We are heading into the last week of term two and we continue to be thankful for the many times God has blessed us over the term. While some of the children have had colds, boils, and other mild illnesses, we are thankful that we have had no major health issues and everyone has been kept safe. We have had three couples from Christchurch NZ, another group from Wellington NZ, and a handyman from England, who have done programmes with the children and maintenance work around the main hostel – God is good.
Fijians are very generous people and we have had several meals provided by groups who just want to give. Recently a taxi driver arrived at the main hostel to arrange to provide a Sunday lunch for the children. He had dropped one of our hearing staff off previously and had learned about the children. He and a group of other drivers wanted to celebrate the first birthday of their car club called “The Low Riders”, by providing food for our children. Yesterday our neighbour and a group of his friends who used to meet to drink kava, but had decided they would be better doing something useful, cooked a BBQ and everyone enjoyed a piece of chicken and a sausage along with vegetables and bread. This was topped off with a cup cake - Christmas had come early and seconds were available if anyone wished!!
Six weeks ago, our first ever student from Vanuatu arrived with his dad and teacher. Dad stayed a week and then flew home to leave a sad Michael behind in the hostel. Michael soon found his place and is now enjoying life with our children, and is quickly learning to sign. His teacher has an amazing ability to pick up sign language, and will hopefully be able to teach other deaf children in Vanuatu. Currently there is no official sign language in Vanuatu and no specialist schooling for the deaf. We will work together with them to help establish both.
Our hostel staff were recently invited to visit the blind school and hostels. We were most impressed with everything and everyone, and like our teachers, their teachers were patient and kind to the children. We were treated to some lovely singing and it was quite emotional for us to see the joy on the children’s faces, when they themselves couldn’t see us. I came away being thankful that our children are deaf and not blind – life is so much more difficult for the blind.
After a suggestion from Liti that it would be great for our children to sit at tables, rather than eat on the floor, we bought some chairs, put up the folding tables, and meal times have become less of a challenge. Chairs and tables can be stacked away again and the dining room becomes the living room, gym, play area and all the other areas again!! This is far more hygienic for everyone!!
A week ago, our senior girls had a cooking lesson and learned to make chocolate fudge cake. We cut it up into 15 pieces and they intended selling it to the teachers at school on Monday. However, it was all sold by Sunday night! After purchasing the ingredients from the profits, another batch was made and more sales negotiated. Three further batches were made throughout the week and hopefully this “new business” may develop further.
Tomorrow we will all attend the CEACOSIE Games 2019. “Disability Is Not Inability” is the moto on the back of our BRIGHT orange tee-shirts, which are sponsored by McDonalds. Only some children will get placings but everyone will have a fun day, even if the weather isn’t looking good. We have had many days of rain and we have the promise of more to come.
Please pray for the safety of our children as they travel home to their villages for the holidays at the end of the week, and for our teachers and hostel staff, that they will enjoy a well-earned break
We have now finished week six of the second term at school, and the hostel children have settled back into routine and enjoying the company of their friends. Some are very pleased to get back and others are not so keen on leaving their families for so many weeks. Our hostel staff are usually happy to get back to Suva as some of them say this is now their home.
Eminoni, an eight-year-old boy who had never been to school is now living in the main hostel and enjoying learning. He is an outgoing boy with a big personality and he hasn’t taken long to find his place in the “family”. We welcome Eminoni to GSD and hope that he will be happy with us.
Early in the term, half of the school enjoyed a trip to Kula Wildlife Adventure Park which is about a two-hour bus ride from Suva. The children saw bats, peacocks, ducks, parrots, and various other birds. They also saw turtle and octopus, two kinds of iguana and a snake. They found this all very exciting and after another two-hour bus trip home they were feeling rather tired when they arrived back at the hostel at about 4pm.
Sarote, (hostel staff) recently found a tiny abandoned puppy. She rescued it, and much to the children’s delight, the main hostel now has its own thriving little puppy called Lexi. Lexi was very small and not very healthy, but after a visit by a local vet, at no charge, she has been declared fit and healthy. A kennel and food have been supplied by a local business and they have said they will continue to supply food as Lexi gets bigger and eats more. The children are very gentle and have learned that she has to be left alone to sleep.
