This week I had originally planned on traveling to Thailand to teach a seminar to the deaf church there. But the rising price of tickets kept pushing the price of travel beyond the amount of funds that we had raised for this teaching ministry. With some regret, Dewayne and I canceled the trip and made alternative plans. We set up a schedule for doing the conferences via video over the internet. I was not sure if the internet here in Villavo could handle a two way video conference and so I considered traveling to Bogota to do the conferences there. But we programed one trial seminar for Monday to see how it would go. There is not internet here at the camp, so I asked a family in the church to use their home and internet. The school is too chaotic and noisy and would not permit the uninterrupted teaching time I needed.
Monday of this week arrived was our scheduled beginning date and Dewayne and Jackie Liebrandt were in Thailand on a teaching visit to the church there. They had organized the times and location and had secured all of the cameras and computers for our teaching session. On Monday I arrived before 6AM at the house and we began testing our connection and equipment. Our conferences were scheduled from seven to nine each morning; which is seven to nine in the evening in Thailand. With all equipment set up the people began to arrive. I greeting them in English and Dewayne translated my words into Thai sign language. At seven sharp we began our conferences.
I taught for two hours straight without a break. My host family was kind enough to keep my coffee cup filled with hot fresh coffee. I could see my students and they could see me. That way if there was a question or some discussion started, I could stop my teaching and see whether I had not been clear or if I had raised a question they wanted me to answer. This allowed for the give and take dialogue that makes classroom teaching so effective. Monday went very well and we did not have a single interruption to our internet connection. Tuesday went very well also and by Tuesday they asked if we could possibly extend the teaching for an extra day. I was happy to do so as I would have have been able to cover my notes. Wednesday and Thursday the teaching went very well also with a dynamic interaction live between myself and my students. After each session we always had some time for questions and discussion.
As we finished, the students were very gracious in expressing their appreciation and in asking about the possible of doing a more extensive teaching next year. Obviously we had only scratched the surface and the students were thirsting after more. That will give us this entire year to raise the money for travel to Thailand next year. This year has served to help me understand cultural differences and to adapt the content and my teaching style to Thai culture. Next year we can be much more ready and schedule many more conferences to take full advantage of our time there. The Bible college there has asked me to teach their students as well and the Thai hearing church has also asked for the conferences. So we would be teaching morning, afternoon, and evening during the entire time there. Plus my presence would allow me to work one on one with a specific student when that would prove beneficial.
God blessed us through this technology and we were able to hold our conferences even though I was not able to travel. But next year we would like to do even more and that will mean travel to Thailand will be necessary. Technology can complement, but never replace the personal contact. God closed some doors and opened others this year and we look for Him to do the same for our teaching plans next year!