Deaf Ears, Hearing Hearts, Deaf Can! by Jenna Dawson

Location: Kingston, Jamaica and Mandeville, Jamaica

Cost: $2,200
Partnership: Caribbean Christian Center For The Deaf

Returning to Caribbean Christian Center For The Deaf (CCCD) and having the opportunity to lead the team was truly a transformative and growing process. It taught me so much and truly challenged me in a variety of ways. One of the toughest challenges however, was planning this trip with my co-leader.

The first task was to pick and secure our dates with the organization. After talking with them, we found out that our previous year dates were already taken and the only available time was during the semester. Disappointed but motivated, we looked for other options. During this time, we were waiting for applications for our team to start coming in. We had very low interest and began to wonder if we would end up canceling our trip. We soon found out that the due date for applications was extended and that we could split our trip between two campuses and keep the trip going. My co-leader and I met weekly and developed our team motto of “Go with the Flow,” which became quite relevant and caught on quickly.

As we began the process, our team of all girls now needed an advisor. After many interviews, emails and declines, our trip advisor became the same person that was advising my co-leader and I. From here on out, our team of all girls began to prepare and fundraise for our trip. Although donations came in slowly, passports were ordered, plans were made and weekly team dinners became the norm. In a flash, the end of the semester snuck up on us. Soon it was finals, move out, my sisters wedding, and our trip. After a long talk with myself, I still wasn’t convinced that I was returning to CCCD Kingston. One thing I did have to convince myself of however, was that the trip wasn’t going to be the same as last years, and this was a hard realization to accept.

Soon enough we were on the plane to Jamaica. Sitting on the plane, it still hadn’t quite hit me where I was going. As the plane landed, thoughts began to flood my brain of all the things we forgot to plan and arrange, one including our ride to the campus. Immediately I began to think of how I was not fit or deserving of this position in leadership. Soon after, we heard a quick beep and our missionary partner pulled right up in the gray-blue van. This and the clear sky, palm trees and colorful signs made me realize that I had returned, and that through God, I have been called back to this beautiful place. During the bus ride to the first campus, I couldn’t contain my excitement to see the same beautiful kids, workers and house moms again. As we all tumbled out of the van, I saw a few familiar spaces and faces and I began to tear up. I couldn’t wait to hear how the coffee shop “Deaf Can” was doing and to start signing again. There was so much to catch up on. There weren’t many students there and we did not have much time with them either, since it was their holiday and many of the kids had gone home. Although immediately, a card game of spoons and heads up  became the routine nightly game.

As the trip went on, there were many struggles, individually and as a team, that transformed us and grew in us a new heart and mind to missions. Before arriving we had heavily prepared for “helping without hurting,” but experiencing it during our trip and realizing that building and keeping relationships with these amazing people and organizations is another and maybe even better (in my opinion) way of doing missions trips. Our first week of our trip focused on this, the idea of relationships, investing, and continuing after the trip, rather than “doing work,” this became our mentality and belief throughout the rest of the trip.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed over to CCCD Knockpatrick, and got to meet some new faces. I truly believe that God had prepared our hearts and minds to use what we had just learned and experienced and put it to action at this new campus. We began to learn about the lives of the house mothers and teachers at their school and develop relationships with them. We quickly saw their hearts and their love for the students and their passion in the deaf community. There is nothing quite as beautiful to me than a community or organization that’s workers care and love so much on their students, that sign language becomes their language, and serving them becomes their passion. There is such an importance there, of learning their language and making an effort to be able to communicate and truly invest in relationships with them. Although I doubted my own ability to lead this trip, although there were many challenges, there was so much growth, and many memories and  relationships built. I believe that there will always be a piece of my heart in Jamaica, and I know that I will always have a family there.

