Chris Scearbo is an avid Signs of Love supporter who has served with us in Honduras over the past several years. Chris and his wife served with us again this past summer, and he shares his experience of camp here:
After setting up the camp and praying for the kids’ arrival, for their protection, and for the enemy to have no grounds in this place, I was super thankful for Travis’ attention to detail and his desire to go above and beyond for these kids, in preparation for this weekend, including the skits/dramas, gathering of materials, and laying out the obstacle course.
When the bus arrived with all of the kids, we lined up to celebrate. I got lots of hugs and high fives from kids I didn’t know. It was cool to see Edwin and Marvin celebrate these kids and their friends being here–lots of smiles, smiles everywhere–all smiles and lots of hugs.
I realized that this was the first time I’ve been around a group of deaf people that are also Christians with the primary purpose of worshipping the Lord.
All throughout the weekend it impressed me that many of these kids at one point had no language at all, no way to communicate with anyone, even their deaf peers, and yet they were worshipping with all of their body and language that they have. How do you teach someone with no language whatsoever? How do you teach them something that everybody else learns inherently simply by hearing while growing up? How do you teach them about Jesus when they don’t even know who God is? How do you teach them about God when they don’t even know what the sign for Jesus is, or what Jesus has done for us?
It was amazing to see the results of the efforts of the Signs of Love staff and above all the work of Jesus, because this transformation can truly only be the work of God.
I realized that part of my discomfort in being around deaf people wasn’t that they speak another language that I don’t understand, or that they don’t have language at all, but that society sees and views them as having a disability and simply being different. The discomfort I have felt around the deaf felt similar to being around someone with CP or Down syndrome. This feeling was something that I wanted to address and work through during the weekend.
So at dinner on the first night, I was the first of the three of us (Alissa, Trav and me) to get food. As I looked for a table for all of us, I saw an empty seat at one of the “cool” tables, and recognized an opportunity to throw myself into discomfort. So, I chose to sit down with these guys instead of sitting with Trav and Alissa who would have interpreted for me.
My thoughts: “What am I doing? I know basically no sign outside of my name, I love you and soccer…and I definitely have no idea what any of these kids are saying to me…” But, I just jumped into the uncomfortable situation that awaited me at the table.
I thought my frequent facial expressions of confusion, bewilderment, and loss of any understanding of what they were saying to me would be a clue that I had no knowledge of sign. But it became clear to me, that they had no intention of slowing down their signing to me, and threw their language at me like rapid fire. I felt like I was drinking out of a fire hose. It was almost comical…I mean they had to know that I was completely lost in this conversation.
I felt like every other sign was a flick of a wrist forward into the air. What were they saying...that something is way over there? That something way over there is also something way into the future? That something way over there and also way into the future is also really high in the sky? I felt like a bobble-head doll, shaking my head in agreement to everything.
At some point, we discussed soccer, although I have no clue to what extent. I’m pretty sure I said I am good at soccer and I will play tomorrow. This also got me thinking…that some of these kids still had very little language in their sign…and I could very well be signing something that means nothing, or something completely different than what I thought I was signing…and these kids might be doing the same thing! How many of these kids were signing Honduran sign and how many were just pointing to stuff and signing whatever they felt made sense to them? This thought actually made me more comfortable–if I could just act something out it was good enough communication. All I had to do was show what I was thinking and not get so caught up in my lack of sign language.
One of the guys made some kind of sign about biking, like BMX trick bikes. I think. Maybe we were now just listing off individual things we like…bicycling, soccer, bigger plates of food….or maybe he was saying he tries to impress girls with his trick bicycle skills…either way I thought “I’m killing it now” and was really enjoying this dinner. Then he pointed to his arm, which led me to believe his attempts at winning girls over haven’t been going very well…and then EVERYONE started pointing to their scars and signing way back, way way back scars. Scars way back. Super high, super far back. Scars. Smiles. I didn’t feel like this was any different than any conversation I had with my guy friends when I was an adolescent.
I am glad I sat down for dinner with these guys, I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying “just trust me with this one.” I hope that the guys could see that although I had little understanding of what they were saying, I wanted to stand by their side and be their friend.
Later in the night, Orlan was imitating everyone. I was amazed at how so many people could guess who he was imitating, with such little information. Everyone knew so quickly! It really surprised me at the little cues that they picked up. He also imitated me, which I did not pick up on, but everybody else seemed very quick to tell it was me and I was thankful for getting imitated. It felt like it was my initiation and acceptance into this community.
Bedtime on Friday night was super interesting: everybody in their beds waving at one another from all across the room to get each other’s attention, and having conversations with each other. It was the first time I’ve really seen a large group of deaf people communicating with each other. Miguelito laughed for three straight hours, just giggling all through the night. I thought, man, this may be the only time each year these people see some of their friends and how beautiful to see everyone interacting with one another. I liked hearing the laughter and moans of these kids throughout the night.
I met Franklin and Carlos, and Trav and I talked with them for a while. I felt like I was able to hold a decent conversation with them, with the help of Trav.
Our second day together went by so fast and felt so incredibly long at the same time.
I was nervous to do the skits, and thankful for the consistent positive feedback and encouragement from Alissa, Travis, Robin, Kathryn, Jessie and also the kids.
It was hilarious how we could recite the whole skit out loud while doing the skit because no one could hear anything, it seemed pretty comical to me.
