Friday, January 22, 2010

Sri Lanka | Deaf Church Leader Conference

Hindsight. What an amazing gift it would be to have hindsight beforehand. If we could see it before it happened,would we plan and execute any differently? Sometimes It’s not safe or productive to lean on our past experience when serving The Almighty. This reminder was magnificently brought to me during our time in Sri Lanka this past December.

This was my third trip there.  We’ve started a Signs of Love branch in the country which is led by a Deaf Sri Lankan man named Sanjho.  He’s amazing. This young man has such a passion to reach the Deaf in his country for Jesus Christ. The country is mostly Buddhist with some Hindus and Muslims. Sanjho has been working full-time with the Deaf for about 3 years now, and what God has allowed him to accomplish is simply inspiring. So this trip Jeff and I hosted a Bible Training Conference (per Sanjho’s request, and he made it clear that he wished we could have come long before December).  Sanjho brought in 22 Deaf leaders from all over the country and we trained them for 3 days on Fundamental Bible Doctrine.  It was like something I’ve never seen! In my 10 years of doing this ministry, our time with these 22 Deaf leaders holds the place as my number one endearing memory.  Let me explain: these 22 people came from various regions of the country where different forms of sign language are used.  The country has two `people groups, the Sinhalese and the Tamils.  We mainly minister with the Tamils, although Sinhalese were also present.  This means two different spoken languages and two different sign languages.  Also present at the conference were 3 people from Jaffna where they use another sign language.  Jaffna is the war-torn area that has been under attack for the past 25 years. The war ended a few months ago, freeing them to come to this conference.    When we opened the conference, Jeff would speak in English, I would translate into American Sign Language which Sanjho understands, and then he would translate into Sri Lankan Sign Language using some variations so that everyone would understand.  After an hour or so, something happened to my signing, and Sanjho was able to sit down because everyone was understanding me.  It was incredible!  The entire conference they sat with full attention, soaking in everything!  They didn’t even want to break for tea or stretching --- we had to insist!  They are so hungry to learn the bible, to learn Truth.  At the end of each module we would review what main points that were taught ---- they were clearly tracking with everything because they consistently answered our questions correctly, and moreover, asked profound questions related to what was being taught! Incredible!  Remember, this is a group of people who aren’t even able to read…only a few are literate. The Methodist Church recognized this conference as being of extreme importance, and the President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka announced that this conference was a history making event – the first of its kind in Sri Lanka.  Now the best part of all this was at the end when Jeff and I
orally tested each participant. One by one they came to the front of the room where we asked them to state the 12 pillars of truth in the Christian faith, and asked them to briefly state what each truth meant. Tears started streaming down my face as each person successfully stated this in their own language! They weren’t mimicking the signs I used they were proclaiming truth in their own language, incredible! I’m not sure I’ve felt a moment where the Holy Spirit was more alive in a room. At the end of each teaching module, Jeff would tell them, “learn this, and now go and teach others what they have learned.”  At the end of the conference many of them shared that they were going to go back to their village and share with the other Deaf what they learned.  Truth is going to cover the land of Sri Lanka! Sanjho’s vision is grand, and we are behind him 100%.  He wants these leaders to receive a year of training so that they will be equipped to plant churches in their villages, towns and cities.  Sanjho sees multiple churches being planted by 2011! Our work in Sri Lanka is definitely cut out for us, and it’s going to require a lot of prayer, sacrifice, money, and time by many.  Please keep this close to your heart.

We’re so excited we can hardly stand it!