CCCD JennaOften times, people view deafness as a disability, disabling deaf individuals from things that hearing people do, a community that is often overlooked. However, deafness is not a disability, but signing is another language. Caribbean Christian Center For The Deaf stands firm on “Deaf ears, Hearing hearts” and I found this true in my own experiences. There is nothing that they cannot do that a hearing person can. And this is CCCD’s mission, to show and teach their students that deaf can. They speak with their hands, and hear with their hearts, something I think this world could use more of.  I will always carry in my heart, Deaf ears, Hearing hearts and that Deaf Can.

Taken into the Purpose of God by India Boland

Cost of trip: $3,500

Location: Mafraq, Jordan

Partnership: Pinnacle Teaching

During the month of August, ten members of the Gordon community spent time teaching over 200 Syrian refugee children in a small Jordanian city. Partnering with ELIC, a fantastic Christian teaching institute that operates around the world, we experienced things and say God move in ways that are difficult to explain. Each teacher was given a class of 35 students, grouped more or less by age and definitely not by ability. Some students could neither speak nor write in English or Arabic, and many had never been in school before. Lessons could be as basic as how to hold a pencil, or explaining that “coloring” typically included more than one color of crayon. As I sat down to write this post, small memories spring into my mind and remind me of the sweet and bitter memories I’ll carry with me forever.

The laugher as children gathered at the playground in the morning, excited for school and still not yet knowing exactly what that meant. The tear-stained face of a mother as she begged, UN Refugee papers in hand, for her five children to be allowed into one of two refugee schools in the under-resourced city of Mafraq. The joy in the eyes of a six-year old boy as he realizes he can now count to ten in both English and Arabic. A pastor, overworked and under resourced, hugging person after person as they pour in for the Sunday night service. The pride in a young girl’s face as she holds a certificate indicating she completed her course. The silence of the city at dawn, and the noise of the dark streets at night. The smells, the light at dusk as it touches the rooftops. The laughter of the kids as they feel free to experience joy in a school where they are safe.

The past month in Jordan, I experienced more grace, felt more joy and loved God more than any other four weeks of my life so far. I also saw more suffering, more evil, more pain and more destruction than anywhere else. The city of Mafraq, just 15 kilometers from the Syrian border, has more Syrian refugees than native Jordanians. The need is great, and resources of time, of labor and of good are carefully monitored. Everyone has a heartbreaking story of loss, of rescue, of joyfully reunions and painful goodbyes.  It was a beautiful and challenging time to reflect on what it meant to be a servant, when there was so much do be done that I was incapable of doing. Sometimes I just cried because I didn’t know what to say or what to do. And it was in these moments that I found Jesus in a new way, and I understood with a deep level of thankfulness what it meant that He became fully human for us. It is not just that we are able to reach Jesus, to feel Him in our hearts, it’s that He is in and among us, in the midst and the depths of our joys and our sufferings. In the face of the most widespread humanitarian crisis of modern times, Jesus weeps right along with the rest of us. There is a peace and a restoration and a relief that comes from acknowledging that there is a God who loves us so much, and is so involved in our lives, and cares so deeply for us that He weeps when we weep.

There is also so much peace and love in a God who is sovereign, in and above all things. I have struggled in the past with understanding how the gospel can be so exclusive; God has gifted me with an empathetic heart and I can’t bear the thought of the beautiful, lovely and hopeful people I met in Mafraq being condemned to some terrible fate away from love. But God, again, met me in those moments in a new way. I was encouraged to look at this source of tension through a lens I understood – His sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is greater than my ability to understand even one small bit of his plan. I have no say in who is saved and who is not, or even what that means. God is in charge of that, and His plan is more perfect than I could ever imagine. Oswald Chambers wrote once: “It is not a matter of my ability, but my poverty; not what I bring with me, but what God puts in me; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience – all of that is no avail in this concern.  If I will allow Him to take me to the end of my own self-sufficiency, then He can choose me to go with Him to Jerusalem. The only thing of value is being taken into the purpose of God.”

