with the Bible consultant. She told us that we are doing an incredible job with our translations, especially for a brand new team. She has been helping us with historical, conceptual, and language components that we missed or did not represent correctly. We are now ready to do the final filming and editing process!

For the past couple of months we have been offering financial planning and responsibility/basic business classes at the church. We have had a small but faithful group. The organization putting on the class is a cooperative called Coop Aspire. Cooperatives are basically banks, but each one specifically serves a particular type of person (teachers, lawyers, single mothers, vulnerable populations, etc.) They offer savings accounts and low interest loans. The ultimate goal of this class has been to teach the participants how to save and responsibly handle their money. We have also been working with them to develop small business ideas and are trying to get loans for the ones who have developed more concrete plans so that they can buy the equipment they need to get started. Some of the ideas have been to buy and sell cellphone accessories, a car wash, a barber shop, a hair salon, professional make up, and an empanada stand. I am really hoping that we can secure loans for at least a few of them and help them to get their own businesses started.

I had the honor of interpreting a personal finance workshop that was put on by one of the most popular banks here, BanReservas. ANSORDO (the national association for the Deaf) saw that BanReservas was going to be holding the workshop and got in touch with them. They agreed that it would be great if some members of the Deaf community could attend. We were expecting maybe 30 Deaf people, but 60-70 showed up! There were more Deaf than hearing people in the audience! If I interpreted it well (which is in question because the workshop lasted over two hours and I was the only interpreter hahaha) the Deaf participants were able to learn a lot. BanReservas is really making an effort to be more accessible. They are constructing ramps in numerous offices, holding sign language classes for their employees, putting braille on their signs, and more stuff that I can't remember now. The country really is making some incredible strides.

I also am part of the team that is organizing the first Deaf Expo, which will be Saturday, November 23rd. We are hoping that this will be a huge event bringing visibility to the Deaf community, their culture, and their language. It will be an all-day event with presentations, dances, songs, etc. from various Deaf schools and organizations that work with the Deaf community. People will be given the opportunity to sell different products that they make, there will be games and competitions, and it will  just be a really fun day. There is still A LOT of planning and preparation to do and very little time to do it!        

Following the formal agreement made between the Scouts and Infoiles (Institute for the Formation of Sign Language Interpreters), a small group of Deaf young adults were invited to participate in a Scout camp this past weekend. I was asked to go as their interpreter, along with another woman. None of us were really sure what to expect. One of the Deaf participants thought we were going to a fancy hotel. She was in for a shock! We spent four days sleeping on the floor in a school and doing tons of activities from 5:30am-12am every day. It was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life, but it was also a huge success. The group of Deaf men and women were able to participate with the Scouts without a language barrier. The Scouts really went out of their way to include the Deaf participants in everything. We planted trees, picked up trash, built a concrete structure to support a coral reef, gave presentations to the community, went to the 27 charcos (see the caption under the picture), participated in an afternoon of workshops and also held one of the workshops ourselves, had a bonfire, went to the beach, and much more. The hearing Scouts were so excited to have us there and so eager to learn how to communicate with the group of Deaf participants so that they could better include them in everything. It was a fun and heartwarming experience.

Planting mangroves

You can't really see it, but there are A LOT of bags full of garbage that we picked up in the area.

Los 27 Charcos de Damajagua is a place for people who like adventure. You follow a river down the mountain. Parts of it you walk, but other parts have a platform that you have to jump off of (as seen in the picture above) or water slides that are naturally made in the rock. The highest jump is 25 feet! It was quite exhilarating!
Giving a workshop about the Deaf community, sign language, and inclusion.

This is Clan 7, the group that took us under their wing for the weekend, signing the number 7.

I am very hopeful that this alliance will be a success and that more Deaf children, teenagers, and young adults can become Scouts. They teach so many important values, the importance of serving others, what to do in emergency situations, and much more. All of this is information that most of the Deaf community misses out on because there are so few people who can teach it to them in their language. Learning these lessons and incorporating the values could make a huge change in the Deaf community.

