Fall 2018 Update: Baracoa Bound

Sunrise Fishing off a Baracoa Pier. These Cuban men are hoping to catch breakfast, which might be their families only protein for the day.

Sunrise Fishing off a Baracoa Pier. These Cuban men are hoping to catch breakfast, which might be their families only protein for the day.

Septembers trip launched our collaboration with the Baracoa Church and their Deaf Ministry to help better serve the Deaf for Christ in the far eastern part of Cuba.  Having focused in the Guantánamo area this past year and making good connections with them… we are expanding to do the same in the Baracoa and rural communities.  As Guantánamo remains our work base, we will stay connected with that community and continue to serve them as needed.  

A common theme of need we continue to learn from different Deaf ministries is for resources on how to best teach the Bible to the Deaf and the means to present these concepts in ways that Deaf people best understand. 

As mentioned in previous updates, being isolated from current information and best practices related to working with the deaf in ministry that is available to most countries continues to be extremely challenging inside Cuba.  

New connections continue to be made and doors are opening up for Deaf 2 Sordos to make a difference in new areas.  We are connecting and collaborating with other US based Deaf Ministries as well as Evangelists that serve in Cuba who might be able to provide us with appropriate materials already in or could be converted to Spanish and Cuban Sign Language. This allows us to provide ministry materials tailored to the needs of the Deaf and appropriate for teaching Bible concepts to those with various levels of language skills.   

As I travel to Cuba, Ayler and I will develop presentations for the Deaf utilizing this information and visual aids to fit the specific needs of these communities.  As the Deaf Ministry leaders  learn to implement new strategies and resources, they can carry on this work as they continue to connect with more of the Deaf and share the Good News with them.   If asked, Ayler has the flexibility to travel to those areas on short notice to provide workshops to give the Deaf a fresh face other than their usual teachers.

JULY - SEPTEMBER UPDATE

1st Baptist Church, Baracoa. Our partner for the coming year.

1st Baptist Church, Baracoa. Our partner for the coming year.

Laying the groundwork in Baracoa-  Our D2S Coordinator, Ayler, spent some time this summer in Baracoa to deepen a working relationship with their Pastor, meet with their Deaf Ministry Leader and some interpreters connected to their Church to explain what D2S does and can offer them. 

During the September visit, we had a good discussion with their Deaf Ministry team about their challenges, needs and how we can work together to encourage and increase the spiritual growth in their deaf community.  We came away inspired as they expressed excitement in working with D2S.

Ministry Training for Ayler- As Cuban Church culture remains male dominated and some might question the qualifications of a woman to present workshops on the Bible, Ayler’s Pastor advised that she start a 2 year Bachelors Degree program in Theology.  This will give her credibility as well as D2S as we serve in Cuba.  Ayler has started the program and since education is free in Cuba, this does not cost D2S anything.  A Win-Win.

Because of the extremely limited number of religious visas available from the Cuban Government,  I cannot always present a workshop on bible topics as I’m technically not supposed to do so without a religious visa.  Ayler has no such restrictions so this is how D2S can still provide what these Deaf Ministry leaders are asking from us. 

Ocujal Deaf Ministry Retreat- Gatherings of Deaf Christian brothers and sisters from out of town is a highlight for many in Cuba.  It is a luxury to be able to worship with other Deaf from other communities as travel is generally not affordable to most.   D2S rented transportation for a small group of Deaf Adults from Guantánamo including deaf ministry leaders and ourselves so we could meet up with the Ocujal area Deaf and their ministry.  This was an opportunity for them to socialize with other Deaf Christians from other areas and receive encouragement, support and learn as D2S presented a couple bible study workshops.  

The portable projector (mentioned in the July Update) was a welcome addition to our presentations.  We were able to use it in church classrooms and in the Ocujal Church as they  cannot afford resources like this.  We were told that the Ocujal Deaf were particularly overjoyed and encouraged spiritually by this retreat.

Interpreter Training- This was an opportunity to share some of the current best practices in interpreting and how to work with and treat deaf consumers in ways that is respectful.  All participants commented that it forced them to really think about their interactions with the deaf in Cuba… how they can improve in ways that is more in line with the teachings of Christ and model that to others. 

Cuba Interpreter Training: “Practicing inclusiveness with the Deaf in interpreting situations”

Cuba Interpreter Training: “Practicing inclusiveness with the Deaf in interpreting situations”

Ministry Materials-   Little by little, Bible Story books are brought down as luggage space/weight permits.  We have more requests for these books from deaf ministries at other local churches whose interpreters/teachers attended the Interpreter Workshop.

We have a new connection with another of the US evangelists who travels to Cuba that Ayler translates for…. They have access to visual materials that are used to share bible stories.  We are praying that the organization can provide D2S with several sets of story packages that can be used to share bible stories visually with the Deaf.

We are working with another US based Deaf Ministry who provided us with several videos of bible stories signed by a Deaf Cuban Pastor.  We tested them out with some of the deaf youth and it went over very well.  More discussions on this experience and the logistics of distributing this within Cuba in the appropriate way needs to take place next.  Since there are very few Deaf Cuban Pastors, and extremely limited financial resources to allow them to travel or develop & distribute these videos… we are working with this specific ministry to work out details as this is in the beginning stages.

UPCOMING MINISTRY ACTIVITIES

We have a tentative schedule with the Baracoa & Guantánamo Deaf Ministries for 2019 and activities D2S will participate in to support the Deaf Christians there.  Ayler will be providing some workshops in the months Mike is not in Cuba.  These are topics we have already developed and provided to the Guantánamo Deaf this past year.   The D2S January trip will focus on workshops & visiting the Deaf in their homes in Baracoa.  The plans for the April trip will be another Camp Retreat, this time in Maisi- The easternmost tip of Cuba, near Baracoa, for the Deaf in that region including Guantánamo.

As we spend more time working with these deaf ministries, the more we are able to do and develop.  Prayerfully, our connections with US based evangelists and Deaf Ministries will increase and provide fruitful collaborations, resources, funds and materials sorely needed to help the Deaf get to know Christ, put into practice what He taught and modeled, and become a light for Him.

This being said… the upcoming new year will bring a fresh need for generous funds to allow us to continue this ministry and allow you to be a part of making a difference for a minority community that typically is overlooked by most people and missionaries.  If you feel moved and inspired to continue or start supporting D2S financially in 2019, please contact Mike.  I can tell you that the Cuban Deaf we come into contact with are extremely appreciative with what you are making possible!  They continue to feel blessed that somebody cares about them. 

Mike Ver Velde