The greatest injustice has gone to the cross, and it is there it is meant to exist. I was challenged more than I ever thought possible during this month in Jordan, amongst God’s people doing God’s work. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, because in every face I saw the light of God and in every word spoken I heard His voice and with every tear shed I felt His love. God does amazing things if we reach a point where we’re willing to lay down our own agendas and accept His will for our lives. And I’m so deeply grateful for the community I come from that enabled me to go and have this experience. Gordon is a place that encourages people to see outside of themselves, and I appreciate that on a whole new level after this month.

 

By the end of the month, our classroom was covered in work from the students and they proudly counted to five, sang in English and said “goodbye, teacher!” And their voices, their drawings, and their names, will forever be written on my heart.

Be Still and KNOW by Maddie Berry

Cost: $4,000

Location: Bulembu, Swaziland

Partnership: Bulembu

Twenty hours of flying and six hours of driving, we had finally made it. My feet hit the ground and joy overcame me. Hope seemed to rush into my heart, restoration resounded in my mind, and a smile crept upon my face despite my eyes screaming exhaustion: I was in Bulembu. Before arriving to this miracle of a village, I spent my days dreaming of what it would be like as my heart fell in love with a place I had never been. The reality of walking the same streets where little joyous feet pounced and played every day because God had rescued them from disastrous circumstances was overwhelming. All of these emotions flooded me and I had only been there for a maximum of two minutes. It seems that I can only adequately use words to describe the first two minutes, but I will attempt to share a few key moments as best I can.

Bulembu is a village focused on orphan care, but it is different than other “orphanages.” It is home. The children were absolutely incredible, as they would line up just to hug your leg or give you a simple, yet abundantly meaningful, hand squeeze. However, it was the staff in the town that really shook me. Their service resembled the true meaning of humility. Everything they did was for the children. I mean EVERYTHING! Their hearts were fixed on God in such an unwavering fashion that love radiated from them in every encounter. I asked one man, James, how he coped – because being a missionary was not an easy, glorious task – and he confidently responded, “Maddie, I get up every day at four a.m. and pray. I depend on God for everything. I am nothing without Him.” This was the first lesson I learned during my time in Bulembu: dependence on God. I started to ask myself these types of questions: “Do I trust God enough to empty my bank account at His feet, give up the very thing my culture chases after every day, and believe that He will be my provider? No.” “Do I even trust God enough that He will provide food on my table if I were to give up my own for those who have none? Honestly, no.” “Do I trust God enough to give up water for someone who otherwise would have to walk miles for it? Well yeah, but as long as I had some left for myself.” Frustrated at this point I asked, “GOD DO I EVEN TRUST YOU AT ALL?!” That night I opened up my Bible and read in Luke’s Gospel “The Cost of Being a Disciple” and was lovingly convicted by the cost of following Jesus with everything I have. My resources, my money, my gifts, my possessions all belong to HIM! When I lay all I have at His feet, the cost might seem great, but the reward is eternal. God teaching me this in the beginning of my trip was an absolute necessity to sustain me through my next greatest lesson.