Obviously, church isn't all about attendance. However, the more people who attend, the more people who are reached. Due to the consistent attendance, we are seeing significant positive attitude and behavior changes in some of our members, and many have expressed to me that they would like to be baptized. How are we managing to get consistent attendance out of a group that is generally pretty unreliable? A while back, I started taking attendance during our church services in a little book. It was mostly just for our records. That way, we would know how many people attend each week and who they were, if someone has missed a lot of weeks and needs special attention, etc. It also helped us pick out who gets to go to camp. Some of our attendees began to question the book method, saying that it is too easy for me to make mistakes and no one would know. My solution? A big poster board stuck to the wall in the church so that everyone can see. This has been a significant motivator...When they show up to church, the first thing they do is count the number of "checks" they have and compare it to others! They then make sure I give them their check for the day. People I have never met before are showing up to church asking me to put their name on the list. We started adding hearts if they help out in the kitchen and stars if they help with general clean up. It has been rather hilarious and very effective. We are considering making a separate attendance list for Bible studies hahaha!

With Christmas right around the corner, the time has come to start fundraising for the party. As many of you know, most of our church members are very poor and cannot afford a proper Christmas dinner with their families. During our party, we prepare and serve a traditional Christmas meal to all who attend and we also give out large food baskets that help them prepare their own Christmas dinners and also include snacks and other such food goods. Toys are also purchased and given out to the children, who often do not receive any other gifts.

Last year, over 150 people showed up to the party. For many of them, this is the only time during the year that they learn about Christ. Some of them come back, some don't. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity that we cannot miss! If you would like to donate, you can click the yellow "DONATE" button on the right hand side of this page or here is the link We would really appreciate it! If you would like more information, you can e-mail me at

Also, we haven't had much luck raising funds or finding a bigger place to move the church. Everything in God's perfect timing! Keep praying!

jueves, 3 de octubre de 2019

Growth and Expansion

Since getting back from my summer vacation, I have had to start using an agenda because I can no longer keep track of my schedule. I am working with so many different people and in so many different things. The first thing that I jumped into after vacation is a project aimed at training psychologists and interpreters who are interesting in working with Deaf clients. An organization called INFOILES (Instituto Nacional de Formación de Intérpretes de Lengua de Señas) has the goal of training professionals working with the Deaf as well as interpreters in specific areas. I have been asked to head up the psychology branch of these training ventures. I have been doing tons of research and am working on creating two different curriculums: One is aimed at educating psychologists about Deaf culture, basic Sign Language, the psychological reality created by being Deaf in a hearing world, therapeutic strategies for working with Deaf clients, etc. The other is for training people who are already interpreters how to be effective and ethical in the therapy environment as well as be knowledgeable in psychological terms and concepts in both Spanish and Sign Language. Needless to say, just preparing for this has kept me quite busy!

In September, various organizations came together and held the third International Symposium for Deaf Education. The symposium included parent education workshops in numerous cities throughout the country; two two-day workshops for teachers, assistant teachers, principals, psychologists, and interpreters who work with Deaf children and adolescents; and a four evening workshop for psychologists. Those were two extremely busy weeks! I first attended the two-day workshop here in the capital. I was warned that I might be called on to help the interpreting team, but was later told that I wasn't needed and simply sat back and enjoyed the presentations. That was day one. Day two in the afternoon, I was asked to help interpret. Heart beating out of my chest, I stepped up onto the platform to interpret in front of 300 people. I must have done alright because they asked me to be a part of the interpreting team for the two-day workshop in Santiago.
That's not me interpreting, but that's the room I interpreted for.

Second workshop in Santiago

The week after the two-day workshops, one of the psychologists (a Chilean man with Deaf parents who has been working with the Deaf in the field of psychology for many years) stayed an extra week to teach a four-evening workshop for psychologists interested in working with the Deaf community. I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to learn, to make friends with a real expert in the field, and also get contacts for more psychologists who may be interested in the training that I am preparing. It was very interesting, but not as informational as it was intended to be because the participants just couldn't get out of the mindset of deafness as an illness or a disability rather than a socio-linguistic minority that is disabled by the hearing society in which they live. The speaker was never able to get to the points he really wanted to make because the questions asked by the participants kept the conversation in the same circles. It was still a good experienced and was informative as I now know where I have to start when I begin to teach.

