jueves, 23 de febrero de 2023

Wrapping up the Summer-Fall of 5 Trips

I can't believe it has been six months since I have made a blog post! (Anyone have strategies for becoming more disciplined? hahaha) I know you're all most interested to know how the church construction is coming, so I'll cover that first and then tell you about some of the cool things that I have been blessed and honored to be involved in over the last six months.

In these last few months, the church has gone from looking like a construction site to looking like a church building! We're sooooo close to completing the first floor! We were able to put bars on all of the windows, install all of the doors, put in the windows, and build a fence around two sides of the church. All of these steps are so important to making sure that the space is safe. To finish fully enclosing the space, we still need the barbed wire on top of the fence, need to continue the fence around the third side, and will put up a metal gate that will cover the whole front face of the church. 

We were also able to put in the tile for the floors and walls of the bathrooms, install the toilets and sinks (urinals are bought and plumbing for them ready, but yet to be installed), and put up the bathroom divisions. We now have fully functional bathrooms with running water!

In the last couple of days, the church was painted, inside and outside, and the pulpit area was finished.

The only thing missing in order for us to start using the space for our church services and activities on a regular basis are the ceiling fans!! We are so close! Of course, there are still many details that need to be finished, but we will finally be able to start using the church! The big things left to completely finish the first floor and be able to start on the second are tiling the floor, installing the cabinets and countertops in the kitchen, and buying the new chairs. We also will need to put up the front gate. After that, the second floor will be mostly easy-peasy. For the most part, it is just putting up cinderblock for the outside walls and inside wall separations and pouring the support columns. The most expensive part will be pouring the concrete roof. All of this to say, this church is such a miracle. God has turned an empty lot into a church in a year and a half! I really get emotional every time I see it. Something that was a dream for so long is now actually a reality. And what a blessing it will be to this community now and for years and years to come.

Last August after I got back from Rochester and Ecuador, I still had two more trips to go before the end of the year! The first trip was almost immediately after getting back from Ecuador and it was to Rimini, Italy. My first time to Italy!! Pablo, one of our Bible translators and a dear friend, was invited to teach a workshop to future Bible consultants who will be working with sign language translation projects in Africa and Asia. I got to tag along as his interpreter! He taught them about the technology equipment and resources necessary for Sign Language translation projects as well as some visual, cultural, and linguistic aspects. What an incredible experience that was and what an honor! We met so many amazing people, saw incredible sites, and ate ALL of the food. If you're interested in seeing more pictures of that adventure, look at my FaceBook post from September. Don't worry, I barely post on FaceBook so it won't take long to find it.

Most of the participants hadn't arrived yet when I took this picture

A little over a month after THAT, I went to another Bible translation workshop in Costa Rica! This set of workshops is a little different from the other ones because I am taking them as a participant, not interpreting them. They are actually workshops for indigenous peoples translating the Bible into their indigenous languages in Mexico and Guatemala. However, when in-person workshops got put on hold because of COVID, the United Bible Society quickly realized that Zoom workshops with the Sign Language projects were near impossible. With internet issues and so many interpreters on the screen, too much information got lost. They didn't want to leave the Deaf translators without workshops for two years, so they decided to put each Sign Language project's interpreters in the indigenous translation workshops (also over Zoom at the time) in our regions so that we could soak it all in and teach the Deaf translators what we learned. Now all workshops are in person again, and the Sign Language workshops have resumed, but the interpreters have to finish the other course set as well! So, we headed to Costa Rica.
I took one of my favorite workshops that we've had so far during that trip: Analyzing the Bible as Literature. WOW! I think if more Christians received that workshop, a lot of the issues we see in our churches would improve or disappear. But, that is a topic for a different blog.
Though the workshop was amazing and I learned so much, we didn't really get to see the parts of Costa Rica that make it so famous. The site where we stayed and took the workshop was a bit isolated, and apparently it rains a lot in October. By the time we finished classes everyday, it was pouring rain, so that made it difficult to get out and see the city (we did go to the downtown area a few times and walk around, so that was great). And over the weekend when we didn't have classes, a hurricane passed through Nicaragua just north of us and we got some really nasty weather. I did get nearly all of our classmates working out with me in the afternoons, which was a blast. Anyway, I'm heading back again next month and hope to see more of the country while I'm there this time (and, of course, learn a lot)!

We started Bible study in person again a few months ago. It has been great being able to play Bible games with them and have really good discussions, which was all very difficult over Zoom. We did decide to create a hybrid Bible study to allow the people who live in other provinces or who can't make it in person to continue joining over Zoom. We have multiple cameras to capture everything happening at the church and project the Zoom participants to try and allow for full participation for everyone. It is challenging at times, but has been going very well.

The very first day we restarted Bible study in person, there was a completely unexpected catastrophic downpour. We are so grateful that everyone made it home safe. But all of the major roads in the city were completely flooded. It took Paulina and I five hours to get home (it normally takes 30 minutes). Part of that was that we couldn't get to the house for over two hours because 1) a security guard in the neighborhood was tragically killed by a cement wall that collapsed and killed him, so we couldn't get through until EMS teams were able to make it there, declare him dead, and remove the body from underneath the wall, and 2) The water was still so high in front of the house that we couldn't get to it for another hour. I'm honestly not sure how many deaths there were that day, but it was too many. No one was prepared, so things were worse than they may have otherwise been.
Thankfully, the family and all of our church members and their families were safe and no one had any significant damage to our homes. Our house did flood, but not enough to cause any real damage. The worst part for me was that I rode with Paulina to the church and left my car in front of our building at home (where I always left it), and no one was home to move it when the rain started. The water got so high outside of our building that it actually covered the roof of my car. Water and mud filled the interior. By some miracle, the strong current didn't move the car an inch, even though many vehicles were carried down the street. By another miracle (and a good amount of money), a mechanic was able to clean it out and get it working again. Since then, the car has been presenting issue after issue, but it still runs!

Not long after that, it was time for our annual Christmas activity. Our contractor and his team did A LOT of work to get the new church to a state where we could semi-comfortably hold the activity in it. We were blessed to receive enough donations from people in the States and people here to prepare the food bags that we make every year, serve lunch at the activity, and give each child a toy. We were expecting up to 150 people that day, but around 250 showed up! 90% were Deaf adults and teenagers (some I had never met before!), and the rest were their children, some of the hearing parents of the Deaf teenagers, and other hearing people who came to support us and our team of Deaf leaders. We were very worried that we wouldn't have enough food bags or lunch food to serve, but we had our own Hanukkah miracle and nothing ran out! The Deaf leadership team put their money together to buy decorations and made the construction site beautiful for the occasion. It was truly such a fun and blessed day.

To wrap up the year, I was able to make it back to Florida to spend Christmas with my family. And as an added bonus, my Dominican family got to join me for part of the trip! I had a blast showing them where I grew up and showing them a different side of Florida. We did many fun things including kayaking, a lot of playing outside, and taking my oldest nephew to Disney! Now I see why taking kids to Disney for their first experience is one of my grandmother's favorite things. Watching him discover the magic was, well, magical!

Looking for gators

Now that we're all caught up to this year, we are working hard to finish the first floor of the church. With the Bible translation project, we are visiting churches and schools to distribute the portion we translated last year (Genesis 1-3 and the book of Jonah) and have started translating Ruth. Should be a great year! I'll try to keep you all updated more often. When I wait so long to post, there are so many things that get missed in these updates! Keep me, this ministry, and this community in your prayers whenever you can!