April 2018 Ministry Update
I just returned from Guantánamo a couple days ago from a successful 2 weeks of ministry. Prior to the trip there were some dark clouds hovering, seemingly trying to disrupt what we have been working on in Cuba. By the end of the trip I could not help but laugh at the fact that God answered every prayer we needed and things turned out better than expected. For those of you who prayed for us, we felt it! Muchas Gracias!
Years ago, I provided Job Coaching services for the Deaf in our local area. Time and time again, when I worked with Deaf Adults, I would focus on guiding them in the job search, teaching them how to independently go through the process. Usually after I give them instructions, they would turn to me and say, "Ok, You do it for me". Dumbfounded, I asked why am I supposed to do it for them? A common response was that all their life someone (a hearing person- parent, relative, friend or agency) has told them that they would do it for them because they were deaf... they were not capable...
So, a lifetime of being told they couldn't do something that most people should be able to do just because part of society did not think so really messes up a person's self esteem, don't you think?
That is the case in Cuba. The challenge we have before us with the Cuban Deaf-especially the older adults who have heard that so much is that when we start asking them to assume more responsibility within the Deaf Ministry and in serving the Deaf there... they generally throw it back at the hearing people who have been the leaders of the Deaf Ministry.
Part of the focus of D2S in helping the Deaf Ministries in Cuba is to advocate for and empower the Deaf to start taking more responsibility for their faith journey and in actively living out what Christ taught.
We had a good opportunity on this trip to do that. Our focus with the older Deaf is to help them model the behavior that Christ taught, while taking the opportunity to teach the Deaf youth, young adults and their parents what the Deaf are really capable of doing in hopes that someday, the young Deaf christians in Cuba will slowly assume more responsibilities and leadership within the Deaf Ministries. If progress will be made, the Deaf youth needs to realize their God-given talent and potential to break through these barriers. It starts with us.
FEB - APRIL UPDATE
VBS & Adult workshops- At the request of the Deaf Ministry, Ayler and I ran some activities in a vacation bible school style program for the youth over a couple of days with the theme connected to Luke 2:52: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and Man". The focus was on their growth and development not only as christian individuals, but as Deaf people too. This included a segment on educating not only the Deaf youth, but also the young adults as well as the parents of these Deaf children... about what Deaf people are capable of doing. We presented a slideshow highlighting a variety of Deaf people worldwide in many different fields- from Blue Collar to careers requiring advanced degrees... Business Owners, Veterinarians, Pilots, Doctors, Professors, etc.
The reaction of the kids was priceless- especially a 15 year old deaf girl whose jaw dropped when she saw that there is a Deaf Woman Pilot out there! Especially noteworthy were the parents reactions... we were told afterwards by the Deaf Ministry Leader who knows the parents that this presentation really forced them to think and opened their eyes to how much more capable their deaf kids are than they realized. This is a good start.
The goal is to show how each one of us- deaf or hearing- is created by God with gifts and talents that can be utilized to help themselves, their families and others. Despite the economic and employment limitations in Cuba for the Deaf, we were asked to to show them the realities "out there" in hopes that this knowledge will allow parents and deaf kids to not continue to hold themselves back with outdated misconceptions. Dovetailed into this is to also show them that they are capable of taking responsibility for the development of their faith and eventually, if they feel called to do so, ministry to the Cuban Deaf. There is a real need for more Deaf Christian Leaders in Cuba.
We were also asked to present a workshop to the Deaf Adults on Marriage... Using Ephesians 5:21-33 as a text and talking about having relationships that please God... The deaf ministry wanted someone new, especially a Deaf person, to talk with them in hopes to address some of the issues they are experiencing in their community.
Partial Funding a Deaf Youth Bible Retreat for May 2018- With the presence of D2S in Cuba, possibilities for additional ministry opportunities for the Deaf have opened up. Due to costs, the Deaf Christian youth from different areas rarely have a chance to get together to share & learn in a Christian Retreat environment. Youth from the following communities- Guantánamo, Maisi, Santiago & Baracoa will now be able to gather and learn more about Christ together.
Vocational Workshop- In the last update, I mentioned their desire create a workshop with sewing machines for vocational development. Instead, their church was granted 2 bicycle taxis so they can bring and return church members who live too far from Church to participate in any activities. This is godsend for the deaf ministry as several deaf kids live too far and their parents are not able or willing to transport them. This will allow these deaf kids more opportunities to participate and continue developing their faith.
In the meantime, they are looking at other options for the sewing workshop with D2S waiting to see how we can support them.
Visiting New Communities- We traveled to the rural community of Ocujal De Yaterita to attend a church service and meet with the 5 deaf adults who worship there. Ocujal is an agricultural region with Government owned Banana and Chicken Plantations which employs most of those communities. We were able to talk with the Deaf Ministry volunteers to determine what kind of resources might be helpful for the continued growth in faith of the Deaf in that village... They identified the Bible Story Book with Images that D2S has previously purchased for the Guantánamo Church as being exactly what they need. There is already talk of planning another visit by D2S to that community in the fall to give a presentation to them on ministry topics they determine relevant for them as we did in Guantánamo.
UPCOMING MINISTRY ACTIVITIES
Deaf Youth & Parent Camp Retreat, July 2018- Summer in Cuba, as you can imagine, is HOT. Ministry activities tend to slow down there, but they are planning a camp out as part of a christian retreat for youth. Again, the deaf ministries of Guantánamo and Baracoa have asked us to present a workshop for them... probably in the river so we can stay cool!
Sponsoring a Cuban Deaf Pastor- One of the Cuban Deaf ministries has a Deaf Pastor on their team, but there is usually no money available to allow him to travel to other areas in Cuba to provide ministry programs & support as needed. As I noticed that the Deaf christians really are responding well to other Deaf christians serving & teaching them, there were some topics I was asked to present that I felt was more appropriately done by a Cuban Deaf Pastor in their language. Hence the new discussions of looking at D2S possibly providing funds for a limited number of trips (transportation & meals) for a Deaf Cuban Pastor to travel meet with the Deaf we are also serving. This way, we can utilize the strengths of certain Deaf individuals in providing quality ministry to the Deaf.
Ministry Materials- As mentioned earlier, the Bible Story Book with images has proven to be effective and desired by more deaf ministries who are learning about this from the Guantánamo Church. Visual aids that help them tell the bible stories are so beneficial for the Deaf. As many of the older deaf adults have limited education abilities, these kind of materials helps them greatly. We have two deaf ministries (including the one in Ocujal) who have requested this book from D2S. As we expand and start getting more involved in other areas in Cuba, we are duplicating successful efforts and continue to have a need to provide project activities to help with teaching bible stories so the Deaf in these churches are able to learn about, grow and strengthen their faith.