I enjoyed playing soccer with all the kids, there were so many bodies on the field and rather than traditional soccer, this was: run with the ball as far up the field as you could before losing it or getting it stolen. We picked teams, but it was like 20 vs 20, guys and girls. I had no idea who was on my team, and I also couldn’t yell to anyone to pass the ball or to move so I could pass to them, or warn them of someone on their back. I had never experienced this before on the soccer field. I truly had no idea how to communicate with my teammates. I didn’t want to try and be a hero or a ball hog, so I really had to be aware of my surroundings when getting the ball, so I could effectively pass it to an open teammate…and I didn’t even really know who was on my team. So often players when receiving a pass will keep their head down and dribble and look up later for a pass, but the lack of ability to communicate really forced me to know who was around me, who was where on the field, who my team was, and where the other team was positioned before even getting the ball, which is actually a great skill to learn in soccer…so ironically I am thankful for this challenge.
Kids were playing barefoot, with their dress shoes (because it’s probably all they had), their sneakers, and a few had cleats. Robin said that they would save up the whole year to afford cleats.
I had a goal that Gustavo kept signing was a nice goal and that he saw it curve.
At the end of the game Marvin showed me that his cleats had ripped during the game. Later that night, as I processed through this, I felt the Spirit was telling me that I could afford a new pair of cleats to replace mine, I didn’t need mine and I had the opportunity to share love with Marvin by giving him my cleats. Earlier that day he had actually tried on my sandals, so I knew my cleats would fit him. While I was the only one in the bunkroom, I put my cleats in his backpack. I didn’t want anyone to know or see that I had given them to him and I didn’t know if I would have alone time with him before camp was over, nor did I really even know how to sign “hey your cleats broke so I wanted give you my cleats”…so this seemed like the best way to give them to him. The next morning when he woke up and saw them in his bag he was very confused but happy when I signed to him they were now his.
I am thankful for this moment also, for the Holy Spirit speaking to me as a way to bless Marvin. Through the weekend I had felt favor towards him. I was impressed with his character, his heart for serving God and that he is a great man of God…he is also the best deaf soccer player I have ever seen, and I’m glad we had soccer in common.
During the 4th run-on skit, which was the competition, I had been thinking about whom I would pick for the volunteers to carry on my back. One of the kids, I didn’t know his name, had been on my heart throughout the weekend. I’d had no interaction with him at this point, but I felt like I was supposed to pick him. When it came time to ask for volunteers and I looked in his direction, he made eye contact with me and asked me to pick him up and this warmed my heart. I was thankful to share this moment in the skit with this boy and I was grateful that God showed me yet again that without knowing sign He can use me to share love with these kids.
In this 4th skit, Alissa asked the crowd which one was stronger: me or Travis…and all the kids went crazy for me. I know in all the skits Trav is supposed to be the goofy one, and I don’t care who is stronger, but it touched my heart again, at their welcoming and acceptance of me. I really was taken back by this moment, like through God I have also been able to reach these kids and love them and they have received it and were sharing their acceptance with me.
I was again reminded of this on Sunday, when the kids picked their favorite camp shirt. Who knows, maybe they really did love the blue shirt more than any other shirt. It’s blue, and it’s new. Everyone loves the color blue, and everyone loves something new…but I felt loved by them in this moment also.
Saturday night, I was reminded multiple times, by a couple of the older men, that I lost my wedding ring while playing soccer and someone had found it for me. With Alissa’s help interpreting, they asked me how much I paid for the ring, and I told them about 100 limpera, which was not actually true, because that’s about $4.50, but 100 is a nice round number and after a long, physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting day I was okay with this answer. The guys then responded in astonishment, and the face of “wow.” They said if they had bought a ring that expensive they would have taken much better care of it and how foolish and careless I was for losing it while playing.
Although kind of annoyed by the constant reminder, I was actually really humbled by this. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on the guy’s face when I told him it was 100 limpera ($5 USD). How privileged I felt in this moment. How much I have, and yet, $5 USD to them causes a look of utter disbelief that I would be so careless. My heart hurts that I live such a privileged life and complain as much as I do. I don’t need more and yet I want more so often, simply because I can. It was a reality check. The fact that, to me, a $5 ring is dispensable , and yet is a luxury to many.
Saturday night, Travis and I had long conversations with Franklin, Carlos, and Marvin. I learned that Franklin has two brothers in the states. I believe both of them are hearing and they don’t send money back to the family and Franklin feels the responsibility to take care of his mom. He works hard as a welder, which I guess is a popular/common profession to have in Honduras. It is also very common to have a family member in the states.
I learned that Carlos lost his Mom about five years ago, that Franklin is scared of flying planes, and Marvin is getting married to his girlfriend of four years in December. Marvin also works a lot and has his own motorcycle.
As camp came to a close I processed through a lot of my feelings:
My original frustration and annoyance with being in so many skits, because this isn’t my thing–serving and loving the deaf isn’t my calling. I love Alissa, Robin, Travis, and everything Signs of Love stands for, so I’m more than happy to show up, but I don’t want to be in everything because this isn’t my thing…Those feelings had been replaced with a heart of love for the kids at camp.
My fears of not being useful or helpful or able to communicate were replaced with the love the kids showed to me.
My annoyance at doing all the skits while at camp was pushed aside by the kids’ excitement for our dramas and the positive feedback of the team. I have grown in my understanding and appreciation for how much Travis gives at camp for the sake of the kids. It’s beautiful and without the passion God puts in him to serve, I wouldn’t have fought internally to finish the last skit and would have called it quits.
This has been the hardest year to leave Honduras, of all the years I have come. Maybe it will continue to get harder every time I leave until maybe one day I won’t leave.
I have a much deeper understanding of Signs of Love, and I’m grateful for what they do here. I’m even more excited and proud to help them any way I can, whether it be with my time or money or both.
I have learned yet again, in a much deeper way that love has no boundaries, love is its own language and all you need is the sign of love to communicate and to touch someone.