January 2018 Ministry Update

God is Love...

God is Love...

As a Christian, have you ever felt God clearly and persistently calling you, guiding you towards something that takes you completely out of your comfort zone?  That has been my journey over the past year since being led to shift my focus to Cuba as I was serving with another ministry overseas.

2017 was a time to respond to and trust what God was leading us to do, and in the process, doors were opened, crucial relationships forged, and connections to the right people were made.  After one year of preparation and setting up Deaf 2 Sordos, last October was the official beginning of our missionary journey working with Cuban Churches in serving the Cuban Deaf.

Here we are in January 2018, with a quarterly update on what D2S has done since my October 2017 visit to Guantánamo.  I just returned from the second D2S visit there a week ago, and these are the highlights of what has happened over the last quarter…

Oct '17- Jan '18 Update

Church Connections Made- Formally established a relationship with the 1st Baptist Church in Guantánamo and their Deaf Ministry.  The pastors we have talked with from this and other churches have given us their blessing to make their Cuban Sign Language interpreters available for us as we meet with and serve their deaf members.  From Guantánamo, we will branch out and serve the deaf and other deaf ministries in other churches in the area and beyond.

Connected with Cuba Deaf- Introduced the D2S team to the Cuban Deaf and started to develop connections, visit them at home to gather their stories.  Taking the time to build these relationships, and getting to know them will help us better understand their needs and how we can best serve them in helping them grow in their Christian faith. 

T-Shirts being received by Pastor Joel of the 1st Baptist Church, Guantánamo, Cuba

T-Shirts being received by Pastor Joel of the 1st Baptist Church, Guantánamo, Cuba

Ministry Materials Purchased- D2S purchased and provided a supply of Black and White T-shirts for the Deaf Ministry to be used in their short performances they use to present bible stories.  In Latin American Countries, pageantry and performances are an integral part of their teaching of the bible.  I witnessed that in Brazil during a JAF Wheels for the World mission trip, and they do the same thing in Cuba.  However, the Cuban people nor churches have anywhere near the same kind of funds to purchase material, outfits or costumes, so for this purpose in Cuba, matching Black and White shirts is much welcomed and makes it easier to see hand movements over a clear background.

Deaf Adults performing a signed song they learned in a recent deaf ministry event.

Deaf Adults performing a signed song they learned in a recent deaf ministry event.

Bus for Bible Retreat- D2S provided the funds to rent a bus that allowed for a Deaf Youth Bible retreat along with their parents to the Yacabo Beach Campsite in November 2017.  Without this funding, this event would not happen.  While $68 USD seems like a silly small amount for a bus rental to us in the US, it is a insurmountable cost for the Cuban Church, their deaf ministry or participants to even consider without outside help.    The D2S Coordinator, Ayler, attended this retreat to interact and represent D2S, as well as take pictures and videos so we can show you the difference you are making.   As soon as I figure out how to imbed video on this website and add captions, those stories will be up!  Stay tuned...

Bible Study Materials- Responding to an identified need, we purchased and brought down some Spanish bible materials that benefits the Deaf Children’s, Youth and Adult bible study classes.  Those items includes Spanish/English Coloring books with bible themes for the children, 2 Spanish interactive Bible story books with images appropriate for the Deaf Young Adult and Adults.  The Young Adult leader of the deaf ministry is an Art Teacher in Guantánamo, and will be recreating the images in these books onto a pad of large drawing sheets to allow them to show the bible stories more visually during their bible study groups.    One of the focuses of the Children’s ministry is to help the deaf improve their literacy skills, so these books have been perfect in allowing the children who attend the Deaf School to read and sign the bible stories from these interactive books to those who have not developed their literacy skills.   The Deaf in Cuba have expressed a strong desire for more visual story books of the bible as its easier for them to understand and this is another project for us to look into.  We also brought down craft supplies for the children's ministry to create bible themed projects as they learn more about the bible.  These supplies will also be used in upcoming VBS style activities.

Cynthia reads and signs the stories from their new interactive Spanish Bible Story book to her class

Cynthia reads and signs the stories from their new interactive Spanish Bible Story book to her class

Upcoming ministry activities:

VBS & Parent Meetings- Plans are in the works during the April trip for a mini VBS (Vacation Bible School) event during their School Holiday week.  We are looking at putting together bible themed materials and activities for the children and youth during that time.   I have been asked to present a workshop for the parents of these deaf children and youth involved in the deaf ministry.    I will be sharing my experiences as a deaf christian growing up and provide encouragement to those parents about the capabilities of their children, and the benefits/importance of their involvement with the deaf ministry considering what their Church is hoping to accomplish with their collaboration with Deaf 2 Sordos.

Pastoral Help- The Pastor of the Guantánamo Church is seeking information and assistance in how he can better serve the Deaf in their church.  We will be contacting other Deaf ministry leaders here and abroad about what resources they might be able to share with the Cuban Pastors who have deaf ministries inside their congregations.  Whatever we can share… needs to be in Spanish or translated into Spanish!

Vocational Workshop- The Deaf ministry has applied to the Cuban Government for permission to be given sewing machines and set up a workshop at the Church to provide vocational support & training to the Cuban Deaf.  This will allow the Deaf to continue practicing a trade they are learning in school, or provide them with tools to create things to sell- either to raise money for Deaf Ministry activities, or towards starting their own home based business to generate income.  D2S would work towards start up donations to purchase material and supplies that will allow them to contribute necessary funds for Deaf Ministry activities.  This way, we are teaching them to be part of the solution instead of depending completely on others to provide funding.

As you can see, there are many needs that we can help make a difference in for the Deaf Ministries within Cuban Churches.  Most of these things do not cost a lot- from an U.S. perspective... but goes a long way in providing basic materials and more that helps the Deaf Christians in Cuba to learn more about Christ other than the basic salvation message. They now have more resources to show them how to grow in their faith and relate to each other, and more importantly, learn to become disciples as they interact with other deaf and hearing people in their communities.   These Deaf Ministries have come a long way doing much with very little... and now in collaboration with you, through D2S, the possibilities are opening up in seeing more Deaf people not only lead to Christ, but become better followers.

There are more stories from the January trip that will be posted soon.  Come back and check them out!

Mike Ver Velde