Last weekend, Losana, who is our Kindy Teacher and has been involved in Scouting for fifteen years, along with Seru and Christine, took a group of seven boys to Scout Camp, attended by 115 boys. The boys thoroughly enjoyed their time and one of the aims was for them to have interaction with other children. While there, they learned to pitch tents, tie knots, gadgeting (all you Boy Scouts out there will know what this is), and how to use time wisely. They also enjoyed an hour and a half hike around Suva. The GSD has now been registered with Fiji Scouts and there should be many more camps to come. Losana is hopeful that a group will be able to attend Scout Camp in Hamilton, NZ, next year.
This term on Thursday afternoons, the children have a choice of joining in on one of four different electives. There is Scouting, First Aid, Art and Craft and Gardening. Last Thursday I saw some of our boys climbing a coconut tree to remove dead branches and generally tidying the yard at the main hostel as part of the gardening elective. All useful skills for the children to learn and hopefully they will remember them for years to come.
Sarote came through our hostel and school system and is now staff and responsible for the older girls in the main hostel. As all Fijian ladies have, Sarote has a lovely smile and when she smiles, her whole face lights up and her eyes twinkle. If anyone is unsure of a sign, Sarote will know it, and make sure that the sign is correct before she carries on with whatever she is doing. The younger children love her and she is often seen giving one of them a hug. Sarote, we hope you are with us for many years to come.
Asenaca also came up through our hostels and school and is now a very important member of our team. She and Sarote are both frequently asked to lead our morning devotion and we are left with some really encouraging thoughts and verses from the Bible to think on as we go about our day. Asenaca is a great worker and is often washing dishes and sweeping the floor. Once again, the children know where to go when they need a cuddle. She is also a “sign expert” and is able to show us the correct way to place our fingers!! Please stay with us Asenaca.
Asinate is Liti’s helper and is responsible for the meat and market shopping as well as balancing the books. She knows where she can get the best deal, the best produce, and a ”wheelbarrow man” to take her purchases back to the supermarket to meet up with the grocery shoppers. Asinate is also “fun loving” and some of our trips to and from shopping are very entertaining. Asinate is day staff and we miss her when she goes home to her family in the evenings. Vegetable preparation would be very quiet without Asinate!!
Fine is Tema’s mum, and a wonderful mum to six of our senior hostel girls. Fine is about to turn 70, is full of energy, wisdom and very humble. When Fine speaks, everyone listens, and is grateful for the advice she gives. On the other hand, she is quite capable of a good “one liner” and can have us all laughing at her humour. Parents of her girls can rest assured that their young ladies are well cared for, and living under the guidance of a wonderful lady. Thank you “Ma”, and we wish you a very happy 70th birthday this month.
Miriama first came to the hostel in 1997 so has been around for 22 years. After being a student, Miriama became hostel staff and worked tirelessly washing and cooking at the main hostel, until more recently she became a teacher aide at school. She still lives at the hostel and has carried on with some of her duties, including taking her turn at rising very early to prepare breakfast and lunches for the children before she goes to school, and then helping with the evening meal after she returns. Miriama has a great knowledge of the workings for both the hostels and the school. She loves her sport and doesn’t like to be beaten in a running race!!
Mela has been part of HDM for many years as well, and after completing her schooling, left for a while and then came back. She too lives at the hostel and is a teacher aide during the day, but still takes her turn with the duties. Mela loves to run, and most evenings can be seen pounding the streets of Suva in the heat. As are all the staff, Mela is very protective of the children, and anyone else, who may need rescuing from the many dogs which wander around our streets. She has worked out that rocks are a good deterrent to any dog who is getting too close, and has a supply in various places!! We owe you Mela!!