During our time in Swaziland, we traveled to a village called Lavumisa. This is where it gets more difficult to describe. Lavumisa is the poorest village in Swaziland. They have little to no water in the river they use due to being hit incredibly hard by the drought. Sickness, poverty, and broken families are visible to the naked eye, yet God is moving in mighty ways through an incredible, faithful pastor with a laugh that spreads joy like a wildfire. We assisted them in the medical clinic and saw many difficult things. The hardest of which came when a small, eight year old girl walked in. She was the most beautiful little thing with big brown eyes and a perfect round head. We watched eagerly, prayerfully as she was tested for HIV so desperately believing that there was no way she could be positive, but she was. I finally lost it. I walked outside and wept, unable to look to Heaven for answers because I was so broken over this. I knew in my mind that Swaziland was heavily affected by HIV/AIDS, with the highest rate in the world, but to see it with my own two eyes attacking such innocence, such perfection drew me to the floor questioning God begging Him to take it from her. I finally came to the feet of Jesus and began to recite what I knew to be true of God. “God you are a good father who never will forsake your children. You are a loving Father who will work all things together for those who love Him. You are a victorious Father who defeated sin and death for us. There is nothing in this world that can separate us from your love!” I felt His presence come over me in this moment and He reminded me that she was His princess. She had a crown placed upon her head. She was seen and known by Him. He loves her. I saw what true dependence on God meant in this moment. It didn’t always mean sacrifice. Sometimes it simply meant to know Him intimately. When tragedy strikes, we cannot lower what we know about God to match our pain. Instead, we are to give our pain to Him remaining steadfast on His foundation and believe in faith that what the enemy intends for evil, God is going to use for good. When I think about that precious face, I still cry and pray every time, but I am comforted in knowing that no matter what her outcome is on this earth, her outcome in Heaven will be eternity with her loving, gracious, almighty, powerful, healing, and good Father. I find refuge in depending on knowing God personally and this trip taught me how truly desperate I am for His presence.

I am not quite sure how to conclude. I could write a thousand page book on Bulembu and all its treasures. To sum it up in a few sentences, understand this: no matter how tragic, horrible, miserable, sinful, and absolutely broken this world is, stay intimate with your Heavenly Father and know Him personally. I have seen His power displayed in transforming a hopeless nation, so you, my dear friend, are not too broken for Him to heal. His love is sufficient to sustain you and give you more than you can ask or imagine.IMG_2440

Serving Through Relationship by Alisha Berkeley

Cost per Student – $2200

Location: Kingston/Knockpatrick, Jamaica

Partnership: Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf – CCCD

In May of 2016, I got the opportunity to return to Jamaica to serve at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf in Kingston and Knockpatick. I was really excited to go back being that I had an amazing experience the previous year. It warmed my heart to see the familiar faces of the students and staff and to recollect on the memories we shared from last year. It was amazing to see growth on the campus and also new faces.

Coming back to Jamaica, I expected to follow the same routine as last year, which was doing construction in the morning during school hours and spending time with the students in the afternoon after school. This didn’t end up happening. Instead of following a set routine, as a team we found ourselves going with the flow of things that were going on through out the day in both Kingston and Knockpatick This was a little frustrating in the beginning because back home, we are so used to following a schedule and we felt like we were useless. What we ended up doing was spending a lot of time in the coffee shop learning how to brew coffee ourselves and watch the new training center come together. We also just got a chance to sit around with some of the housemothers and the staff members and just talk to them and to get to know them. There were other days where we would sit in the cafeteria with the students and color and paint and even go outside. Having this experience made me feel like we were just spending time with family and it was definitely a “worth it” moment. Relationships are so important when it comes to serving other people. Without relationships there is no impact.

At CCCD in Kingston, there is a coffee shop called “Deaf Can Coffee.” The older male students who are also deaf have the opportunity to learn about coffee and make drinks for the team and other students. The students do this work, they spend time perfecting their technique of brewing the coffee and even training other students to work in the shop. This coffee shop has been up and running for a little bit over a year and it has grown so much. One of the purposes of this coffee shop is to give these boys the opportunity to work, learn, build and grow as a team. Looking at the deaf community on the outside, there is a perspective that deaf people aren’t able to do anything and that they are useless to the society. Deaf Can Coffee doesn’t believe in this, which is one of the reasons why it is named Deaf Can Coffee. Those who are deaf are just not able to hear with their ears. They communicate with their hands using sign language and with their hearts. Dismissing the notion of deaf being useless brings motivation to these boys and teaches them “the deaf can.”

I am so glad that I was able to experience Jamaica a second time. I am also glad that I was able to see both sides of serving in the missions field. I am really glad that was able to experience Jamaica and feel like I am at home.