There were probably 25 more people behind us
I have also been doing some other random interpreting:

Me interpreting the news report about an event that I was interpreting in person hahaha!

This is a formal agreement announcing that the Scouts (like mixed-gender boy and girl scouts) will be opening their doors to Deaf children, teens, and young adults.
Doing some voice interpreting for a video created by the National Association for the Deaf (ANSORDO)

Though I haven't been able to be at the church nearly as much during the week, things are going very well. Attendance was down during the summer, but we are now back up to 40-50 Deaf attendees on Sundays and 15-25 for Bible study on Fridays. They seem to be really motivated and interested in learning more about God and His Word.

We are trying to teach them the importance of service, and as a part of that, I took a group to visit a young Deaf woman who was in the hospital. It was such a heartwarming experience to let them take the lead and watch them share God's love. They talked with her, comforted her, told her about Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins, invited her to church, and prayed with her. It was absolutely beautiful.

We have finally reached the point where we can no longer stay at our church location. We simply do not fit. Every Sunday, there are multiple people standing against the walls and others watching the service through the windows.
The empty chairs are people who were currently at the front asking for prayer requests
We have decided that we will have to find a new church building. It has been very difficult to find a place that meets our needs (Deaf friendly and large enough for a church and office space) that is in good condition, in the area that we want, at an affordable price. We are continuing the search but have come to the conclusion that we will need to buy some land and construct a church. The church cannot pay rent forever. This is obviously a long-term goal, but we are beginning the fundraising process. We have done some research and looked at some plots of land in the area. It looks like the plot of land will cost around $20,000 USD. This number is a little disheartening, and we are looking for more affordable land, but we landed on this number as a good goal because it will hopefully leave us a little bit to begin constructing. We know that God will provide! If you feel that God is leading you to contribute to this cause, you can donate to our non-profit at Please share this with your friends, as we will need a lot of support and fundraising ideas!

martes, 13 de agosto de 2019

The Summer Catch-up Post

Basically, since I posted last, camp and vacation have happened. Since I have been so bad about keeping up with the blog these past few months (and since you all probably don't care much about my vacation), I will try to wrap everything up as briefly as possible.

Pre-camp was mostly camp preparations, interpreting, and Bible translation meetings. We also got some American visitors before camp, which is always fun. They helped me with my work, taught a physical education class, went to various meetings with me, did a little sight-seeing, and got a bigger picture look at what is going on in the Deaf community as well as the interpreting community here.

The Bible translation project is going really well. Pre-camp we finished the gloss for 4 out of the 5 teachings of Jesus that we decided on for the pilot project and finished the last one after camp. We are now in the recording stages. We managed to film and edit The Good Samaritan before camp and took advantage of the gathering of about 275 Deaf people of all ages from over 10 provinces. We showed the video in chapel one night to see if everyone understood the signs that were used, and the feedback was very positive. Which was very encouraging!

Hannah helping interpret the photoshop and video editing training because my brain was so tired!
We also received training on how to use photoshop to add color to the drawings that will be used in the videos and how to professionally edit the videos. Fortunately, the two Deaf members of our team are really good at that stuff and I don't have to mess with it/mess it up haha!

We kind of put it all on pause during the month of July, and now we're back at it trying to finish up those five stories. Everything will be sent to a Bible consultant who will make sure that our translation is true to the original, intended message. And we keep going, step by step! It is a lot of work, but I'm having so much fun with this.

One of our Deaf team members got the opportunity to move to the States and will no longer be participating in the project. It is a great loss for us, but a wonderful opportunity for him. Please be with us in prayer as we choose the person who will take his place.

