|"...He even makes the deaf hear..." - Mark 7:37
This verse talks about Jesus making
someone be able to physically hear again, but I have witnessed another kind of 'hearing'
that the Lord does. He enables people to hear His word...even the
In 1976, I
graduated from college with a degree in Deaf Education. A year later, I had my
first child and chose to stay home and left teaching. Never, ever did I expect
to have an opportunity to use my sign language skills 30 years later ---- in Africa!!
Ministries Team found a government school for the deaf here in Cotonou, Benin.
60 deaf children receiving schooling in a 3 room cement block building, with no
electricity and no running water. They do have desks, uniforms, a nice
blackboard, and a few supplies. There were 3 teachers, 2 of whom are deaf,
and one principal (also deaf). The children are ages 6 to 16 years old
with abilities ranging from mildly retarded to really smart. A team from
Mercy ships has been able to do a Bible lesson and craft with the children each
week. We didn't know if a government run school would allow this type
of Christian activity, but to her sheer delight, they said yes! I
signed up to help much to the delight of the team leader who knows no sign
Now for those who
are not aware....not all sign language is alike! My first visit was thrilling
as I once again saw the 'flying hands' all around me trying to get
my attention to tell me something. Oh how I have miss those flying hands! Then,
I realized that although they learned American Sign, they used French finger spelling
and grammar! So now I had to learn my French as well as their regional
The teacher in this picture is hearing, but he only speaks French.
Fortunately, we could still communicate. The hearing teacher and I would generally
teach in tandem.
Our first lesson was
outside. I taught about Jesus calming the storm. I had the children act
it out with an outer ring of children being the waves and the storm. Just
as we got to the storm part and they were all madly waving their arms to
represent a storm...a REAL storm suddenly came with wind. And just as we ran
for cover...a real downpour came! Ha! God always does it better
than I can! We then taught how we can pray to God when we are frightened
(a concept, to my surprise, they had never learned).
Our next lesson
was Palm Sunday. We chose children to act it out. Africans are used
to wearing colorful wraps of cloth around their waist, so we gave some of the
girls wraps to wear. We gave the rest of the children palm branches. One
boy played Jesus and rode on the 'donkey' (another boy) toward the
others who quickly threw their wraps in front of him and with the 'crowd'
erupting into a cacophony of deaf sounds from excited children waving their
palms with great joy. What a sight! (and I wish you could hear what I
heard!) The colors flying through the air and landing on the ground with the
green waving overhead and the unmistakable sound of joy! And all I could
think was 'and even the rocks shall cry out!' It was the best
Palm Sunday yet! Afterwards, the
children had a lot of questions about Jesus and LOVED hearing about Jesus not
staying dead!! They clapped for joy!
Our last lesson
was on Creation. The children were amazed at all that God did...and
in only 6 days!! They particularly marveled how he brought Adam and Eve
to life. The children would turn and blow on one another to demonstrate how
God breathed His Breath into Adam. (I laughed as I watched the other
teacher explain the reason for God making Eve...he signed 'because
Adam was bored with the animals, and that was not good!' - note: "bored"
is signed with one finger up your nose! Ha!) After the lesson, we passed
out Playdoh for the project. The teachers urgently tugged on my sleeve
and asked if it was something for the children to eat!! Now I know that
for decades children have been eating playdoh, but I didn't want to start
that here! The children were told to open their playdoh and as soon as
they got a whiff...up went hands asking "can we eat it?"
(Why do they make playdoh smell so good???) Once we got that straight, we
had the task of explaining what it WAS for. I and the rest of the team
began to quickly model examples to show them while telling them that they were
to create something like God did out of dirt. Having never done anything like
this before, it took a while for the light to dawn as they looked back and
forth at each other as if to say, "do you know what to do?" But, soon
we had a LOT of snakes....then, sun, moons and stars... then stick
men...and finally, animals and even pottery! Even the teacher got
But, the best is
being able to teach them about God and watching their faces go from puzzled to
suddenly brightening up and whipping around to explain it to their friend because...they GOT IT!
The deaf CAN hear
the word of God. What a privilege to be able to do this. What an
amazing gift to be able to do it here!
"...and in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book..." Isaiah 29:18
In His hands,