Thursday, September 12, 2013

One of Our Favorite Volunteers Shares Her Heart

Following are sentiments from Alissa Matiya, an educator of the Deaf from Florida. She has served several short-term mission trips with Signs of Love, and this summer she served some intensive weeks with us. Her words are filled with truth and love. Enjoy...

Four years ago I came to Honduras and I left crushed in heartache with little hope for change. I have come every year since always leaving with mixed emotions. However, this most recent trip has been radically different. While Honduras and the lives of those I love are riddled with death and injustice, there is so much joy and hope and love.
Firstly, you must meet Eduin. He is a young man who has been in the arms of Signs of Love for years. His smile consumes his face and if you catch a glance of it, you'll be smiling with him. His laugh you can hear a mile away and you wonder what is bringing him so much joy. If you happen to look as he walks to his bike or to get water, you’ll catch him dancing. Aside from the simple joy he will bring to anyone's life, he is humble, committed, and hardworking. You can find him any day at the office to work even though he's not a paid worker. He will happily serve by checking a laundry basket of markers, moving wood, or joining a drama. When asked if he wants to help in more of a leadership role, he will always put it back on you. What do you think? Should I? I'm willing. Eduin is the person who after years of serving in Honduras you will miss and remember most vividly. Eduin gives joy like an endless well and dreams of working for Signs of love someday. This brings such hope knowing he deeply loves the deaf and God in every capacity.
Another young and committed servant is Byron from Santa Barbara, Honduras. I met him as a teacher at a school that has 40 special needs children including 10 deaf. Byron learned the LESHO dictionary in one week. He used every moment to study and communicate with the deaf leaders. He was eager to jump in to any drama or serving role. He sees a gap in language and is willing to step into that gap by learning the language himself only to teach it and give it away. He is the first Honduran to tell me he worked with the deaf simply for the love of the children. He wasn’t working to make ends meet or to simply survive in a life of poverty. He has not been paid in the two years serving at the school and trusts in God’s provision. After spending 2 days with him I woke up in the morning to write. I had an image of a match lit on fire and started writing a letter of encouragement. Words I believe God wanted him to hear. Doubting many of the lines written, throughout the week God affirmed each and every word written. Well the match image was perfect considering he spent years in the mines and had heard a sermon about letting your light burn in a dark place. The response to the letter was one that had tears and a commitment to serve God. Byron and his family have met with the mayor of their city and are in the process of getting supported by the government. They are asking for land, a building, transportation, teachers, and teacher pay. By the grace of God, the mayor is in favor and in awe of the work they have been doing over the last two years.
One last shining light that brings more hope that I can express is the work that Signs of Love does. In the past I've seen one or two villages but now I have been to every village they serve. I have met the children. I have seen the process of egg hunting for deaf children in a new village and how it looks when a parent sees hope for their child or when a child sees a deaf person like them for the very first time. After seeing the villages, I have an inurnment amount of hope and joy that the deaf are being loved all over Honduras. I am encouraged that God is relentlessly pursing his children. I have seen the staff live the bible and teach the bible. They are serving as pastors and teachers of a church service, they are drivers to remote villages searching for deaf children, and they are educating and leading those in La Ceiba to become leaders. You cannot be anything but in awe of the amount of work they do. Work hours of 9-5 do not exist in their world. As you can image, that amount of work could not be done without people who will lay down their life for the Kingdom. The servants of Signs of Love are incredible. There is a culture within the Signs of Love staff I haven’t seen anywhere else. One cannot match their joy or ability to share. When someone does laundry, they are all up out of their chairs helping hang clothes on the line or taking it down before it rains. If one person is in the kitchen, they all are because they will help with dishes while one cooks or will help prepare food for whoever is cooking. There is not an ounce of selfishness or pride. I am humbled at their ability to endlessly share life.
Now I am in Washington DC serving the ASL discipleship training with Youth With a Mission. They are discipling and raising up leaders among the Deaf community to send them out. As I take a step back I see God reaching out and harvesting the souls of the Deaf. DOOR ministry is translating the Bible into sign languages all over the world, Signs of Love is serving Honduras, YWAM is raising leaders…and I am left with hope. I know this work will take generations to see restoration but I am no longer heartbroken believing that the Deaf are forgotten. They are not forgotten; they are seen, pursued, and loved.
I praise Jesus saying: His love is deep, His love is wide And it covers us His love is fierce, His love is strong It's furious His love is sweet, His love is wild And it's waking hearts to life!

