Sooo, I've been sitting on this post for a while, never getting around to sitting down and typing it out or having the patience of dealing with our injured-turtle-speed internet connection. The last post I wrote about our ASL group (of 4 publishers) was two CO visits ago and A LOT has happened since then. Unfortunately, after the initial newness of the group wore off...Nagua congregation wasn't supporting it the way we should have. It mostly had to do with the fact that no one from the congregation had taken the ASL course and the majority of the congregation did not feel qualified to preach or help out with the ASL group. Our poor ASL group publishers had a lot to do and all our their own. Brother Encarnación and his wife quickly fixed this issue, though. Brother Encarnación is our second CO (we are so cool we get two COs!) especially assigned to our ASL group but the whole congregation greatly benefited from his visit.

On Thursday of CO Week, he gave a special talk, the topic being "How do we see our deaf brothers?”. The talk focused on how the Nagua congregation is like the ASL group's mother and has to support the group just like you have to give attention to, spend money on and feed a newborn baby. Likewise, Nagua had to give "attention" and "feed" our ASL group by preaching with the group, giving bible studies, helping out monetarily when the groups need TV repairs, etc.

He also talked about helping out with the attendance for the Sunday ASL meetings. This can be a little difficult since the Spanish meeting is on Saturday and many brothers set Sunday apart as a day to preach. But Brother Encarnación, stressed the importance of the attendance at the meeting which at the moment was only about 10, and how it not only encouraged our visitors but also our hardworking ASL group publishers.

This CO visit was exactly what the congregation needed. Brother Encarnación's talk and encouragement during the week was like a jump start to the congregation's heart (Aren't Jehovah's arrangements just perfect?). The following Sunday, which is the ASL Public Talk and Watchtower Study, had an attendance of 50 (!!!!) with 14 deaf, my bible study among them.

The 14 deaf that came to the Sunday Meeting

All of us 50 in attendance. 


I was really excited. My first time bringing a bible study to the kingdom hall and she being deaf! Remember Denise, the sister from my first ASL post? I've been going out with her every Tuesday for 9 hour service days (something I never thought I'd say) to visit all the deaf studies she has and sometimes to census of the area for about 2 months now. (I'll post more about ASL Tuesdays later). The very first day I went out with her, Denise gave me one of her return visits, crossed her arms, zipped her lips and left me to my own defenses and Charade skills  -talk about jumping right in!-  The return visit and now bible student's name is Lisbeth and she's 13. We are a funny pair because I don't know any sign and neither does she! In fact, that very first time I went to see her, Denise had taught me some animal signs so I could teach them to Lisbeth by pointing it out in My Book of Bible Stories.

When we went to go see her Lisbeth's aunt (who she lives with) was asking us why didn't we talk to her in Spanish. Denise explained to her that we were trying to help her learn to communicate. Lisbeth might know a little lip reading, but she really does not communicate with her family anywhere near the amount a 13-year old girl would want to. Lisbeth's family has a problem that a lot of family's with deaf children have here in DR. They refuse to see reality. They want so much to believe that their child is "normal" that they go on through life talking to a child that can't hear them. I met this one deaf girl that told me that her mom would go to the store and maybe tell her that she's leaving or whatever else. She told me (well, signed and was interpreted to me) "My mom forgets that I can't hear. I nod when I see her lips move but I really don't have any idea of what's she saying!" Another big problem here in DR is that people don't treat deaf as people, Sometimes even the family forgets the name of the deaf member! Everyone calls them "El Mudo" or "La Muda" (The Mute) and no one pays much attention to them.

Although obviously this is not the case for all the deaf, these two issues make it easy for a deaf child to grow up with very little communication skills. What's worse is that there is no school in Nagua that teaches deaf children past 3rd grade. Most of the adult deaf in the area grew up together and developed their own form of "street sign" but my bible student is the only teenage deaf in town.

But her intelligence makes up for her lack of communication skills. She learns the signs I teach her quickly and has almost memorized the alphabet and right now she's almost got her name down pat! name. Don't get me wrong: teaching ASL and Bible to a deaf person when you don't know almost any ASL yourself is hard and can leave you feeling helpless at times, but it's totally worth is when, after trying to sign something a million different ways, you can see that the person finally gets it.
Anyway, back to the congregation....we are all really fired up. My mother has started a bible study with one of our close neighbors, Elba. (She's in the bright blue leggings in the picture of the Sunday meeting.) And more brothers and sisters are supporting the group publishers by going out to preach with them and helping out during meetings, like manning the projector and DVD player. And every Friday, a group of 20 or so, meet at a Brother's house and prepare comments for the Watchtower study. We all chose a paragraph, learn the signs for the ideas we want to say and practice signing in front of the group. It's a lot of fun and is a great way to keep the group motivated.
ASL is on a roll!


On our last Friday meeting, Brother Mendoza, the elder in charge of the group, read this article from a 2012 Watchtower: What Did I Get Myself Into? . I find it to be a great source of encouragement for anyone wanting to serve anywhere or any language where the need is greater.

I've been a terrible blogger and I don't even want to calculate how many days it has been since I posted anything. So I wont. Instead, I'll tell you about the DR's new favorite conversation topic: the Chikungunya.

This might sound like a tasty Asian chicken soup (I mean, that's what it sounds like for me) but in reality, it's a nasty virus, close cousing to Dengue fever, that is sweeping through the Caribbean and is causing a bit of commotion in the Dominican Republic. 

It's trasmitted by mosquito bite - which is wonderful, because there are absoutely no mosquitos in DR (note my sarcastic typing). Really, we're in the middle of the rainy season (a.k.a mosquito season) and everyone seems to have gotten this virus. Those who have escaped it so far (like me) are just patiently waiting to start feeling the pain. There is no vaccine and thankfully, it's not fatal, but the symptoms are chronic fatigue, constant nausea, weird rashes, high fever, dizziness and disorientation and a whole lot of joint and back pain. So, whoever gets this will be sitting out service for at least two weeks, which is why I really, really, really, REALLY cannot get sick with this. I'm the tiniest bit behind on my hours and well...excuse me as I reapply my mosquito repellent. 

Now, pickup trucks are driving all over town fumigating. But then again, I don't know what's worse, the actual disease or the fumigating. It literally leaves me speechless seeing these trucks on the road and the motorists getting lost in the billowing white smoke clouds of mosquito-killing poison on the streets, disappearing in the cancer clouds. Don't know why I'm surprised really, Public Health isn't exactly #1 on DR's list of priorities...or #35.

On the bright side, this Chickungunya is a great conversation starter out in service. Most of the people either think this is the 11th plague from God or that the U.S government secretly covered the Dominican Republic in an airborne death cloud to murder all Dominicans. Though I'm not sure why the U.S government would do this, it's a great chance talk with the householder about Daniel 2:44 and how God's Kingdom will get rid of all those sneaky, murderous governments. With the householders that believe the Chickunguya is a divine punishment, we read James 1:13 and Ecclesiastes 9:11 and either conversation ties into how Jehovah will soon get rid of all sickness and what we should have to do to enjoy the future life that the Bible promises. 

A count three days ago states that there have been 5.000 confirmed cases of the Chickungunya virus in the Carribbean with new cases being reported in Haiti, the Dominican Republic (oh, goody.) and now Cuba every day. Things are a bit crazy...the Chickingunya here in the Carribbean, the Ebola outbreak in Guinea  ....everyday the words of Luke 21:11 are becoming more and more real. Won't it be great when "no resident will say: 'I am sick."? (Isaiah 33:24).

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