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While in Aibai, I gathered the deaf in the church courtyard. We had class on benches outside. I began by praying a fairly long prayer in American Sign Language. I lifted my eyes, my head, and my hands from time to time in the direction of Heaven to let these deaf people know that I was talking to the God of Heaven. They only knew the signs that I taught them the day before.

Kubu, the deaf man who attends church regularly even without understanding, bowed his head and closed his eyes when we were going to pray. I got his attention and told him to keep his eyes open. He did not understand, so he bowed his head and closed his eyes again, folding his hands in prayer. He was simply copying what hearing people do when they pray. I’m sure he must peek to see when hearing people have stopped praying. I explained it to him again. This time he kept his eyes open while I prayed. Even though the Deaf did not understand sign language, I still wanted them to understand that prayer is talking to God above. I always close my eyes when I pray and teach others to do the same. But deaf people must keep their eyes open when someone prays in Sign Language. The 2 ½ hour class that morning was fabulous.

I had asked people to pray that God would give me hearing and deaf leaders to train while I was there, so, I focused on Kubu, Koi, and Kamun, 3 deaf men and on Wero, a deaf woman, the sharpest in the deaf group. As these deaf people began to learn how to communicate, they would become examples to other deaf, who would learn sign language quicker. Also, hearing people would begin to realize the intrinsic worth that God gave these deaf and, hopefully, get a burden to teach them about Jesus Christ. Using them as leaders began to build their confidence in learning, growing, and communicating. (Most deaf people in places like Aibai do not have much confidence, as they have no education. They are generally expected to stay home and help with chores around the hut.) I also wanted to build their trust in the first couple of days so that they would return each day to learn more. In all their lives, no one had ever tried to communicate with them.

I also focused on two hearing men, Sam and James. They believe that God would have them to work with the deaf there. My goal was to leave them sufficiently prepared to move forward in their new deaf ministry, once I left. It was very exciting to train, teach, and disciple them while there.

More stories from PNG next time!

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