We believe that at least 35% of the deaf school age children in Fiji are not in school. We have a burden for these children, and we seek them out. Last March, a Fijian woman named Sereana came into my office, to tell me that there were many deaf on Koro Island. She had met her old friend Liti, who is in charge of our Junior Boys Hostel. Liti told Sereana that she was now working with deaf children. Sereana then told Liti about the deaf on Koro, so Liti sent her to us.
"Are you sure that they are deaf?" I asked. (Many Fijians lump all handicapped children together.) Yes, she was sure! So we made a plan. Her brother was going back to Koro and it's 14 villages. He would try to locate the deaf children.
A young man named Wani, brother of Mela, a deaf woman who worked for us, has helped us find deaf children on other islands. He is age 17, very bright and mature for his age. I asked him if he would go to Koro during the school break, between terms 1 and 2. He enthusiastically agreed. We then asked Avikesh, one of our grads, now in Form 7 (1st year of university) at Gospel High, if he would join him. Then Sanjesh, one of our deaf Teacher Assistants and hostel workers came and asked if he could go too. We accepted both. Lastly, I asked Isi, our office manager, if she would lead the team and serve as sign language interpreter and treasurer. Isi leaped at the chance. I think Isi would be a great political campaigner, as she enjoys going to any “event” and even gets excited about the opening of an envelope! So we had a team!
Koro is the 7th largest island in Fiji, with about 4500 residents. Koro means ‘village’ in Fijian. The sign language sign for Koro is K+fish. It is said to be the most fertile of the Fijian islands. It is famous for the turtle calling ceremony during which villagers chant songs and turtles rise to the surface. Our team, however, was there to find deaf children, not turtles (not even Ninja Turtles). This was Isi's prayer: "It is confirmed, we are going! Thank you Heavenly Father for the timing . See you soon, Koro Island. Father, bring them to us, so that they can be educated; but the most important thing is for them to know you. Children with special needs are just amazing. It just confirms that our God is an awesome God. We can't stop praising him!"
God quickly brought deaf brothers, Pita (age 5) and Atu (age 3) to them. They are from Sereana's village. They also found 3 other deaf children, around age 8, from different villages. The villagers rolled out the “bamboo carpet” ! Different bures (homes) fed the team each night of the week long trip. The team taught the entire village sign language. The villagers were amazed, seeing our deaf team members communicate in sign language with each other.
Praise God! The two boys and their mom are now at the Gospel School for the Deaf. They are comfortable and happy. Their mom has since returned to Koro. Please pray that the other 3 deaf youngsters will soon join us.