Good things are happening here in Fiji.
For several years, the CFD (Christian Fellowship for the Deaf) has not been functioning well, and attendance has been poor. Deaf leadership was an ongoing problem. This year, however, prayers have been answered, and there has been revival among the deaf. Tuliana (next to Jim in photo) has stepped up and assumed leadership, with the support of the church elders. Mesake, from the West, has joined with the Suva CFD. The two groups came together for August Camp, which was a wonderful time of teaching and fun. Jim and I attended last week’s Bible study in the main hostel, and there were over 25 adult deaf there, with Mesake teaching. Avikesh (top left in blue), one of my first students here in Fiji, who attended University, and is now working as a silk screener, has also stepped up as leader. He was the song leader for the evening. (Yes, the deaf here love to sing!)
Some prayer requests:
We ‘re looking for two teachers for next year (January), as well as a new Head Teacher (Principal) and Ministry Director for 2019.
Jim gave a devotional on prayer the other morning for the staff. During his devotional, he shared about a close friend of ours, Vince Griffis, who faithfully prayed for him everyday.
Vince was a teacher of the deaf, who worked with us at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf back in the 1970’s. We attended the same assembly in Swansea, MA, where Vince was an elder. His son was baptized at our home, in Hundred Acre Pond, by his dad. His wife, Susie, was Jim’s secretary at RISD. Our families have been long time friends.
Jim shared how, in his early years at RISD, Vince told him that he prayed for him everyday. At that point in time, Jim wasn’t sure he appreciated the comment, wondering what it was in his life that Vince felt needed prayer. However, looking back now, he sees the many ways in which those prayers were life changing. Jim shared how he has seen God’s hand on his life, preparing him for the work with the deaf here in Fiji. His only regret is that he never thanked Vince for those prayers. Vince left the school for the deaf to become headmaster of a Christian school in Fall River, MA, where he worked for fourteen years. He then felt called to start an international school in Cameroon, Africa; a school for children of missionaries, and others doing service away from home. The school was Rainforest Academy. Vince served there for many years, until he was diagnosed with cancer, and eventually had to retire. Few have endured illness with more humility and grace than Vince. He continually encouraged those who came to encourage him, and always maintained his sense of humor, even though in pain. Vince passed away three years ago.
Jim ended his devotional by encouraging the staff to pray for someone——their students, their family members, or friends. Prayer does not necessarily change our circumstances—God never promised that. But it does change us. We often don’t see the big picture, but God does, and is personally involved in each of our lives. After his devotional, Jim went back to his desk, and opened up his lap top. His Facebook page was open, and on it was a shared memory, with a picture of Vince. Then, about an hour later, we had a visitor at school. It was Geoff Nainoca, whom we had met at church when we first came toFiji. His brother Vivian is our office manager. Geoff, a missionary in Chad, Africa, had never been to our school before, but was now back in Fiji, and came to visit. As we talked, he shared how his daughter had attended Rainforest Academy while he was serving in Africa, and how thankful he was for that school. Yes, it’s a small world. But I prefer to think of these events as God’s confirmation of Jim’s devotional on prayer— and Jim’s thank you to Vince, who unknowingly played a large part in his coming to Fiji.
In New Zealand a few years ago we had the opportunity to meet one of our supporters, who has never been to Fiji, yet prays faithfully for the ministry here. He prays for each staff member by name, even though he has never met them. He also told us that he prays daily for one of our students, Seru, who came to us at a very young age. GSD has been Seru’s only family. His mom, on drugs, abandoned him as a baby, and he was taken in by relatives, and brought to Gospel School for the Deaf. He has grown up in our hostels, and spends school holidays with staff here. Seru has had his ups and downs over the years. But he completed our program, then went on to high school, and is now back working for us as a teacher aide, and also works on staff in the Junior Boys Hostel. Seru is maturing, and developing into a wonderful Christian leader of the deaf. This afternoon he came to ask Jim if the two of them could have a Bible study together. That’s happening tomorrow morning, before school.
As the Scriptures tell us, “When a faithful man prays, good things happen.” James 5:16b (NIV Children’s Bible, used by our deaf)
GSD recently received a large package from Casper Dyne, one of our supporters in England--- a teacher of the deaf, who is himself deaf. Inside the box was an audiometer and supply of Phonak hearing aids, plus a computer and software for calibrating them. We immediately contacted an audiologist and technician from Hilton Special School, to have ear molds made for all of our students. We’re excited that finally, many of our students will have hearing aids--- an answer to prayer! Several of our students have usable hearing, and the aids will be a great benefit to them.
On another note, the hostel staff, in their new ‘kalavata’, recently celebrated Jim on his 81st birthday. They prepared a feast, complete with a delicious birthday cake made by Mere, head of the main hostel. The staff shared emotional words of love and thanks to Jim, for his service to the deaf of Fiji. A second celebration was given by the school staff later, at ‘morning tea’, so Jim felt well celebrated on his special day!
The first parent night of the term was held this past week, with a good turn out. Plans were made for the upcoming three day trip to Latoka, for the Special Games. Teacher Tomasi also gave a talk about deaf awareness, and the events being held for Deaf Awareness Week. Marilyn gave a talk on reading and language development, and Jim showed slides of former students and the educational programs they have attended, and jobs they have received after completing their time with us at GSD. Parents asked good questions, and enjoyed a time of refreshments following the meeting.
Attitudes toward deafness have been changing in recent years in Fiji; once pitied, or hidden away in shame, and considered cursed by God, the deaf are now becoming valued as productive members of society. Our goal is to reach the many unschooled deaf children in remote villages, and give them an education, and knowledge of God’s love for them, through Bible teaching.
Again, thank you for sharing with us in the ministry to the deaf of Fiji.
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