I just got home this morning at 5am and want to tell you all about the trip that I just took to Ica. As many of you know, a couple months ago I went on a trip to the mountains with a team from the U.S. to visit a church for the deaf. I went with our pastor from Manchay and a missionary that our church there supports. First of all let me tell you a little bit about that missionary and his calling from God. His name is Hugo Flores and he is deaf and he feels called by the Lord to go and find deaf people and evangelize to them. This sounds easy but until you actually think about it, how do you find deaf people? Especially in a country that does absolutley nothing for them socially speaking. Well Hugo goes to town squares and markets and just sits and watches people. This too sounds easy until you actually try it. It is amazing how much everybody including all the hearing people, use their hands while they are talking. Many a time Hugo has approached someone thinking they are deaf only to find out that they are just an expressive person who uses their hands while they talk. I feel like my introduction is jumping all over the place so let me try and get my thoughts together for you.
A couple years ago when Hugo went to Huancayo, a mountain town here in Peru, he sat in the town square for a whole weekend. He made some contacts with some deaf people who seem to congragate in the squares because that is the only way they can have real interaction with other people who understand them. Hugo returned to Lima not knowing if he had reached anyone with his message but two weeks later he returned to find about 20 deaf people eagerly waiting for him. Hugo spent the weekend with them telling them about God's word and what Jesus could do in their lives. Like the time before Hugo returned to Lima, promising to return in a couple weeks and share more with them. After a few more trips like this Hugo had such a large gathering of deaf people coming to watch him preach that he decided it was time to look for a church building. Hugo found a room to rent and started the church. Two years later the church had grown to over 60 deaf people attending regularily each Sunday and Hugo felt it was time to leave his church to a pastor and move on to another ministry site. A deaf pastor with a deaf wife and 2 hearing sons came from Lima and take over the church and Hugo returned to Lima. Over the past 2 months Hugo has been feeling called to the city of Ica, 4 hours south of Lima and one of the cities hard hit by the earthquake of 2007. Two weeks ago Hugo went to Ica by himself and like he did in Huancayo spent the weekend in the town square. He made some contacts but again returned to Lima not sure if he had reached anybody.
Last week Hugo asked Pastor Joel and I if we would accompany him on his next trip to Ica. We were more than happy to do so and on Friday afternoon loaded up our car and headed south. Upon arriving in Ica around 8 pm we headed to the town square and waited but no deaf people came. Hugo said he knew of a restaurant where one of his contacts from the week before worked so we headed there. We talked briefly with the man but his boss was not overly friendly with us. The man told us he started work at 8am and if we wanted to come see him then we could. So we headed back out to the streets and went to look for a hotel. After a good nights sleep we got up, had breakfast and headed out to the restaurant. Upon arriving we found that the man was already working and his boss would not let us talk to him. We decided to head out into the streets and start looking for other deaf people. We asked lots of neighbourhood security officers because they know lots about who lives in their areas. We got no great leads but got pointed to a local market. We spent some time in the market and managed to hand out some Chirstian tracts that we had brought, but found no deaf people. Outside the market we talked to a taxi driver who told us he knew of a deaf guy who lived in a village called Cachiche. Joel told me that Cachiche was a town out in the middle of the desert and was home to a maximum security prison. Wow I thought, that sure sounds like a lovely place, it is amazing where God leads us. Upon arriving in Cachiche, we discovered it was an evil place where the people have been practicing witchcraft for hundreds of years and have several monuments built celebrating their culture. We asked at the local store and were shown the house where the deaf man lived. We knocked on the door and a young man came and looked out but would not open the door. The neighbour told us that the man arrived home from work at noon. We hung out in the town square and visited a local landmark which is a Palmera tree that has 7 tree tops on it. It actually looked like a giant snake growing along the ground, burying itself in some spots and growing back out in others. It was very cool to see although the locals believe that it is a result of Satan's handiwork and tell many dark stories surrounding the tree. At around 1pm we decided this guy was not coming home and we decided to move on and look for deaf people in other places. We visited several other small villages but had no luck. I was getting a little frustrated and wondered what else could go wrong. We had spent nearly 24 hours in Ica and had only made brief contact with 1 deaf person. Around 6pm we returned to the town square to see if any deaf people had shown up. There were none there, and within 5 minutes of arriving there I suddenly got really dizzy, fevered and I crashed on a bench in the park. Joel phoned a pastor friend of his who sent his friend to pick us up and rush me to the hospital. After being examined by two doctors and them finding nothing wrong with me they decided I must have done just too much running around during the last day. They told me to go find a hotel and spend the night resting. I was really feeling like this trip had been a big disappointment and I thought we really needed something big to happen to turn it around. I prayed that God would give us the knowledge of how to make the contacts that we needed. Upon arriving back at the square, which was near the hotel, as we pulled up I saw a group of people talking in sign language. I cannot tell you how happy I was. Joel and Hugo rushed over to them and started intorducing themselves and telling them about Jesus Christ. I rested in the car for about an hour and then felt well enough to go join them. After introducing myself to everyone I got feeling really chilled and tired feeling again. I told Joel I was going to go sit in a restaurant have have some tea. About a half hour later Joel and Hugo came in to join me and told me that most of the deaf people have left. I told them that was too bad because I had just thought of inviting them in to have some tea as well. Joel went back out to see if any of them were still there and there was just 2 women and 2 kids. They came in to join us and we had dinner together.
I know this blog post is really getting long but I am just geeting to the really exciting part. We ate with these 2 women and the one womans 2 daughters. The conversation was lots of fun and very animated as many sign language conversations are and we really got to know these ladies. I want to tell you about them so that you can pray for them. First of all there was Pilar, she has 2 daughters. One named Ana and the other Maria. Maria, who appears to be about 13 years old, can hear but cannot speak. Unfortunately that is what happens when a girl grows up in a home with only her deaf mom and there is no social help for them. Ana, who appears to be about 4 years old, cannot hear but seems to be doing well with her signs. They live in a modest home with Ana's father who is also deaf. The other lady, unfortunately her name escapes me right now, has been single her whole life and lives with her 84 year old mother. This lady has never learned her alphabet in sign language and does not know how the read or write and in fact no one in her group of new friends, knew her name because she had no way of telling them. Joel came up with the idea of checking her identification and that is how we found out her name. In fact amongst the 8 or 10 deaf people that we have talked with in the park, none of them knew proper sign language. They seem to have made up their own language amongst themselves. They were quite happy to talk with Hugo who slowed a lot of them down in their signs and corrected many of their mistakes. After dinner we made plans to return in 3 weeks and then walked these two ladies out to their taxis that would take them home and then we sat in the car and had a meeting about the experiences that we had just had. We were all on an emotional high, although we were very much exhausted from a long day. We decided that Hugo would return in 2 weeks to keep up the contacts and then in 4 weeks we would all return and help Hugo look for a room to rent where he could start meetings with these new friends. We need to meet with Hugo and come up with some kind of plan but it was so amazing to see how God answered our prayers and turned what seemed to be a fruitless weekend into an exciting time. During all this excitement I forgot to tell you that we had called Leo to come by bus to pick us up, because we didn't want to take any chances with me having another dizzy spell like I had earlier.
I know that all this is a lot to take in in one blog posting but I hope you can see how exciting it was and I hope to fill you in more on the starting of this new ministry in Ica for our friend Hugo. In case you were thinking, I didn't know Tyler knew sign language, I don't know much but I have a grasp on the basics and can understand a lot more that I can say. I figured if I could learn Spanish in a year why not keep going.