In my interpreting adventures, I ended up on TV again. Only this time, I knew ahead of time that it would be on TV. This one was a little different because rather than being a presentation, it was a TV interview with the National Association of the Deaf (ANSORDO). So, I would listen to the question from the interviewer in Spanish and interpret it into Sign Language, then see the response to the question in Sign Language and interpret it into Spanish. Going back and forth between languages like that was not easy! But it was a cool experience. However, I'm really hoping not to make a habit of this being on TV thing...

Leading up to camp, we found ourselves with a list of campers that way exceeded our budget and logistical abilities. We were looking at over 600 campers, 300 at the kids camp and 300 at the young adult camp. We were able to lower that to 500, but we still weren't sure how we were going to make that work with so few North American team members. How were we going to control groups of 50 campers as they rotate to their various activities?? It is an understatement to say that I was nervous.

Needless to say, as always, God provided and took care of things. Camp went very well. The Dominican leaders (most of whom used to be campers themselves) stepped up and made the whole thing possible. It is so cool to see the Christian leaders they have grown up to be.

We ended up with about 230 campers for the kids camp and about 270 for the young adult camp. Just like in our church, we have run into a very good problem with camp: too many people want to come! Camp Hands of Joy has become famous throughout the Deaf community here in the DR and everyone wants to attend. Moving forward, the camp leadership will have to prayerfully make some very big and difficult decisions about how to handle this good problem moving forward. Please pray that we make wise, God-led decisions.
Chapel during the kids camp. About half of the room isn't show.


Discussion groups. These are so important because it ensures that the campers understood what was taught in chapel and allows them to ask questions and discuss.

This summer, I took the liberty of a month long vacation. I felt like I needed to get away for a while and really disconnect. However, I only got to disconnect to an extent because while I was gone, our church hosted a hearing aid operative. I organized as much as I could before leaving on vacation, but ended up talking to a lot of parents and organizing quite a bit from out of the country. Thank God for everyone on the Dominican side who stepped up and worked their butts off to make it possible!

Hearing aids were given to about 60 Deaf students from three different schools here in the capital. That was such a blessing! Not only were the children blessed by the donations, but now all of those parents know that there is a church here where their Deaf child can see and understand God's Word. Most of these children either do not go to church or attend a hearing church with their parents where they understand exactly 0% of what is being said. I am hoping to get more children in church now! Pray for that as well.

Before heading back to the States, I spent two weeks in Colombia with my Dominican sisters. We went to Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, and some smaller towns surrounding those cities. We had such a blast! For anyone who wants an incredible and affordable international vacation, I definitely recommend Colombia. Of course, one has to be careful and aware, but it is no longer the dangerous country that it was.

After two weeks in Colombia, I then spent two weeks in the States with my family and friends. As always, it is so nice to be home-home. I did very little relaxing, as two weeks is not much time to be back and spend sufficient time with everyone, but it was great. It is always hard to leave, but I'm also anxious to get back to work! Quite a bit of stuff accumulated in that month that I was gone!

viernes, 10 de mayo de 2019

Does This Mean I'm Famous?

I had the opportunity to do some more traveling! I went to the southern part of the country for the first time. This island is so interesting! The majority of the country is tropical with lots of green jungle and rain. However, the southwestern part as you get closer to Haiti is extremely arid. I was shocked to see dry mountains (see the picture below) and desert landscapes. I thought I had seen poverty here in the capital, but things are even worse down there. Water and food shortages and almost no rain to grow anything. Interesting how on such a small island, the climate can differ so much!

However, the south does also have its beauty! We visited a really beautiful, secluded villa with like 20 waterfalls! We had a great time, and I was able to see a part of the country I had never seen before.

The Bible translation project is going really well! It is a lot of work and very tedious, but also a lot of fun! We are starting with some of Jesus' teachings from Luke. Our team (two Deaf and two hearing) currently average about two verses an hour. But that's without filming, editing, etc. The interesting part will be when we show our work to Deaf communities in different provinces for revision of the signs used and the clarity and comprehensibility of the signs. Many Biblical names and terms do not have established signs here. Each community, and sometimes each Deaf church within that community, has come up with their own signs. Some match up and some don't. So, once our team translates a passage, it will then be passed on to a Biblical consultant for revision, then a linguist, and then various provinces. Any necessary changes come back to us, and we rework it. Then, once each level has approved the passage, on to final recording and editing. It is going to be a lengthy process! But I am beyond excited to be involved.