Tomasi, who is also a teacher, lives in the boy’s hostel and is often “on duty” when Tony and Tema are required to be elsewhere in the evenings. Tomasi is a great organiser and is often our up front person on special occasions. He is also our games man and the children love to join in on the fun and are ready for some rest after he has had them running around for an hour or two. Tomasi has his licence and is our driver when more than one vehicle is required to transport the children or when Tony is not available. Whenever we have a lovo, Tomasi with the help of the senior boys, is responsible for putting the lovo down and making sure the food is cooked to perfection. He is a man with many skills!!
Thank you for taking the time to read about our current hostel staff. We are grateful for the commitment they show to our “big family” and please pray for each of them, that they will have patience and wisdom as they love and care for the children.
We will introduce you to our dedicated teaching staff sometime in the future.
Our children have enjoyed the last two weeks of holidays and this week they will all gradually arrive back at school and the hostels, for the second term. Our teaching staff started back at the end of last week in order to prepare lessons, and work on different options for the next 13 weeks.
As there hasn’t been any action with the children, let me introduce you to some of our amazing hostel staff:
The team is headed by Tema (right), our Hostel Director, who oversees and is ultimately responsible for all three hostels. Tema and Tony and their four-year-old son Temnik, are house parents at the boy’s hostel. Apart from her daily duties of being “Mum” to six teenage boys, Tema spends a lot of time working with Fiji Immigration on behalf of students and anyone else who requires a visa to come and help with the ministry. Tema also accompanies any students requiring a doctor after hours, and has spent many nights
sitting waiting their turn at the local medical centre. She is often out and about interpreting in the evenings and her position is certainly not a nine – to – five job. We often witness the great rapport she has with the children’s parents. Tema has been working with Harland Deaf Ministries for nineteen years and has had a huge impact on many lives. Thank you Tema
Mere (left) is responsible for the daily running of our main hostel and each evening after the children have gone to bed, she will be found writing up the white board with the next days’ timetable. Mere looks after her 16 boy’s downstairs and keeps them looking “loved and well cared for”, and the new little boys who come to our hostel are soon into routine under Mere’s guidance. She keeps her “flat” spotless, well organised, and all her boys have their own basket where they can find their clean clothes. Keep up the great work Mere!!
Liti has been with us since 2008, and is our cook. She does a fantastic job of preparing food for around fifty every week day, and organising for each hostel to do their own cooking over the weekend. Liti who is day staff, rises at 3.30am, leaves home at 5am and is often not home in the evening until about 7pm, depending on when she can leave the hostel knowing that everything is under control for the evening meal. Liti with her team of four, heads off to the market and supermarket on Tuesday and Friday mornings, returns to the hostel and sets to work on her cooking. She is “full of fun” and is often found entertaining the other hostel staff. Liti, we couldn’t function without you!
Ana was one of Vivienne Harland’s first pupils in 1995, and went on to become hostel staff. Ana is an amazing worker who never seems to sit still for long and will always offer tea to anyone who turns up at the hostel. She sleeps with six of the younger girls in her room and it is quite common for her to be woken in the night by one of her girls needing attention. Please pray for Ana, that she will get a good night’s sleep, as it is very hard to convince her that she needs to rest in the middle of the day. Ana’s day off is Friday, when she will often travel by bus, to see her mum and care for her. We love you Ana.
Va has been with us for four years now and has quickly picked up sign language through living in the hostel. Va is also responsible for several of our younger girls and we have recently bought her some new bunks so that they all have a bed and she no longer has to sleep on a very thin mattress on the floor. Her bedroom is a little like a jig saw puzzle, and if it was taken apart, I suspect no one but she could put it back together again. Va is a “thinker” and often comes up a way “things” could be done differently. During the first term, Va became quite ill and was back in her village for some time. We are thankful that God answered prayer and she was able to come back to us.
Please pray for these wonderful ladies and the balance of staff will follow in the next blog.
Thank you to those who pray and give regularly to the GSD, hostels, and the wider deaf community in Fiji. This is all part of the ministry, and you are very important members of our team. We couldn’t exist without you!!
