Let the Deaf Hear
By Melanie Dearing
About 20 years ago, a little boy came to a Baptist Mission preschool for the first time. Jacklin was very similar to the other children, yet different. His family wanted the best for him. They saw him for the smart little boy that he was, but he had gotten sick with a high fever and had become deaf. The Child Sponsorship Program knew that the schools could not adequately educate Jacklin, but that did not mean that we could not be a part of his education. At that time, no one could have known how the Lord would use Jacklin to pave the way for others.
A visiting team involved with church partnership was making repairs to a school building in a rural area. A bright-eyed girl stood outside the gate smiling as she watched the children play in the schoolyard. She was not in a school uniform so I assumed her family could not afford the fees for school and that she did not attend. She carried a basket of chips to sell. I borrowed a few gourdes (the local currency) from a friend and asked the girl how much the chips cost. The girl did not say anything but just shook her head and smiled sweetly at me handing me the chips. An interpreter standing by thought perhaps she did not understand my Creole, so he spoke to her again. The principal of the school told us the girl was mute. To which I asked, “Is she deaf too?” The answer was yes.
I spent the afternoon with Chama, quickly falling in love with her. I invited her into the schoolyard to thumb through some books and then showed her a few American Sign Language (ASL) signals that she quickly learned and mimicked back to me. Chama did not have a formal communication system and used made up signs to communicate with her family.
The Lord paved the way for Chama. He used Jacklin, who stopped by to visit to give us the information we needed on his school even though he was not attending at the time due to the fee being too expensive for his family. He used another little boy, the son of a street vendor, who was home on break from the same school Jacklin mentioned. The Lord used Nixon, a mission employee who knew Chama and her family and were able to lead us to her home and go along to help us communicate to the family the opportunity for Chama to go to school.
This ministry exploded in my heart! So many doors were opening for Chama to be able to go to school and maybe Jacklin could return as well. I have struggled with the Creole language since we arrived in Haiti, but now I see a people group that I can communicate with via ASL. Do you know that the deaf population remains the largest unreached people group? There are approximately 250-300 million deaf people in the world, and only 2% of them are Christians.
As I shared with family and friends about what the Lord was doing, He provided the funding for both Chama and Jacklin to go to school for one year. Because there are limited populations of deaf students in given areas, most children must attend a residential school unless their families are able to move closer to the schools. Residential schools are even more expensive. They require upfront payment for lodging, food, the internet (because people who are deaf cannot just make a phone call on their cell phones), uniforms, books, teacher salaries, housekeeping salaries, toilet paper, toothpaste – all of the things you need for school and all of the things you need to take care of the entire population of a school on a daily basis. Since learning about Chama and Jacklin, other children who are in need have come to the mission. Below you can read about each child:
Chama: 12 years old, going into 3rd grade next year. Chama’s education has been paid for 2017-18 school year.
Jacklin: in his early 20s. He has two years of tailor training left, and then he graduates.
Smid: 17 years old. He is going into the 3rd grade. His father is a pastor in the Central Plateau.
Washon: 8 years old. His father is a pastor in the Northwest.
Sandia: 14 years old. Sibling of Washon.
Dimitry: 13 years old. He is the nephew of a mission employee working in child sponsorship.
*Smid, Washon, and Sandia’s father’s pastor churches that are six to eight hours away from the school. It is an additional expense for the family to have a child living in the dorms at the residential school so some families actually choose to live closer to the school and the fathers travel for work.
All of these children are in need of financial support to allow them to continue their education. If you are interested in supporting them, you can give on the website at www.bhm.org and give to “Special Projects.”