Empowering the Deaf with Christ’s Love in Honduras (Part I)Written by admin on Oct 07, 2017 in - No Comments
An Interview with Robin Harter
SIGNS OF LOVE teaches, disciples, and loves the disenfranchised Deaf in rural Honduras and other developing nations. By hosting Deaf camps, planting Deaf churches, equipping Deaf leaders, launching micro-enterprises for the Deaf, and promoting deaf awareness, Signs of Love is empowering a population that is otherwise socially marginalized, denied educational opportunity, and at high risk of abuse. Recently, I connected with Robin Harter, who founded the organization in 1999, to learn about what’s new at Signs of Love and how we can continue to support her good work.
How do members of the Deaf community in Honduras find Signs of Love, or how do you find them?
The people we reach don’t belong to the Deaf community—they don’t even know one exists. That’s part of the awesomeness of what we do: we get to connect them and introduce them to a sense of belonging. We find them either through word of mouth, or we blanket an area in search of Deaf individuals, going door-to-door, hut-to-hut. Before my husband went Home, he termed these searches “Egg Hunts” because there’s such excitement in trying to find one Deaf person, and when he or she is found, it’s like finding a beautifully decorated egg—each a different and unique creation.
I wonder what it is like for the Deaf person and his or her family when you knock on their door.
Often, people have no idea that Deaf people exist in their village. There’s a stigma attached to deafness that makes families ashamed of a Deaf family member, so you can imagine the disbelief and extreme hope that comes when, having located a person unable to hear, we communicate with them in a way that they’re able to actually understand.
Would you share the story of one person who has been empowered through Signs of Love?
Amanda came to us seventeen years ago when she was 23 years old and had no language—yes, no language as an adult!—but she had a heart that her body couldn’t contain, and she poured her love over everyone around her. She’s a life that went from zero to hero because of God’s faithfulness. Society couldn’t even see her. She struggled to learn sign language but never gave up, and we never gave up on her. She volunteered with us and ended up becoming one of our most valued employees, has mentored hundreds, and taught LESHO (Honduran Sign Language) to those who were once like she was—without language. Most inspiring of all is her ability to communicate spiritual truths. She’s a spiritual guru! She met her husband, Orlan, while serving with us, and he’s now our Deaf pastor. When he first became involved in Signs of Love, he was also language deprived. Amanda and Orlan now have a 4-year-old son named Jeffery, my husband’s namesake, and he’s hearing. Amanda is an elder at the Deaf Church.
What is it like in Honduras for a Deaf person who wants to work?
Deafness is still widely misunderstood in Honduras, and most people think, “There are enough hearing people wanting work, so there’s no room for the Deaf.” For the most part, Deaf people are given menial jobs at best and are lucky to get paid. That’s why we’re trying to give them ways to work themselves out of poverty.
Tell me about some of the micro-enterprises Signs of Love has helped to start.
For a while we had them making mosaic crosses, but we have had an influx of crosses, so now we’ve moved on to jewelry. They are their own bosses, getting paid for each piece they make. It’s awesome watching the very poor, who typically have no options, realize they do have options! They get to create exquisite pieces of art while getting paid for it! As they begin to contribute financially to family needs, their value automatically increases in the home. One young man has built his mother an indoor kitchen from his micro-enterprise earnings! For her entire life, she had cooked outside, stoking a clay oven. Now she cooks inside on a stove, thanks to her son’s dedicated work!
Signs of Love published a dictionary of Honduran Sign Language several years ago. How has this brought change to the Deaf community?
It’s helping to change the shameful stigma towards the Deaf, bringing validity to the language as well as intrigue. The Deaf are starting to feel a sense of respect. It’s awesome. They treasure their dictionary as well as the storybook Bible we give them. These are typically the only two books in the entire household, and they are well taken care of. The Deaf are even using their books to teach others…hearing included!!! I love that there are no limits with God in the mix!
What has been bringing you joy in your ministry work, lately?
It brings me unspeakable joy to watch those who were once language deprived spread the Gospel to others, teaching them as they’ve been taught, and adding their own story to it! It’s like watching the pages of Acts come alive in real time.