You know that feeling you get when you go to your favorite place on earth and discover something new and different each time you go? That’s one of the best feelings one can experience.
The culmination of camp is one of those favorite places for me. There is so much excitement and anticipation leading up to camp every year… this is the highlight of the year for a hundred Deaf Hondurans…and an eternal impact is at hand…and impractical logistics must be orchestrated with grandeur…and our volunteers must stay energized and faraway from amoebas…and and and. And after it’s all over, there’s so much contentment that it splashes all over everything and everyone for several weeks.
It all unfolded majestically this year at our 10th Annual Deaf Camp. This was the first year we were able to bus in all of our campers ‘on time,’ and we officially started on schedule! All the countless tiresome hours of preparation paid off as hands started to fly, smiles covered faces, and love was in the air. It’s almost impossible to describe that magic-like ambiance that engulfed this camp.
Even though each camper has a story of triumph worth sharing, I’ll just briefly share Nayely’s, Madudy’s mom, Jilma’s, and Sixto’s.
Five year-old Nayely embodies the reason for camp. We had just met her the month before, and even though she’s as bright as can be, she had no language. Her parents believe in her unseen abilities, and were thrilled when they met us, saying, “Hope has come to us today.” Nayely was rejected by her village’s teachers because of her deafness. We know she’s going to prove herself to be the smartest person her village has ever seen. She was a delight to all of us at camp. Her mind was like a sponge, soaking up all her eyes could take in, and her heart was like a flower, blossoming in sheer radiance with all the Truth she was receiving.
Madudy’s mom was awestruck as she peered into the crowded auditorium filled with people just like her daughter. She didn’t realize there were so many, and she didn’t realize they had their own language and their own lives, just like everyone else. These were her thoughts as she stood there staring into the commotion. This was the moment of Madudy’s liberation. She finally grasped the truth, and realized the stigma she had carried those 13 years for her daughter was no more than a lie. Her daughter wasn’t stupid, she wasn’t punished by God, she is perfect in His sight, she can learn and be just as educated as you and I, she can be the worship leader in church, and she can have friends…and if she so chooses, a husband and children one day!
Jilma is a large, vivacious Garifuna woman who has been deaf her entire life, and has had to travel the hardest of roads simply to survive. She’s been involved in our program for years, but has always kept herself at a distance. A few years ago, Jilma shared with me the reason why she didn’t want to become a Christian. She said, “I know once I decide to follow Jesus, I’ll have to change how I live. I’m not willing to do that.” More than anything, I wanted Jilma to understand that Jesus loves her where’s she’s at, and that she didn’t have to change a thing for Him to keep loving her. The camp theme this year was God Cares. Jilma must have allowed this truth to fill her mind. On the last day of camp, as Elise (one of our extraordinary volunteers) was explaining the last Bible story drama, she asked the campers if any of them wanted to make a declaration in prayer of wanting to follow God’s ways. Jilma raised her hand, stood up out of her chair, went and stood by Elise, and declared that she wanted to become a Christian. …Tangible proof that God Cares.
Sixto is one of the least of these and an outcast not because of his deafness, but because of the disfigurement that covers half his face. His 76-years of living in poverty didn’t offer Sixto the same options you or I would have in his situation. He has skin cancer, which if it had been removed within the first year, would be nothing more than a slight scar on his face. Seven years later it is a gaping, swollen, cavern exposing the inners of his face – extremely sore, smelly, and unsightly. He does use a bandana as an attempt to hide his wound and keep the bugs away. Needelss to say, Sixto doesn’t receive any human contact except from his sister who takes care of him. Despite his embarrassment, we were able to coax him to camp, and his life will never be the same. Because of the open arms and hearts of our camp volunteers, Sixto was treated as if he had a perfect face. There wasn’t 15 minutes that passed where Sixto didn’t receive a touch or hug from someone. Another of our amazing volunteers, Miles, embraced caring for Sixto during these days, and there wasn’t a need that went unmet. Sixto has never received so much love in his life. Even though Sixto longs to die to escape from his painful and hopeless state, it’s an indescribable feeling to know that we had a part in bringing joy to his days. Camp offered us the opportunity to selflessly love him out of this world…and we couldn’t have been more privileged.
Here at Signs of Love, our hearts are filled with thanks to all of you who took part in this camp. The reach of hands and hearts involved goes beyond our knowledge, and it is not our intention to overlook anyone who was involved. We ask our gracious Lord to abundantly bless all of you who had a part in making this happen. As you can see, from just the few stories above, camp is a powerful, life changing instrument. We’re so grateful for our 24 volunteers who gathered from all over the USA (including a team from The Vista Community Church in Texas) – they sacrificed their time, energy, money, and much more to make a difference amongst the Deaf in rural Honduras. We are also grateful to Hill Country Church in Texas for partnering with us at camp from afar. Their sacrificial giving is humbling, and we are honored to be making a kingdom difference with them.
We love you all!