Our children’s birthdays are celebrated every three months, and two weeks ago we had a party for all those who had birthdays in January, February, and March. A very generous business in Suva supplied the food for children and staff, and after enjoying games organised by Tomasi, the children enjoyed as much food as they could eat, and still there was more left for their evening meal. There were four huge birthday cakes to finish off with. Yesterday the same lady treated them to an outing, where they joined with another group of children, and all had an exciting day of fun to celebrate an early Easter.
Recently, the Fijian Army spent two weeks at the Gospel High School where they were doing cadet training. This is something the school looks forward to each year as they see the training as good for the students to learn discipline. At the end of the two weeks, the deaf school was invited to attend the ‘Passout Ceremony’ where we watched 700 plus students marching in four different teams. The flag bearer for the yellow team was a deaf student and he did an excellent job. There were several other deaf students marching in the yellow team - Donald, their interpreter, had helped to get their timing right – not easy when you cannot hear the beat. A high- ranking army official presented the winners with their trophies at the end of the ceremony. Congratulations to all involved.
Last Saturday the hostel children and staff were invited to a private medical centre where they were all given free medical and dental checks. Some had teeth pulled out and many children went away with medication which, when completed should make their lives more comfortable. Several health issues were picked up and the volunteer doctors will follow up with these children and staff. God meets needs in many different ways!! Once again, everyone was treated to a yummy lunch.
Today was Palm Sunday and the children dressed up and performed their annual skit at church. Many parents like to attend this and afterwards everyone was treated to a lovo (food cooked in the ground), prepared by the older boys and staff. School holidays start on Thursday 18 April and all of the children will leave for their various homes and villages throughout this week. Teachers and staff will enjoy a well-earned two-week break, and we look forward to term two beginning on 6 May. Please keep praying!! Thank you!!
A week ago, a Fijian dad turned up at school and asked to see Mrs Mudaliar, our head teacher. He had with him his nine year old daughter who had never been to school. Leba lost her hearing at the age of four and would it be possible for her to attend our school? Two days later they arrived at school, after travelling for an hour, in her new uniform and really excited to be at last going to school. She is a lovely little girl and now Leba has moved into our junior hostel, and hopefully will soon be signing with the other children.
Luisa, a student from last year, who was offered employment at Courts Department Store for a trial period of three months, has finished her trial and has been kept on to continue her filing work. Courts will reassess her position at a later date. She is enjoying her work and is very committed to being there each day - this is most encouraging for the staff and teachers who have spent many years caring and educating her for this big step in life. Courts have indicated that some of their staff would like to learn to sign so that they are able communicate with Luisa, and as a result of this, Felicity (one of our hearing teachers) will join with Luisa on Tuesdays, to run a class during work hours.
Recently we had a visit from several of our local Rotary men to present, on behalf of Mount Martha Rotary Club in Australia, a pair of Bata shoes to every child in school. Our children were most excited to receive the shoes, but some of them found it little difficult to squeeze their feet into “real” shoes. Perhaps the only pair some of them will ever have. Thank you, Mount Martha Rotary!! The president of our Suva club said he left with tears in his eyes, after several of our beautiful children came up and gave him a hug to say “thank you”. They hope to continue to support us in the future.
Two weeks ago, we lost one of our deaf family when she developed health complications, while suffering from a virus which is around Fiji at the moment. Mere who was hearing, or Teacher Masi, was a teacher at GSD for many years before leaving to become a sign interpreter for some of our older students attending the Gospel High School. She had said just a few days earlier, that she would like to come back to GSD. She will be greatly missed by the deaf community as she was a person who “got things done”. Her funeral was a testament to the wonderful Christian she had been, and was attended by many whose lives she had touched.
Christian and Amanda Mills, from NZ, are volunteering here at the moment and have become involved both at school and in the hostels. Christian is working as a teacher aide and Amanda, who is a doctor, is working with all classes talking about different health topics and issues. The children love having them visit the hostels in the evening, and they are quickly becoming fluent in signing.