The annual Book Fair took place last week. This is not your average school book fair. This is a huge book fair that attracts people from the whole country with countless stands from numerous institutions giving workshops and conferences. Oh, and they also sell books, I suppose haha. I was asked to interpret three workshops, which was a cool opportunity.

One afternoon, I got called to interpret a conference at the book fair because the interpreter who was going to go wasn't able to at the last minute. I figured it was the same deal: small to medium-sized conference room, the presenter speaks Spanish and I interpret in Sign Language. This, I can now do relatively proficiently. However, I arrived to a few surprises. The presenters were Deaf! That means they would present in Sign Language and I would be interpreting in voice in Spanish!!! This is so much more difficult!!!!! Already, I'm freaking out. Then, they lead us to the conference room, which was a huge auditorium. I'm now breathing very rapidly and starting to sweat. And then...a woman approaches me and says, "Are you Alyssa? Good, come with me to get your make up done for the cameras." I'm sorry...WHAT???? Yes, that's right. I had to interpret IN VOICE, IN SPANISH, ON LIVE TV AND RADIO. Cue heart attack. It wasn't perfect, not even very pretty, but I managed. THAT was a new experience for sure...

Every day is a new adventure. Sometimes, I think I have my day planned out and then I get a call and have to change everything to go do something else. I never get the chance to be bored!

Church and Bible study are going very well! We keep growing, some want to be baptized, and some are interested in becoming Christian leaders! We will soon have to start collecting funds to find a bigger church and to buy a new church van (I think we have spent more fixing all of the problems our current van presents than it would cost to buy a new one). We are getting more children (Deaf and hearing children of Deaf adults), and I am really hoping to get a kids' program started!

We are making more progress on the mystery project! But it is not ready to announce yet...Soon!

martes, 2 de abril de 2019

A Possible Change in Direction?

We haven't had any classes running these past couple of months, but I have had the chance to do some tourism, planning for camp has begun, and I have gotten involved in various new projects. I haven't even had time to hold classes with all the running around I've been doing! God is so good that He provided me with a car and then started sending me all kinds of opportunities that would have been very difficult for me to participate in using public transportation.

A couple of weeks after my last post, one of my favorite people on earth came to the Dominican Republic on a business trip. So, I drove out to Punta Cana to see him (I hadn't been to Punta Cana before) and took him to the Montaña Redonda. We then did some more driving around and spent an awesome day together. It was such a blessing to get to show him the country I'm living in and spend some time with him.

My Dominican family and I also went to Samaná to go whale watching. Samaná is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. Thousands of humpback whales travel to Samaná Bay every year from Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and other areas of North America to give birth. None jumped out of the water, but we did see the backs of about five whales. It was such a beautiful experience. Minus the people puking while we sat still rolling over pretty large waves!

After whale watching, we went to a small island in Samaná Bay called Cayo Levantado, which has beautiful beaches, and we spent the afternoon there. I put on sunscreen three times and still got terribly burned!

We then took a short hike through the woods to a river to cool off and wash off all the sand. It was such a beautiful and fun day. The Dominican Republic is an incredibly gorgeous country.

On the mission side of things, the National Association for the Deaf (ANSORDO) held a workshop in our church for some of the Deaf that live in this area. It was the same human rights workshop that I attended a couple of months ago in a different location. ANSORDO is taking what they were taught by the World Federation of the Deaf and Discovering Deaf Worlds and sharing this knowledge in various locations throughout the country. This sharing of information is so important because it is the only way most of these Deaf adults will receive it. They are not able to take advantage of incidental learning (overhearing conversations between informed people, for example) and the majority of them did not receive adequate educations and cannot read. The only way that they will learn about their rights, politics, and most other topics is if someone intentionally presents it to them in their language. This is exactly what ANSORDO is trying to achieve through these workshops. The more knowledgable the community is, the more opportunities they have to progress.

