With the deaf church doing so well in Bogotá, we began to feel that it was time to move ahead with the next step in the plan for establishing deaf churches in all of Colombia. We had considered for some time the next logical step and the best location for the next church plant. We had looked at different areas of Bogotá and at other cities where we have contacts and works. So one year after planting the first deaf church in Colombia, we began to make our move towards establishing the second one.
In Villavicencio, where Jeanie and I worked for so many years and where I still work with the school and church there on a part time basis, we had been doing some exploratory work. Dewayne Liebrandt has traveled there with me several times and on one trip we took the deaf preacher down with us also. These meetings have always been positive and so we began to consider taking our next step there with the goal of launching a deaf church in Villavicencio within the next year or so.
In June of this year we began sign language classes in the church there in Villavicencio. We would have started earlier, but our first teacher contact did not pan out. We scheduled classes on two different occasions but in each case the teacher backed out at the last minute. We then contacted a profoundly hard of hearing woman in the nearby town of Restrepo. Her husband is deaf and she communicates in sign language with him and sign language was her first language until hearing aid technology had advanced to the point where she was able to hear. She was enthusiastic about the opportunity and we began to make definite plans.
The first thing we did was bring her up to the deaf school in Bogotá for classes on how to teach sign language to people with hearing. She attended a week long seminar on how to teach. She returned to her home in Restrepo and we immediately organized the next sign language class. She arrived to find twenty students waiting for her. She comes over twice each week and teaches for two hours. She is able to do the normal two month class in a bit over one month that way; usually five or six weeks. We have been going now for three months and she is just finishing up the second level. The class has done well and we are still having around fifteen students present every week.
As they finish the second level the students and the teacher are excited about beginning the third of three levels. There are six levels all together and then a person would begin learning specialty vocabulary to increase their ability to communicate in different situations. The students as well as the teacher have begun to ask about the possibility of starting a church among the deaf there in Villavicencio and even Restrepo. We have been working for this idea to be born out of the church there so it would not be seen as an imposition. This is exactly what is happening right now.
We are excited about the possibilities as we look to starting one and maybe two new deaf churches in the relatively near future. The local church is excited about the idea and we have a great group of new sign language students who can help with the project and use their newly acquired skills. But as always, there are expenses involved with any new work and right now it could well be finances that become the road block to this vision. There are needs for transportation, teaching materials, and training for the new workers. Perhaps you can share the vision and the excitement and share as well in the blessing of being a part of establishing these new churches by providing for some of these needs. Send any special gifts designated as for the deaf ministry and together we will build the Lord’s church among the deaf of Colombia!