Please pray for our older students who are still in school. Some of them are in their late teens and early twenties and find it difficult to accept the hostel rules, as their friends have more freedom than they do. It is hard for them, and we are thankful for dedicated hostel parents who spend so much of their time guiding and loving them.
On Wednesday 6 February 2019, after eighteen years of amazing commitment to the Lord and the deaf in Fiji, Jim and Marilyn said farewell to the school staff, hostel staff, children, ex-pupils and friends, and headed back to Rhode Island in the USA for a much-needed rest and some cooler weather. I heard Marilyn saying to someone, this isn’t “good bye”, as we will be back. We wish them well as they are able to spend more time with their children, grandchildren, wider family and friends, and look forward to their return visits to Fiji. Please continue to pray for them as they adjust to this new stage in life.
Our hostels are almost overflowing this year but everyone seems to find a place to lie down at night. Mere, who looks after our younger boys in the main hostel, has fifteen downstairs, where last year she had nine - and that seemed a lot.
Mosese (centre), her youngest at 5 years, is new this year and does not enjoy saying goodbye to his parents when they visit each fortnight. Mere is a wonderful “mother” to her boys and they are pretty well behaved after they have been with her for a few months. She has the ability to give them such a severe look that even I feel scared – she will then turn her head the other way with a huge lovely smile. She is beautiful inside and out.
The children pick up sign language quickly when they are living in the hostel and when they return home for holidays, their parents struggle to learn the new signs, after having developed their own ways of communicating with their children.
The hostel for the older boys is also very full and there are eleven living in a two-bedroom house. Hopefully the new hostel is getting a little closer to becoming a reality!! We certainly need it.
We were expecting Bola and Ruth and their two young daughters from Nigeria to join us at the beginning of February, when they were both going to be teaching at school and also giving some training to the teachers. However, due to some transit visa issues in Brisbane, their arrival was put off until the end of February. It was with great sadness that we learned recently of Ruth’s sudden death and now Bola’s arrival time is uncertain. He will reassess the situation in six months’ time. There will be huge adjustments for them to go through, without coming to a foreign country at this early stage.
Thank you for your prayer support – we have seen many answers. Please continue to pray for the children, that they will learn the value of honesty. There are incidents which occur from time to time, and unfortunately from children you would least expect it from. Also pray for the younger children as they leave their parents and settle into hostel and school life.
We have a very sad story to report. Asena, a deaf teacher aide at GSD last year, and newly married, gave birth on January 22nd to a beautiful baby boy named Robert. After a C-section delivery, Asena was discharged from the hospital, but experienced a lot of pain, and was readmitted. Doctors treated her a few days later for an infection, which by then had spread, and sadly, she passed away on January 30th. She was just 25 years old.
On Saturday morning, when the Christian Fellowship for the Deaf (CFD) held a farewell breakfast for Jim and I at Suva Street Chapel, all were surprised to see Jale (Charlie), Asena’s husband, walk in with his mother and newborn son. They had come to join in farewelling us.
Tomasi led the event, and masterfully combined our farewell with beautiful words of encouragement and comfort for Jale, assuring him of support from his CFD family, and praying for God’s comfort in his time of grief. It was a beautiful time of fellowship, and God’s Spirit was clearly felt as we met together, with both laughter and tears. The funeral will be held on Wednesday in Lami, where Jale will say his final good-bye to Asena, and we will say our good-byes to our wonderful family here in Fiji, as we head back to the states. The folks here have been such a blessing to us, as we’ve shared life together, in both times of joy and sorrow over the past 18 years. We will miss everyone for sure, but hope to be back for occasional visits. Please pray for Jale and his family, especially his newborn son, and the entire deaf community, as they grieve the loss of Asena. Thank you CFD, for a great day, and for your lovely gift. And a special thanks to Tomasi, Tully, and Mesake for your faithful leadership among the adult deaf. Keep up the good work!!
We will always “thank God every time we remember you” (Philippians 1:3), and we pray that you will always love God and choose to follow in His path for your life. Many Blessings!!
January is a time of new beginnings. GSD is no exception. With the arrival of January, comes the beginning of another new school year, and we’re off to great start!