There is a new project here in the Dominican called Proyecto Protégeme which is giving workshops and educating people on how to protect children from sexual abuse. They invited Deaf and hearing people who work with Deaf children from all over the country and provided one of the workshops for them here in Santo Domingo and also in Santiago. I was able to attend both of them and take advantage of the large gathering of people who work with Deaf children to announce Camp Hands of Joy. The workshop was very informative. I am hoping to work with them and be able to replicate the workshop for the Deaf who attend our church and hopefully provide the workshop they created for children to the students at the Deaf school. The rates of child sexual abuse are insanely high here, and even more so among Deaf children. I was inspired by what those involved in this project are doing.

Now that my Spanish skills have improved somewhat, I have been able to start doing some interpreting. I have been able to interpret for doctor's appointments, family issues, meetings, presentations, and workshops. I feel honored to be the voice for these Deaf people and assist them in living independent lives. Without going into too many details, I will give an example of why this is so important.

One of the Deaf women involved in our vocational training ministry video called me one day very distressed. She told me that she was going to die if she didn't get a particular surgery and that her family refused to do anything to help her. She explained to me her symptoms and said she had gone to see a doctor with her mother (this is a grown woman with an adult son, but she is unable to access medical services on her own due to the communication barrier), but her mother doesn't know sign language either. The woman had gestured and used drama to describe to the doctor what was going on, the doctor ran some tests, told the mother the results and diagnosis, and prescribed some medicine. But no one had any way to explain to the Deaf woman why she was experiencing those symptoms and what the prescriptions were for. What she understood from it all was that she has cancer and needs surgery in order to live. The mother kept telling her no, but the woman understood that her mother was simply refusing to get her the help she needed.
I called the mother, who explained to me the situation from her perspective. I explained to her the other side of the story that I had received from the Deaf woman. We all agreed to visit the doctor again, but with me present as an interpreter. The Deaf woman spent the entire week leading up to the appointment completely distressed. The doctor once again explained to the Deaf woman and her mother the results of her lab tests, why she was experiencing those symptoms, and what the pills she had prescribed were for. But this time, the woman was able to understand it. She was also able to explain more specifically her symptoms, which led to changing the prescription that the woman had already been taking for two weeks. This woman is now on the correct medicine, understands her diagnosis, and is at peace.

This is not a unique story. The lack of interpreters and the Deaf community's inability to pay for them have led to so many unfortunate and tragic situations. There are many people in the country working to improve this situation, but there is still much work to be done.

I was also able to interpret a couple of meetings between ANSORDO and the National Council for the Disabled (CONADIS) who are currently working together with the Ministry of Education in order to create the first real dictionary in Dominican Sign Language. I'm hoping to continue my involvement with that project! Establishing the national sign language would be such a huge and necessary step for this community.

Our Deaf church was selected by the Biblical Society to participate in a project to translate the Bible into Dominican Sign Language in video form. I am so excited to be a part of this project. There are many countries in Latin America who are also working on translating the Bible into their various sign languages. A small group of Deaf and interpreters from here (no, I didn't go) travelled to Ecuador along with teams from the other countries in order to receive training on how to go about this. It is a project that will take probably twenty years at least, and there are many things we need to do before actually beginning to translate, but I am so honored to be involved with this for as long as God calls me to.

I am also working on another project, but that one is currently top secret. I'll tell you all more about that one in a couple of months.

On top of all that, I think I have found some leads and connections that will allow us to start up one to three business where we will hire an all Deaf staff.

This post probably seems extremely sporadic, and that's because I have so many things going on that showed up all of a sudden, and I honestly have no idea where God is leading me. I feel like the Israelites wandering through the desert. God leads me to something, I follow and do that thing until He moves the cloud to a new thing. I follow and do that thing, and so on and so forth. Though I have no idea where the destination is or when I will get there, I know God is with me as He leads me to different places and things. All I have to do is trust and be faithful and obedient. Much easier said than done sometimes. Pray for me!