Hi all! It has been over a month since posting and update, and there has been a lot going on! I've been able to meet a lot of Deaf people, and learned a lot more language! It really has been great! While there has been some emotional times in being away from my family for the birth of my niece and the holidays, I am so thankful that I was obedient in staying here and cultivating relationships. Hard to know where to start, but I guess I will start with the holidays and move on from there :-)
So, here Christmas is not a holiday that is not locally celebrated. The only people who celebrate are Christians. Even though it is not a national holiday the local Deaf church does a yearly Christmas party/service. The Deaf church uses a hearing church's facilities, and meets on Friday evenings. On any given evening there are around 20-30 Deaf people in attendance. At the Christmas service however there were over 150 people! They come from all over the country to be a part of the Christmas celebration. I met people who traveled over 7 hours to be there that evening! It was SO awesome to be around Deaf believers from all over the country! There were songs, skits, games, food, and lots of fellowship! We didn't leave until midnight! It was so much fun :-)
Since Christmas isn't a nationally celebrated holiday it is a normal working day, so leading up to Christmas even a couple of days before shopping at the mall for a couple of small gifts was so nice. It wasn't crowded and there wasn't a bunch of people fighting for last minute gifts. Then on Christmas day it was such a nice relaxing. It was so nice to just be, and really celebrate and remember the reason for celebrating. Even though I was away from my family it was a different and very meaningful time of really remembering and thanking God for coming down here to be with us and paying the price that we could not pay. It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas in America and celebrate the true reason for the holiday.
In this country the holiday this time of year that is celebrated is New Years. It is a large time of celebration and parties. It's really interesting/funny that the decorations for New Years are the same things that we use for Christmas! In the town square there is a holiday New Year village, with "Christmas" trees and even Santa Clause but it is all for celebrating New Years!
My Deaf friends Ayshen and Seadet that I wrote about in my last update invited me to go with them to the Deaf school's New Year celebration. There were SO many children and Deaf adults! It was so cool because the kids were dancing and celebrating and even signing their national anthem! I wish I could have communicated with them a little more, but it was so nice to be around so many Deaf children and adults!
Then one of the best things about the holiday was going to Ayshen and Seadet's house for New Years! Since New Years is such a big local holiday it was really cool to spend the holiday with a local Deaf family for almost two days! Not only was it fun to celebrate with them, I learned a lot of new vocabulary and also was able to share a little bit about my faith with them. Seadet is a muslim, and her daughter Ayshen while she used to be muslim, she now doesn't really ascribe to any religion. In one of our conversation we were talking about different signs for Muslim, Catholic, and me being Christian. The signs for Muslim and Catholic are related to how they pray. Ayshen asked me how I pray, and I told her that I was able to just talk to God because He is my Father. When I said this, she did a double take and asked me for clarification, and when I confirmed that she understood me correctly she accepted what I said. Then later during another conversation Ayshen was telling me about the holiday they celebrate in the spring time, and she asked me what we celebrate in America during the spring. I told her that we celebrate Easter because J died and rose back to life. He then stayed on earth for 40 days, saw people and taught before he ascended into heaven. Ayshen seemed interested in this and said "no one has ever died and come back to life", to that I answered, "yes, Jesus is the only one!" I was so thankful to be able to share just that little bit of gospel truth with her and her mom! Please be praying that I would get more opportunity to share with them. Pray that they would have dreams of J...that both of them would have soften hearts to be open to hearing more about who J is and why He is so important. Anyways, after two days of being with them, I came home and did some signing time with the kids...I had such a hard time signing ASL!! I kept mixing up my languages!
For the last month and a half I have been able to meet with Ayshen and Seadet every week to learn more and practice. It's been really great to have the individual time with them and be able to build relationships with them. I also have been going to the Deaf church most every week. While everyone at the church is really nice and welcoming, it is hard to have the confidence with my signing skills to talk a whole lot. It is really cool though to understand more and more every time I go! I think the biggest learning experience I've had was being able to spend two days with Ayshen and Seadet for New Years! I learned SO much from just being with them for that long! On Saturday I am leaving for a retreat with the Deaf church and I am looking forward to more time to learn and build relationships with the ladies!
This semester I am volunteering my time at the local international school that the kids of the Christ.an works go to. I am teaching sign language classes for the JR/HS elective, and also a class for the kindergarten class that Maya is in. This last week we made a video for Maya of the song Jesus Loves Me.
I want to teach more people so Maya have more people she can communicate with. I am also helping out the school in teaching a Bible class every morning. The school had someone who was coming to teach but she backed out last minute, so I was asked if I could help out. While it is one more thing to do, it has been very helpful for me in building a morning routine. On top of helping out at school I am meeting with another family once a week to do a lesson with their kids who are being homeschooled, and I'm also meeting once a week to help one of the M's here practice her sign language. I'm also still doing practice and lessons with the family I'm living with. I'm glad I have been able to stay busy while Maya and her mom have been in the states, but now I'm trying to figure out how to free up more of my time for when they get back and I'm helping to teach Maya. Please pray for wisdom in deciding what my priorities are.
Over Christmas, for our lessons the family and I made a nativity video for Maya so she could understand what the reason for Christmas is. That was a lot of fun!
Maya and her mom
Well, good news, Maya's trache is finally out and she is breathing without it!! The trace came out last weekend and she did have some hard time breathing, and still continues to have trouble periodically, but the doctor says everything is staying open and clear. We think she is having anxiety about the fact that her trache is out. She has had it her whole life, so not having it there is hard for her. Please pray that God would comfort her and give her peace.
I'll write more soon, but wanted to get this post up before I leave for the Deaf church retreat. Thank you so much for praying and keeping in touch! Love you all!