In February, Jim and I will be handing over the leadership baton to Russell Neate, the new ministry director from Christchurch, NZ, and his wife Sue; a new beginning for them as well, and we look forward to all that God has in store for the ministry through them.
We also have a deaf couple, both university graduates and teachers of the deaf from Nigeria, beginning a new life here in Fiji with their two young daughters. They will be arriving soon, all leaving their homeland and flying for the first time. They will be living in our main hostel, while teaching at GSD.
Kuini, called ‘My Queen’ by Jim, is deaf. She completed her high school program last year while living in our hostel, and will begin her first job on staff at GSD, as a teacher aide in Class 3.
And finally, Joneti Rokotuibau, former teacher at GSD and sign language interpreter, also begins a new career as Curriculum Director this year, replacing Marilyn. She is already doing a great job working with the teachers, and enjoys her new position.
Our hostel staff remains the same, under the leadership of Tema
Toaisi, with her husband Tony and young son Temnik. All the hostel staff are dedicated, wonderful “parents” who daily love and care for the kids who have had to leave their families, in order to receive an education. We have a great staff this year, both at school and in our three hostels. As the song goes, that the kids love to sing and sign, “We are one big happy family!”
The ministry here is all about the kids--- so let me tell you about a few of them. We have five new ones so far, beginning school with us for the first time this year---three Kindergarteners, and one new student each in Class 2 and Class 4. Two more are coming soon, when passports, visas, and flights are worked out--- a 5 year old from Tonga and an 11 year old from Vanuatu. And more to come, I’m sure, as we continue to find them. Two young hearing girls have also joined our Kindergarten class this year. They are Sitiri (left in photo), sister of Class 1 student Gloria (right in photo), and cousin Nes (center), who lives with the family. They were enrolled at GSD because Gloria’s parents wanted them to learn sign language, to better communicate with Gloria. They love school, and after only 2 weeks, have picked up quite a few signs. And now for one last story, which is why we do what we do here. Amelia, age 10, is a delightful, well behaved, good student. She came to us this year from a local hearing school. Her Dad would drop her off everyday, and she would always, respectfully, do what her teacher told her to do. But she was not happy. Instead of doing school work along with her classmates, she was told to sweep the floors, dust shelves, and wash the windows. When her dad picked her up after school, she would run to him, greet him with a hug, and then burst into tears. I read her school reports; she had failing marks in almost every subject. The teacher comment on one of her reports read, “Needs to improve her listening skills”. Hmm! Her parents heard about GSD, and enrolled her. Amelia now wears a big smile, loves school, and has many deaf friends. Her teacher reports that she is doing well in class, and is learning sign language. She greets me every morning with a grateful hug! Her story is the story of many deaf in Fiji who struggle in schools where they are marginalized. They usually do not continue their education, though many are very bright. Our goal is to find them, and give them an opportunity for an education in a Christian deaf community. They are great kids, with so much potential!!
The deaf ministry brings us into contact with many interesting people. This is a story about a guy named David, whom I met on my walk along the harbor in Fiji after work one day.
David sits on the same bench everyday in front of the Holiday Inn, in downtown Suva. I would often pass by him on my walks. Sometimes he’d be asleep on the bench. One day, I stopped and said hello, and asked his name. He told me his name was David, and we began to have simple conversations each time I walked. The bench is David’s home. I asked if he had any family, and he said that he had, but he never sees them. He’s been on his own, living on the streets, since he was a very young boy. If I were to guess, I’d say he’s probably in his mid-fifties now. David was friendly and polite. Unlike most of the homeless in Suva, he never once asked for money. Maybe that’s what I liked about him. I told him he had a good Biblical name, and he said that he knew the story of David in the Bible.
David keeps his belongings next to him on his bench, covered with clear plastic--- a couple of newspapers, a change or two of clothes, some salt and pepper shakers, a few empty containers, and a bottle of orange Fanta could be seen through the clear plastic. He also had a larger piece of plastic that he put over his body when it was raining----and it had been raining heavily, almost daily, for the 6 weeks we were in Fiji! David wore a stocking cap and a light, somewhat soiled jacket. He also had an umbrella that protected him from both the rain and the hot tropical sun of Fiji.
