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.
August Camp, run by the CFD (Christian Fellowship for the Deaf) took place at Coral Coast Christian Camp in Deuba, during the August term break. It was a huge success! Deaf from all over Fiji attended the week long camp. It was the first time in recent memory that the deaf from the West joined in. Lack of leadership has been a concern in recent years, and the Western deaf had been holding their own camps separately. But all that changed this year. Tuli was recently appointed CFD leader by the elders, and was joined by Mesake from the West. It was decided that the two groups would work together as one unit. This year, everyone got involved. The church elders attended the camp and enthusiastically supported the event. Bible classes, taught by Mesake and elder Taitusi, were held each morning. There were two sessions each day, for five days. At the end of camp, two deaf asked to be baptized, and two others recommitted their lives to Christ. Paul, from the West, along with our Ketia from GSD, were baptized. Tuli, (left) and Tema (right) are with them in the photo below. We thank God for Tuli and her leadership, and for answered prayer for new life in the CFD. The Lord has done a wonderful work in bringing about unity and growth in the CFD leadership.
Weekly Bible studies are now being held in the hostel on Thursday evenings, with Mesake teaching. These meetings are well attended by the deaf.
Please pray for continued growth and commitment among the deaf adults.
Term two has just ended in Fiji, and students are on their two week break from school. Jim and I are in Rhode Island for the summer, and will be heading back to Fiji in September for Term three.
Jim was not able to play this year, however. He took a fall in the parking lot before the tournament began, and badly skinned both knees. So instead of playing, he sat with bandaged knees and greeted each of the players as they headed out onto the course. It was an emotional experience, as he was overwhelmed by the dedication of each of the players who return each year to support the Fiji Deaf Ministry. What an encouragement! Players included educators and administrators from the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, the Beverly School for the Deaf and READS Collaborative, both in Massachusetts. There were also players from several area churches that support the deaf ministry, along with other faithful supporters.
Students at GSD are blessed with many international visitors. One special visitor, Matthew Adedeji (center in photo), came with two friends from England to run our annual Easter Camp. Matthew, originally from Nigeria, was one of the original founders of GSD, along with Vivienne Harland, back in 1999. He headed the school for three years, before moving to England, where he founded Evangelical Mission To The Deaf. This was his third visit to Fiji.
Tina and Bryan (pictured with Matthew), also work with EMTTD. Tina served as song leader, and Bryan was the MC at camp. All three are deaf. Matthew, a humble and gentle man, lost his hearing at age 7. From a Muslim family in Nigeria, Matthew became a Christian at age 16, through Andrew Foster, who founded 35 schools for the deaf in Africa. Andrew was the first black deaf man to graduate from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. He was a mentor to Matthew, and also baptized him. Matthew is passionate about his faith. He was the key speaker at the camp, and drew a large crowd of over 70 deaf students and adults. Matthew has a heart for God, and for helping the deaf. At camp, the deaf attended seminars, participated in discussion groups, and enjoyed playing rugby and volleyball. The theme of the camp was ‘The Power of the Cross’, based on Matthew 27. Below is a photo of the campers, after attending Easter Sunday services.
In addition to our visitors from England, we also had Russell and Sue Neate, John and Cheryl Wood, and Ruth Harland Marshall with son Peter, all from New Zealand, along with Ruth’s cousin Sylvia Sayles from France. They all led in some Bible teaching at the hostels, along with some crafts. Children in the main hostel made a beautiful ocean wall hanging. All of the girls in both hostels were given new summer dresses, sewn by friends and supporters in New Zealand. A few of the girls are pictured here, wearing their new dresses.
The New Zealanders were all here to attend the Annual General Meeting, held at Coral Coast Christian Center, at beautiful Pacific Harbor in Deuba. Joining them this year was Dr. Rick Clarkson, from Rhode Island, USA. Rick worked for 29 years at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf in America, with Jim and Marilyn, and later became Headmaster of West Bay Christian Academy for 12 years. He is perhaps best known by students for his magic tricks, which were a big hit at GSD, both in the school and in the hostels. He kept everyone spellbound! Rick was voted in as trustee at the annual meeting, along with Hostel Director, Tema Toaisi.
Russell showed plans for a new hostel to all the staff, in both school and hostels, and everyone had opportunity to give their ideas for the new building. At the annual meeting, trustees also had their input. The three days of meetings were productive, and it was a good time of fellowship as well.
Prayers appreciated for the upcoming Annual General Meeting of the Board, Easter Camp, and safety for the students as they go back to their villages for the school break. Also, prayer for the planning and building of our new hostel, and for a new leadership team as we transition into the future.
In our 16 years in Fiji, it has been rewarding to see deaf youngsters go through our program, then on to high school or vocational programs with interpreters, and settle into careers. Several have come back to GSD to work as teachers or school staff, hostel workers, and adult deaf ministry and youth leaders. Others have gone on to work in hotels or bakeries, or work in graphic design, child care, or computers, and a few have gone on to university. God has richly blessed, through the faithfulness of our many sponsors, prayer partners, volunteers, churches and assemblies, embassies, rotary club, and individual donors. We are grateful to all who continue to help in so many ways.
Jim started the new year off with a Bible teaching for faculty and staff, followed by a workshop on unity. All had a bit of fun with an ice breaker, where everyone paired up, and asked each other some prepared questions to help them get to know each other better. They then had to introduce their partner to the entire group. The workshop was a great success, with great spirit in the room. Our verse for the year is Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.”
The result of their planning was an amazing event for the children! The men worked hard cooking the lovo feast. Kuini’s dad allowed no tasting ahead of time, as the food came off the hot rocks, and palm leaves were unwrapped. He said that’s the way he was brought up; the feast was for the guests, and no sampling was allowed until all was on the table. And an amazing feast it was, complete with chicken, rice, dalo, fish,
rho rho, ota, and a host of other traditional foods, with fresh pineapple, watermelon, and ice cream for dessert. Specific foods were brought in from different islands----the ota from Beqa (they say it’s the best!) They know their foods here!! For the program, we enjoyed short speeches, traditional dances for entertainment, some Christmas caroling, and a gift exchange for the children. There was time to mingle, and get to know one another during and after the meal.
As the party ended, all the parents got together again, to elect officers and plan for additional meetings to help support their children in the hostels. Kuini’s dad suggested they start a garden at the Junior boys hostel, to help the boys grow some of their own food. He offered to bring dalo plants to the next meeting, to get them started. Tavaita’s uncle was chosen to head up the parent group as president for next year. Ema’s mom will be the treasurer, and Elena’s mom the secretary.
Most of the parents had never met before the meetings, and began developing friendships, and sharing stories about their children. Merekarita’s dad was in tears as he shared with another parent how amazed he was at the change he had seen in his daughter after just one year in school. Another parent closed the program in prayer, thanking God for Gospel School for the Deaf, and the opportunities that were now available in Fiji for his son.
We were blessed by the gratitude of these parents, and their enthusiastic desire to support their children in school. That has not always been the case. We have had parent meetings at school in the past, but they were sporadically attended. But thanks to Tema, who actually involved the parents in planning an event together, the group is now off and running, taking seriously their role of supporting both school and hostels. Vinaka vaka levu, both to Tema and these wonderful parents!
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