In my last blog, I told a story about how God used a wrong turn in the road to change the life of a young deaf teenager.
Here’s another story about a very special couple that we’ve come to know and love, whom God has used tremendously to help the Fiji Deaf Ministry. We met because of an overbooked hotel.
Sam and Christine Tawake-Bachofner run a beautiful resort on the island of Beqa (pronounced Ben-ga), in the village of Lawaki. After working in Fiji for some time, Jim and I felt the need to get away for a day or two. We looked online, and enquired about a place on the nearby island of Beqa. Unfortunately, or rather fortunately as it turned out, that place was fully booked and could not take us. The manager suggested we try Lawaki Beach House, a small resort a little further along the coast on the island. It was there that we met Sam and Christine.
Sam is a Fijian, from Lawaki, and his wife Christine is from Switzerland. They have run their small resort for about 15 years now. It’s a simple, unspoiled place with lots of natural beauty. It has 4 small bures, a backpacker dorm, and an outdoor covered dining area, all right on the beach. The reef snorkeling is the best, with crystal clear water, and lots of brightly colored fish , sea cucumbers, sea turtles, and coral. There are other activities too, like kayaking, deep sea diving, a relaxing massage, or a visit to the village. Sam and Christine were warm and welcoming, and treated us royally. We could watch the sunset over the ocean from our porch, and listen to the sound of the waves in our bure at night. Everything we ate on our visits to the island was either grown there, or caught in the sea that day. The bread was home made, the eggs free range, and tropical fruits and vegetables all freshly picked. This place was definitely a little piece of heaven! We’ve returned several times since that first visit, and have taken many of our volunteers there.
As we talked, she told us her dream was to become a teacher, but she couldn’t afford university fees. Jim offered her a job in our hostel, where she could learn sign language, and offered that the ministry would help out with school fees. Christine came the next year, learned sign language quickly, and graduated from university with high honors. She is an excellent teacher, and sought after as a sign language interpreter. She also teaches Sunday School to the deaf, and is the youth group leader in her church. (Her aunt now refers to Jim as ‘Head Hunter’, for stealing one of her more promising waitresses!)
Another couple, Marita and Matt from England, also vacationed at Lawaki. They were running treks thoughout Fiji (Talenoa Treks). They got into conversation with Sam and Christine about a village they had visited on one of their treks. It was Nabutautau, the village where Missionary Thomas Baker had been cooked alive and eaten by the villagers, for touching the head of the village chief, back in the days of cannibalism, before Christianity came to the islands. Marita and Matt mentioned that they had met a young 6 year old deaf boy in that village, named Sailosi. Their heart went out to him, as he was the only kid in the village not in school. Sam and Christine told them about Gospel School for the Deaf, and gave
them our contact. Matt and Marita not only brought Sailosi to GSD, but paid to sponsor him as well. This year, Marica and Sailosi are beginning their 5th year at GSD. They both love school, and now have a wonderful deaf community of friends here.
God used a vacation get away to bring us two young deaf students and an extremely talented and hard working teacher. In addition, we have made two wonderful friends who have been a big support to the Fiji Deaf Ministry!!
Yes, Lawaki is a very beautiful and special place! Thank you Sam and Christine!
We finally arrived in Fiji on March 6th, after Jim was declared healthy enough to travel by the doctor. The timing was good, in that we managed to miss the latest nor’easter blizzard in New England, which dropped over a foot of snow and left many without power for a number of days.
The new school year is off to a good start, with 7 new students, making a total of 52 in GSD, with another 3 in Gospel High School with sign language interpreters, and several others out in vocational programs, or recently placed in jobs.
Here are three of our new students: (left to right) Manasa, Aliti, and Iliesa (Aren’t they the cutest?)
The word is spreading about a school that is just for deaf children. We are happy to report that we are now enrolling students at much younger ages, which gives them an advantage in receiving a better education.
We have also received money this year from the Japanese Embassy, for a badly needed new school bus. The Embassy requires that we build a garage or bus port for protection, and we are looking into that now.
Due to some health issues, Jim and I were not able to return to Fiji for the start of the new school year in January, but Mrs. Mudaliar, our Head Teacher, graciously agreed to hold the fort until we get back. Jim just received the doctor’s okay to travel, so we’ll be leaving for Fiji this coming Wednesday, going by way of California, for a visit with Erin, Garth, and Lucy. Many thanks to all who have been praying for Jim’s health. And also many thanks for all of your support. The students are growing and learning daily, because of your generosity.
In His Love, Jim and Marilyn
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.
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