One Sunday after church, Jim and I had lunch at the Holiday Inn, so I bought David a club sandwich, and delivered it to his bench. He thanked me, but told me he really didn’t need anything-- but when I left the sandwich with him and walked away, I turned to see him eating hungrily. After that, I made small lunches and carried them on my walks. David always accepted the food, adding a grateful “God Bless You” as I left.For quite a few days I didn’t walk, because of the heavy rain. I thought of David, as I climbed into my warm bed at night, listening to the rain outside. The next morning there was no school because of election day in Fiji. Jim and I went out to do some errands and have lunch. It was raining heavily again that day, so I ordered another meal for David. When I delivered it, he was asleep under his plastic in the rain. I woke him, and again he said he needed nothing, but thanked me. We had just finished printing some pamphlets for the Fiji Deaf Ministry, telling of God’s love and desire for relationship with all people. I slipped one in with his lunch. I’m not usually a fan of most Christian tracts--- but I wanted David to know that he was loved and cared about by his Creator. I still don’t know David’s story, but I think about him often, and pray for him.
David is a reminder to me of how blessed I am, and how much I take for granted. The Davids of this world teach us to be grateful for all that we have----especially the little things we so easily take for granted! In his poverty, David expressed gratitude for his bench and his piece of plastic. He told me that he chose the bench by the Holiday Inn because the employees spray for mosquitoes there each night; something for which he was especially thankful! And as I was leaving, he even asked God to bless me— a stranger who brought him an occasional sandwich. I felt that I was the one on the receiving end in this story, and was blessed by David.
Later, on another walk one day, I heard running footsteps close behind me. I clutched my purse a bit tighter, having been robbed twice while walking in Fiji. Then I felt a tap on the shoulder, and was frightened, until I turned around and saw Ilitai--- one of our former students, with a big smile on his face. He had run quite a distance to catch up to me, and was out of breath.
Not all of the stories here are success stories. Ilitai, now 24, came to us at age 7, to live in the hostel. He was a bright boy, with a very sad home life. His mom was on drugs, and had lived with several different partners over the years. Ilitai was the oldest of two brothers, both born deaf. They both grew up in our hostels, having been pretty much abandoned by their mother.
Viliame, the younger brother, used to run away from the hostel from time to time, trying to find his mother. But when he arrived at his house one day, he discovered that his mother had moved, and he never saw her again.
Both boys were well loved in the hostels, but as I look back, they also experienced losses there. Volunteers would come, to whom the boys became attached and grew to love ---- but they always left.
Eventually, both boys came of age, and left both hostel and school. They were not particularly close as brothers, and seldom saw one another. Both lived on the streets, stealing to survive. Ilitai even broke into our home one day, taking money and a computer. He was seen and reported by another student. Both boys would show up at an occasional deaf camp, or come around school once in awhile, but they would always leave again, and go back to the streets. I was reminded of a line in a Brooks Williams song--- “Even a bad life, is still a life that you know”. Both boys kept returning to life on the streets.
As we talked that day, Ilitai. wanted to know all about our family. He had developed a strong connection with all of our adult children over the years, when they visited Fiji. I told him that we all still loved and cared about him. I gave him some money for a meal, and invited him to come to church with us on Sunday, where he would see some deaf friends. He agreed to come, and we chose a meeting place, where we could pick him up. But on Sunday it was again raining heavily, and he was a no show. I still think of him often. That same week in November was his 24th birthday. I’m not sure he even knew it. We celebrated birthdays in the hostel monthly, but not on the actual date. In our meeting on the street, there was a lot lot of warmth, and I know Ilitai felt loved. He gave me a hug as we parted. My prayer is that one day he will know the love of God that he learned about in school. God’s love transforms. I trust that in time, Ilitai will experience that transforming love. Please pray for both David and Ilitai if you think of them.
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