Life in Maisi...

Maisi is an isolated village 48 kilometers down the coast from Baracoa.  Those familiar with Hurricane reports on the Weather Channel in the US are aware that some of the worse damage is caused not by the eye of the hurricane passing overhead, but the outer bands battering communities further away with stronger winds….  Maisi is one of those communities.  They suffered such horrific damage during Hurricane Matthew a few years ago, and being so far away from major cities, they are some of the last to receive relief from the government.  It’s pretty evident by the damage around town. The big reason for that is because the main highway to Maisi from Baracoa was washed away in the mountains. It took several years before the Government was able to rebuild that road. Now that it recently opened, Maisi will be able to receive larger shipments of building materials and they can start their long awaited rebuilding process. Better late than never.

The local Baptist Church in Maisi. Hurricane Matthew destroyed what was there before, and the church community gathered whatever debris they could find to rebuild a temporary church. They are hoping an outside-of-Cuba ministry connected to their Baptist convention could step in and provide funds to rebuild. As the Pastor says… they don’t have the right connections to the right people to make this possible… partially because they are in such a rural and hard-to-get-to part of the country where missionaries do not usually visit.

The local Baptist Church in Maisi. Hurricane Matthew destroyed what was there before, and the church community gathered whatever debris they could find to rebuild a temporary church. They are hoping an outside-of-Cuba ministry connected to their Baptist convention could step in and provide funds to rebuild. As the Pastor says… they don’t have the right connections to the right people to make this possible… partially because they are in such a rural and hard-to-get-to part of the country where missionaries do not usually visit.

With that backdrop, we took a quick day trip to Maisi from Baracoa and had the opportunity to meet with Mirian, a deaf woman who lives with her mother, and has a hearing daughter who lives in Havana- her pride and joy. She is not married… when she was younger and carefree, she and her deaf neighbor, Oscar…. got together and you know… out came a daughter 9 months later. Yet, they went their separate ways and have their own lives not involved with eachother. Mirian is active with the deaf ministry, while Oscar doesn’t really show that he grasps the concept of what the church is all about. Yet the deaf ministry tries…

Mirian and her mother at their hurricane damaged home.

Mirian and her mother at their hurricane damaged home.

The Deaf in Maisi is a classic example of what the Deaf living in remote, isolated communities in Cuba are like. There is no communication access at all in the schools for deaf people. Because they are so isolated, contact with other deaf persons from various communities is basically non-existent… with the exception of a rare deaf ministry get together with those from Baracoa/Guantanamo. Formal Cuban Sign Language has not been known until recently. Sign language used is home signs- basically made up gestures unique to that limited demographic. it goes without saying that the Deaf in Maisi are illiterate. While the Baracoa coordinator is now making trips to Maisi to try teaching Cuban Sign Language to the deaf there, it will be a long process. Trying to share the gospel with them is very challenging and difficult.

If you read previous stories here, you are aware that schools that provide interpreters or schools for the deaf are located in the larger cities- in the case of south-east Cuba- Guantanamo- 3 hours away. In speaking with the Deaf Ministry leader in Maisi, her biggest frustration is in trying to convince parents to send their young deaf kids to Guantanamo for education. She pleads her case by explaining that their children need an education and training in some sort of trade to learn how to make money…. which is essential once the parents get too old to work and can no longer take care of them as many do. Without some form of income, those deaf children/adults will not be able to take care of themselves or their parents. So far, no parents are interested in sending their kids to school. Cuban parents are typically overprotective of their children and are afraid to send them away where they can not see them.

We are hopeful that some of the ministry materials we donated to the Maisi Deaf Ministry will be helpful. Since they need to share the story gesturally and visually, we provided them with a smaller set of felt bible story boards and picture books. We can only plant a seed and pray it grows.

Mike Ver Velde