Doing the Right Thing

Can you remember a time when you wanted to do the right thing, but didn't want anyone to know?  We’ve all been there for whatever reason.  At one of our recent language programs, there was a young man who wanted to do the right thing, but he was trying to avoid the public ridicule that would come along with that decision.  He said if the other boys saw him learning sign language he would be teased… so he wanted to learn apart from the group, behind the building.  Eduin, a Deaf young man who has been volunteering with SofL offered to teach him.  The two sat, hidden from sight, and as they were communicating, Eduin was able to remind this young man of his worth and his coolness. 
Eduin on the right teaching Dilber sign language & that
he's all the more cool for learning it! 
Everyday we get to stand up for what’s right, and let those who are never told know that they are worthy and priceless.  In doing this every day, we fall deeper in love with The One Who Created all of us, and we’re impassioned all the more. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Be Inspired...

Read about some lives that will touch a special place in your heart. They were at our 13 Annual Deaf Camp in Honduras.  We celebrate God's faithfulness in LOVING all of us... 

Meet Norbin.  He was brought to us these past few months, having no way to communicate.  From the few SofL language programs he has been to, he’s learned just enough sign language to communicate his wants and desires.  He makes us all laugh with his newly learned language.  He had seen some photos from last year when we had village camps at the SofL mission house, and all the children were able to go to the beach, swim, and play with beach balls. Ever since he saw the photos, he has been asking the SofL staff, “Where’s the beach?”  What’s funny about this is that it’s nonstop.  When we’re in his village, he asks, “Where’s the beach?”  When we’re in the SofL van, he asks, “Where’s the beach?”  When he came to camp, he asked every 5 minutes, “Where’s the beach?,” as he carried around a blowup beach ball!  We finally decided to make this boy’s dream come true…so we snuck him away from the other children and took him to the beach!  You should have seen him as we pulled up to the beach – his eyes were as wide as the sea, and then he asked a new question: “How far does the sea go?”  It baffled his mind, and he threw off his shirt and ran in, getting dizzy along the way, and laughing like crazy!  When we returned to camp, he never asked again, “Where the beach?”  He knew.  His curiosity was fulfilled and he completed his mission.  We’re looking forward to see what his next curiosity will be. The remainder of camp, every craft Norbin made included his name and a drawing of the ocean.  For Norbin, camp was more than just 3 days of fun. It was a time of learning many new things (like how to spell his name correctly), and understanding so many things – from the beach to the truth that Jesus loves him.

At Signs of Love, we believe that nothing we do for His kingdom is done in vain, even when it doesn’t look like we’re making a difference at all, we believe we are – at some point in time – somewhere – somehow, lives are being changed.  For the past 12 years, SofL missionaries have loved and invested into the lives of the Deaf children at the local special education school, and for the past 3 years we have poured into their lives daily.  
If anybody would have told us what we were about to witness at camp, probably none of us would have believed it.  This is a group of youth who are no different than any other group of teenagers – they have their cliques, arguments, prejudices, selfish tendencies, and all the other challenges that come along with being a teenager.  Additionally, this group has unique challenges at home and school, and so for them, camp has always been an anticipated time to getaway.  This year, they came to camp with a different attitude, and their actions showed it…they wanted to give instead of receive – they wanted to serve instead of be served – they wanted to comfort others instead of cultivating cliques – they wanted to love instead of gossip. . . it’s as if we almost didn’t believe what our eyes were seeing!  Their actions were so different from anything we’ve ever seen from this group, and it was inexplicably inspiring to all of us who so intimately know them.  We got to see fruit! The hours and hours and hours that have been invested into them were not spent in futility.  This reminded us that we must never give up…we must continue believing that a difference IS being made, even when we cannot see it.  Onward we go, investing, teaching, believing, knowing that LIVES ARE BEING CHANGED.  THE KINGDOM IS ADVANCING.  HIS LOVE CAN BE HEARD BY ALL. 

The 3rd testimony is about Josue.  We first learned of Josue about 10 years ago when some teachers contacted us and informed us that there was a young deaf boy dying of starvation.  We went to this boy’s village, and found him…curled up in a ball, skin and bones, malnourished and left on the tabletop to die. When I asked his parents what was wrong, they simply & coldly stated, “He’s sick.”  You see, when they realized he was deaf, they thought it was pointless to feed him. They were starving him to death.  God had different plans for this boy.  We dispelled the myths his parents believed about deafness, bought him the necessary medicine and nutrition he needed to get well, and started loving him like he’d never known!  A few months later he was integrated into our language programs, and we have watched him grow into the young man he is today – capable and determined!  Josue was engaged in this year’s camp like never before.  He was soaking in all the teachings and dramas.  On the last day, he was captivated by the sermon, and afterwards shared how he wanted more…he wanted more of Jesus Christ in His life.  He wanted to feel more of His presence.  He wanted to be connected with Christ for forever.  We prayed with him the sinner’s prayer, and celebrated with all the heavenly hosts his embarkation on the process of sanctification.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  A life changed for eternity.  A life that was once believed to be worthless is now known to be priceless.     Celebrating the Truth that love can be heard by all!