Luke 18:16 "Jesus, however, called for the children and said, "Let the little children come to me, and stop keeping them away, because the kingdom of God belongs to people like these."
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!
The bus trip from Suva to the boat landing in Natovi was almost three hours. The boat ride to Koro was another 4 1/2 hours, and with the carrier rental to Sereana’s village, the trip was a total of about 9 hours.
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.
Well, it was down to wire. The boys had just one week to vacate their rental house, which had been sold. The deadline was April 30th. We had everyone looking for several months, but all the rental properties were either too expensive or too far away from school. Jim and I were leaving Fiji at the end of April too, and needed to have the housing issue resolved—— but nothing was panning out.
I enjoy walking in Fiji, and would often do several miles in the cooler early evenings after work. With house hunting in mind that final week, I changed my usual route and hit the roads bordering the campus. As I approached the top of a nearby hill, I noticed a “For Rent” sign on a fence in front of a freshly painted house, in good condition. The neighborhood was nice as well. “Probably too expensive”, I told myself, but since the phone number and email contact were printed right there on the sign, I figured it was worth a try. I snapped a photo of the sign so we could contact the owner later. I gave the information to our Head Teacher, Mrs. Mudaliar, who made the contact and arranged a visit. The apartment was newly renovated and quite roomy inside. No one had ever lived in the downstairs flat before, so everything was in pristine condition. The price was manageable too. However, there were still several issues---- like no washing machine hook up, no safety grates on the windows, and only two bedrooms. The landlord graciously agreed to meet all our requests. He put the washing machine hook up on the lower outside deck, added the safety grates to windows and doors, and turned the large washroom/supply closet into a third bedroom, adding a window for light and ventilation. The house had several other additional and unexpected features as well. There was a motion detector light for the driveway. There were two bathrooms and two showers ——a luxury that none of our other hostels have ever had! (We’ve had as many as 25 children sharing one shower in the main hostel!) There was also a spacious empty lot in front of the house, that the landlord said could be used for gardening—— something we’ve wanted for a long time, to help defray food expenses. The boys could now grow their own vegetables!
And the story gets even better! On our second visit we learned, to our amazement, that the landlord also owns a graphic design business. We had been looking for quite some time for a placement for one of our artistic deaf students to do an internship. The landlord enthusiastically agreed to take him on, and Bira started work the following Monday. We heard recently that he is doing really well there. As Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory—“ We are grateful to Jehovah Jirah— God our Provider. Our need was met “exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). The boys are all moved in and are enjoying their new home, just a stone’s throw away from school. And Jim and I were able to leave Fiji with peace of mind, knowing that all is in order and running smoothly. God is faithful!
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