Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seeing God's heart for the deaf like never before

After 13 years in Uganda, I'm experiencing a whole new world for the first time...the world of the deaf.

This may sound strange to those of you who know me because you will know that my husband is deaf, as is his older sister. However, with the help of hearing aids, we live a pretty normal life, albeit a bit louder than most.

But this year, for the first time ever, our YWAM base is running the annual Discipleship Training School with 4 deaf students. No hearing aids. No talking a bit louder. Deaf as in 'no communication apart from sign language', which I don't know.

<--- Adam and Helen Fielder are the impetus behind this new experience. They joined YWAM Arua last year and started up the Deaf Connections ministry. Both of them will be interpreting on the school.

Yesterday I was leaving my house on the way to pick up my kids from school, and I came across the DTS staff and students doing a tour of the base. I stopped to introduce myself and greet everyone, and had my first experience of needing to be translated for into sign language. Instead of spelling out V-I-K-K-I, Helen, who was interpreting at the time, told one of the students to give me a sign name. The female student studied me for a few seconds, then made a sweeping motion with 2 fingers down the bridge of her nose and off the tip up into the air. It reminded me of being little and people saying I have a 'ski-jump' nose.

Then, of course, nosey me (no pun intended) I wanted to know everyone else's sign names, so the deaf and hearing alike signed their names, all of which highlighted some unique feature on the face or head. One guy pulled on his ears, making me think of Dumbo (except his ears weren't exceptionally large or funny-shaped...not sure why they chose that sign for him). Another lady ran her thumb across her forehead because she has a kind of line across there (not sure if it's a wrinkle or a long scar...will have to examine it up close later).

It makes sense to identify someone by a special characteristic they have, but I could see how it could be awkward if the feature chosen is something the person is ashamed of or embarrassed to have pointed out. Guess you have to have or develop a thick skin, but maybe it helps that they can't hear the rude comments or the mocking laughter.

They can see it, though.

I wonder how they feel. I wonder what they think. I wonder why I'm just now wondering this while all along I've been married to a mostly deaf guy for 10 years.

Maybe because the deaf in Uganda are, in Adam's words, an 'unreached people group.' They tend to be shunned by society. They are marginalized. Hearing aids are available in Kampala...for a very hefty fee, far beyond the average Ugandans financial capability. So none of them have hearing aids.

For some reason these students are affecting my life differently than John's hearing impairment ever did. I'm the first teacher on the DTS, and I'm asking myself,

"How does their deafness affect my teaching style?
How will they take notes? They can't listen and write at the same time.
Will they just absorb it all and remember it somehow?
How will they participate in small group discussions?
How will they pair up with others for 'getting to know you exercises', or for prayer?
How will they bond with the other students if they can't communicate?"

So many answers yet. I'm trying to figure out how to adapt my teaching style so they don't miss out. Thankfully both Adam and Helen are secondary school teachers, so I'm sure they'll be able to give me some pointers on how to teach inclusively.

Helen signing with a deaf boy --->

I'm on a steep learning curve, and without a doubt, so are the students. One of them wanted to go back as soon as his father dropped him off. But he's still here, and I know God is going to bless that guy.

I have a sense of expectation and excitement...I believe God is going to show up Bigger and Better than I've known Him up 'til now...and we're all going to receive new insights and revelation into the nature and character of God as we walk this journey together over the next months. What a privilege to be serving here at such a time as this.

Thanks, Abba.

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