Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Glimpse of What Happens at Jesus Deaf Church

Thank you to Sylvia Rhodes for taking pictures!   Pictures of church rarely make it to the blog.  It's so nice to have some.  Thank you.

Our worship begins with me making announcements about events during the week, birthdays, welcoming visitors and then someone praying for our contrite hearts and open minds to God's presence.

Next we sing.  Any person who wants to sing selects a song from our two binders.  We usually have about 6 people who sign songs. It's not always the same people.   The songs are completely without music.  They are signed with a deaf rhythm.  Some songs have a lot of rhythm and others are choruses from familiar Christian praise songs.  Some are translations of Psalms and still other songs we have made up to fit a theme at some point.  Once in a while one of the members will get up front and sign a song from their heart that they made up while sitting on the bench.  I encourage that and love to see this type of Spirit-led singing.

Alma is one who often leads a song.  She likes our ASL translation of  "I will Bless Thee, O Lord, I will bless Thee, O Lord.  With a heart of Thanksgiving, I will bless Thee, O Lord."

After singing we give an opportunity for people to share something they noticed God do during the God gave protection, guidance, maybe a blessing.  Usually about four people will share. I really want people to keep their eyes open to how God is speaking into their lives.  God is a very real daily presence.  We need to share these moments of incarnation with each other to strengthen our ability to perceive God's guidance and messages to us, so that we can be faithful followers.

The sharing is followed by our ASL translation of the "Thank You Song" by Hillsong.  Kristel is usually the one who signs this and we copy with signs or just watch and meditate on the words.

At this point I give everyone a break.  It's hard for deaf people to sit and watch for long periods of time.  My eyes actually water.  Hearing people can look down and just listen, but deaf people need to keep their eyes focused on the speaker to be able to follow and understand.  I found I get much better attention for the sermon if I give them a break midway through the hour and a half service.  So after the sharing, everyone can get up and get a drink or visit with each other or go to the bathroom. The break is usually about 5 to 10 minutes.

After the break I preach.  I always use power point pictures to make the concept more visual.  It's difficult for me to try to make a point standing in one place so I oven move around to sort of "act out" or demonstrate what I am trying to say.  To keep people connected who have varying levels of understanding of ASL, it's necessary to ask questions or break into small groups to share ideas and then share with the group. I guess this more resembles teaching in a classroom than preaching.

After the sermon we need to do something to make the concept practical and applicable to our daily lives so we often break into groups and do skits to show an example of an application.  Our multi-age congregation is extremely good at accommodating everyone into their groups' skit. 

Finally we gather in a circle for prayer.  Each person is given an opportunity to say a prayer or pass.  I try to encourage everyone to say something...a thank you prayer if they do not have a petition.

At the close we greet each other with "God Bless you."  It's a way of "passing the peace" to everyone in our fellowship, a chance to offer forgiveness or affirm the bond of friendship in Christ.

We close with a fellowship time that lasts about 15 to 20 minutes, drinking a cool juice and some bagged chips before everyone crawls back into the van and we drive home.

It's interesting that Jesus Deaf Church was not always this way, but our order of worship evolved as we grew to understand better why we were coming together to worship and how our worship could reflect our Deaf culture.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Update on Sulmi, Adoption and her Life as a High School Student

Happy Birthday!

Sulmi turned 16 on February 14th.  She said, "I don't want to grow older!  I want to stay 13 or 14."

We had a small birthday party here at our house.  I made her favorite dinner: Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp.  We invited three of her best girlfriends; Kristel, Elizanie and Gineli to join us for a party. MaryBeth Heatwole Moore and Sylvia and Martin Rhodes were also here.

MaryBeth led the gang in games after we had dinner. This photo was after the game "Ha Ha You Can't Make Me Laugh".   But they did...alot...almost rolling on the floor.  When the party was over, Kristel and Gineli went home and Elizanie slept over.  I think it was one of her best birthdays yet.

Science Fair

Every two years the students at Bishop Martin High School participate in a Science Fair.  I remember science fairs from my teaching days in Penn Manor and Hempfield, but wowsers!  This was complex and elaborate!  I was impressed!  Sulmi was in a group with five other freshman.  They met at our house bi-weekly from November 1 to February 1. They picked a topic (it was rejected.) Then they picked another one, did the experiment, wrote it up, added data, graphs, and discussion,  created a presentation board, and finally on the day of the science fair, Sulmi, Veronica and Hugo gave an oral presentation of their project before the judges.  (Sulmi signed her part and Cathlene, her interpreter, voiced for her.) They got 2nd out of about 14 Freshman projects and scored 92 percentage points.  I was so proud of them.  Whew!  It was a lot of work, but now they really know the scientific method first hand.

Their topic was to discover which AAA battery powered the flashlight the longest. They ran two trials.  Both times the Duracell batteries outlasted the others by more than a full day.

In her other subjects she continues to earn honor roll and is learning how to study for tests.  It's definitely a challenge (especially Spanish class), but she is doing well and trying very hard.

Her interpreter, Cathlene Olivas, is awesome!


There is not much to say because it is such a disappointingly long process.  Since November the lawyer says he can do nothing until we get the home study report from the social worker.  We finally got an appointment for January 15.  Since then we have been waiting for her write up of the visit.  She told me that I have nothing to worry about.  That's great.  I just worry that we wont be done in time for Sulmi and I to go to the US this summer.  Please join me in praying that somehow this is resolved quickly.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Visitors from Virginia!

 Martin Rhodes from VMM, his wife Sylvia and MaryBeth Heatwole Moore came to Belize for about 4 and a half days.  I think the purpose of the visit was to give Martin an opportunity to observe the work I do as well as give an opportunity for the four of us to discuss a sister church possibility.   It was good to have them here.  There are always smiles and laughter wherever MaryBeth goes.  The picture above is in a Taiwanese bubble tea shop called New Balance... Martin had remembered being there before so he wanted to go again.  It's one of my favorite restaurants in Orange Walk run by two wonderful people James and Ming Hwuay.

 Marybeth and I share a tremendous amount of things in common.  It was good to talk about Deaf Church and life in general.
 My classroom is in the library.  When the children have "break" from 10:00 to 10:30 several come into the library to look at books.  Marybeth seized the moment to read to several of them.

Pulling chicken for our evening meal of beans, rice and ....pulled chicken.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why Are All of These People Gathered Here?

It's Movie Night!

First we ate dip and chips, vegetables and cupcakes.

 Lupita's brothers clowning around.

 Osevio (10) is a new member of our group.

Juan trying to steal a kiss for the picture.

My girls

The movie was from PureFlix called Abel's Field.  It had a Christian theme and modernized the story of Cain and Abel.  Everyone LOVES Movie Night!