This is written by Sally Roth, missionary to Nicaragua. She has a special ministry beginning as God opens doors to share His love with the deaf who live in the valley. She shares some exciting stories about God’s leading today that you do not want to miss! http://www.gracem.org
John 10:3b, 4: “He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.”
Towards the end of March 2015, we descended from a rugged lookout after viewing God’s lovely sunset over the mountain ranges of Nicaragua. On the descent we met the hotel manager. Without even knowing my passion for the deaf, she began to describe a farmhouse she had been renting to an Alaskan couple. This Alaskan woman (Jehovah’s Witness) would take regular trips into the valley we were overlooking in order to minister to the deaf in the valley. She has since returned to Alaska. It is believed that German coffee plantation settlers intermarried with the Nicaraguans in the valley. These children intermarried among themselves resulting in deafness for some. One family in particular has three deaf children, now in their forties, with a sweet cousin who is both deaf and blind. I knew that our Shepherd was leading me down into that valley to share His love and His Word with the deaf.
May 2015, our Good Shepherd opened the door for our first descent into the valley. He supplied a stalwart team of Feliciano, my daughter Rachel and her friend Gina who are both black belts in karate, and myself. We hiked down the steep gravel road, slipping at times, but enjoying gorgeous vistas as we asked people along the way to guide us to the deaf people in the valley. Our Good Shepherd guided us to a family washing by the stream. The mom is the aunt of the family with three deaf children and she guided us through winding paths, an empty river bed, over barbed wire, and past a guard pig to the homes of these deaf people. This was at least two hours of walking since we first hit the trail.
One deaf sister is very demonstrative and full of noises and gestures. She acted out the recent death of her mother. Her quieter, more timid sister joined her as I shared the Evangecube pictures, speaking in Spanish and signing Nicaraguan signs. However, they understood nothing of either language. These deaf people have never gone to school and they do not know Nicaraguan sign language. They have developed a system of family gestures and signs. I love what our Shepherd did with the Evangecube picture of Jesus on the cross. The demonstrative blue-eyed sister erupted in joy when she saw Jesus on the cross and she hurried across the dirt floor of the poor home to show me the crucifix on a shelf there.
Our guides then led us to the home of a cousin. This dear sweet woman is both blind and deaf. I held out my hand to hers, wanting to communicate the love of Jesus, but completely unsure as to how. She gingerly held my hand, registering first fear and tears on her face. As her other hand, timidly yet curiously ventured out to feel my arm, her face calmed. Oh the dear, sweet, woman. I was so touched to see her loved and cared for by her mother and father. Her father sent us away with fresh cut lettuce from their drying garden. They gave out of their poverty. I left feeling extremely overwhelmed. We walked back to the school and felt a great sense of relief by the way God had provided a government truck ready to leave and willing to let us ride in the bed! We had already been walking for at least four hours and did not know quite how we would make the two hour ascent.
God led me to Psalm 104:24, 27, 28: “How many are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. These all look to You to give them their food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”
In July, through a series of connections, God brought me into contact with a deaf professor from Rochester, NY and his wife. They also have a passion for the deaf and planned to spend the month of July in Matagalpa. We met and eagerly shared in three different languages (English, American Sign language and Nicaraguan sign language) the doors that God is opening for the deaf here in Matagalpa. Troy and Chris accompanied me down into the valley with food gifts and a picture presentation of The Best Story Ever. I was truly in awe watching Troy communicate mostly with gestures to these deaf sisters! Troy and Chris removed their glasses so that the deaf blind woman could “see” their faces with her hands. It was so precious!
We wanted to go back another time to visit the other deaf people, but Troy and Chris wanted to rent a 4×4 truck in order to take gifts and physically manage all the visits. This next trip, we got to meet the deaf brother of the two deaf sisters. He spends most of the day wandering the paths and gravel roads. His sight is limited. He has no education, nor Nicaraguan sign language. Interestingly, the Nicaraguan sign language is relatively new, just developed in the ’80s when these deaf people were high school age. We met Daniel, a deaf 27- year-old man who is a very hard worker. He works the terraced fields on the mountain sides. He does not know Nicaraguan sign language either. He smiled and nodded as Troy shared The Best Story Ever with gestures. Finally, we got to meet a 21-year-old, tall, young, deaf man, who is also limited in his sight. He lives with his 4-year-old sister, mom, and grandma. He wanted to try the signs with Troy. His hands were shaking as he worked the signs. He seems so teachable and hungry to learn. His mom asked if we would please build a small school for the deaf here in the valley.
One week ago today, I descended into the valley again with a missionary who was a sign language interpreter in the States, her teenage son, and his friend. We wanted very much to see this 21-year-old, deaf, young man and share a sign language book with his family as well as share the gospel and some simple signs. However, the homes are hidden at times and difficult to find. Our Shepherd did not send a physical guide this time, but rather showed us a responsible looking man. This man pointed out the roofs of the houses of the deaf people we were hoping to see. One was way up the mountain and the other was farther down in the valley in the opposite direction. Just as we were getting our bearings, who should appear but Daniel, the other deaf young man! He led us to his home, up a twisted, steep hidden path. We shared the gospel with this young man and his family. Then our Shepherd led us down to the young deaf man’s house. What an absolute joy to share a sign language book with his family, as well as a simple color and animal book with signs and the way of salvation. This young man and his sister put all of their efforts into repeating the signs and forming their hands into the right shapes! It was absolutely beautiful! His little sister can hopefully teach the deaf young man. We began our ascent and reached the top after a big day, walking down, around and back up over a period 7 and ½ hours.
So where do we go from here? Our Shepherd knows and He will be faithful to guide us. Some are eager to put together a Nicaraguan sign language video book including the way of salvation. Some are praying. One is assembling a medical team to come in January to tend to the physical needs of the valley folks. The needs are so great. Does God want us to set up this school? Do we teach them sign language so that we can not only give them the way of salvation, but also that they might be able to understand it? Please join us in prayer for God’s leading. Please pray that these precious deaf people will truly know the love of God and the Word of God.
Before all of this took place, Jeff and I went to this lookout to watch the sunset over the mountain ranges for the first time. As the sun came close to the top of the distant mountain range, God used the clouds and the sun rays in such a way as to create an amazing cross over the valley. Jesus indeed died for these dear deaf valley dwellers. What hope!