(Para empezar, siempre publico mis experiencias en Ingles... Sin embargo, si alguien desea leerlas en Espanol, me pueden hacer un comentario abajo. Gracias!)
It was an average day in service when I came upon my first deaf person ever, Nancy, at the door. Mind you that I know 0% sign and quickly realized that I was in quite the pickle. However, she can speak clearly and was able to explain to me that she lost her hearing a few years ago.
I pulled out the Listen to God brochure and my Bible and she immediately got really excited saying, “hermanos, hermanos!” She expressed to us how she wants to learn about the Bible and come to a church. So I drew her a map of where we have our meetings and wrote down the day and time for her.
Well, what do you know? The next Saturday she appears at the glass door with a smile and her two young sons by her side. Walking in, though arriving a bit late, she lovingly proceeds to greet everybody when suddenly realizing that she was speaking loudly. She sits next to me and pulls out the Bible I had given her. I give her a copy of the Watchtower and she diligently beings to read the paragraphs. Each time she wants to look up a scripture, she taps me on the shoulder, and we find it together.
Since the first visit at her house she’s regularly been coming to the meetings and we have short, weekly studies. She’s learned Jehovah’s name and uses it effortlessly. She’s learned that Jehovah is our father and we can pray to him whenever we want and with whatever we feel. She’s learned and memorized Isaiah 35:5 where it promises that the “ears of the deaf will be unstopped”. On two occasions she’s told me that she wants to get baptized. I’ve explained to her that she has to keep learning about Jehovah first and she immediately proceeds with, “when are you coming back?”
A few weeks ago a loving friend, Julie, visited me from Cochabamba who recently moved to the sign language congregation. Immediately, I told her, “please, you have to come with me!” Thankfully, Nancy was home the morning we passed by and Julie was able to teach her a few signs, including Jehovah’s name. That afternoon Nancy came to the meeting and Julie translated the whole talk and Watchtower study for her. It was also the same weekend we had visiting brothers come from the city and everybody was so kind and patient with Nancy and gave her lots of hugs. She really, truly had the biggest smile on her face! It was so touching to see her so happy.
Even though our study is going fairly well, I realize that she would progress much better with somebody who knows and could teach her sign language. In making arrangements for a friend to come study with her regularly, I passed by her house today to ask what day she would be available. Meanwhile, my partner, Paola, insightfully noticed that her husband was observing us. So she approached him to explain that we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we visit Nancy to teach her about the Bible.
He was really moved and proceeded to explain to Paola that he too is handicapped due to a work accident. However, the government provides little to no help to handicapped people so he took it upon himself to form an organization in my town, Patacamaya, to help out. Through explaining more of what he does for the community, we realized what generous, loving people that they are. Being the president of this group, he asked if we would come back on December 3rd and share the good news with all the handicapped people at the community meeting that they hold once a month.
Ironically, the friend that I had contacted that same morning had asked if we knew of more deaf people in Patacamaya. We didn’t, but were immediately planning to start a census. Well, no need. All the handicapped, including deaf, will be in one place on December 3rd in Patacamaya waiting for us, and the local sign language congregation, to share with them the hope they have for the future.
As if that wasn't enough when we were getting ready to leave Nancy's husband approaches us asking if we had walked to their house. We had. So he hands us a generous amount of money telling us to enjoy a nice lunch on our way home. Of course we really did not want to accept their money and explained that, rather, we were there to help them. But, he insisted, so we humbly accepted it and explained that we would donate it to the work we do to be able to provide more publications and free Bible studies.
It was a pretty moving experience to say the least. Until December 3rd, here are some current pictures.