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The Deaf Camp Experience

soccer ball (3)The Deaf leadership of One Way Evangelical Deaf Church (formerly New Life Deaf Church) is preparing for another weekend camp experience for Deaf youth and adults. As I look back on the 16+ years of working with the Deaf community, the Deaf church, Deaf leaders, and these Deaf camps, so many memories come to mind.

There are some sad memories. I can recall at least two Deaf campers who eventually lost their lives to suicide. Other Deaf campers who chose paths that have led to self-destruction and have hurt others as well. Other Deaf who have lost their lives due to illness, accidents, and murder. And still other Deaf who struggle profoundly with depression, poverty, and education deprivation.

But oh the good memories. I remember our first camp well. Not only did we focus on the Deaf in the Deaf church and community of Tegucigalpa, but we invited Deaf Hondurans from all over the country. At this point in time, Deaf people in different pockets of the country were not as connected socially, with sign language, nor culturally as a Deaf community yet. So, by God’s grace and guidance, we were able to bring all these Deaf Hondurans together for a weekend camping experience about 45 minutes outside of Tegucigalpa.

Our first challenge was to figure out how we were going to effectively communicate the Gospel to these Deaf youth and adults. We had a mission team with us from the U.S. (most who were American Sign Language users). We recognized that we weren’t only dealing with Honduran Sign Language (LESHO) and American Sign Language (ASL). We had Deaf people with some strong dialect differences from northern Honduras and some Deaf who had such minimal language skills, LESHO signs would not be adequate. So what did we do?

We basically had three (and even four sometimes) signers on the stage at any given time. If a person was teaching/signing in ASL, we had another Deaf leader from Honduras translating to LESHO and then another Deaf leader from Honduras translating from LESHO to a more gestural form of communication. And we used lots and lots and lots of pictures, visual aids, and dramas.

At the end of the third day, more than twenty five Deaf Hondurans invited Jesus into their hearts and began a personal relationship with their/our Savior! And thus began a growth in the Deaf Christian community that would continue to thrive for years to come.

Fast forward to 2016 …

As the Deaf church prepares for camp in two months, so many good things have happened in the Deaf community of Honduras since that first camp. This summer, at least five different organizations/schools/ministries will hold Christ-centered camps for Deaf children, youth, and/or adults nationwide. This is simply amazing and such a wonderful tool for evangelism, discipleship, and encouragement to the Deaf community in Christ’s love.

A handful of Deaf ministries now are doing great work with the Deaf community in large cities with large Deaf populations as well as smaller towns and rural areas where Deaf Hondurans are often overlooked. Despite differences in language dialect, educational and leadership experiences, and differing ministry doctrines, the Deaf Christian Community is coming together more than ever before in the history of Honduras.

One example of this is the Bible Translations Project where Deaf Christian leaders throughout Honduras are working together to develop signs for Bible related terms and Scripture translations!

As you enjoy the happenings and going-ons of these upcoming summer months, I invite you to keep the Deaf community of Honduras in your prayers including ministries and Deaf leaders involved in planning and teaching components as well as every Deaf child, youth, and adult who will attend a camp this summer where they will experience Christ’s love and saving grace in their own language!