- Liz Ortiz
Benin and back
My alarm went off at 5:00AM. Although I am not a morning person, this morning I was excited to jump out of bed. After months of praying, planning, and preparing, I could say, “Today is the day. We are going to Benin.”
A few months ago, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make this trip, because I had planned to be in Togo for only 12 months. Today marked my one-year anniversary. I had expected to be on a plane heading home, but instead I was about to embark on an adventure to a school in the neighboring country of Benin.
The school we were visiting was started in 2005. It's an inclusive school: 40 of the 170 students are deaf. There clearly was some inequity and tension. The hearing students pay to go to the school; the deaf do not. The deaf also live at the school while the hearing don’t. Many of the deaf have siblings who also attend the school, but at the end of the day, the hearing siblings go home to their families. The deaf do not. The hearing siblings receive a parent’s love; the deaf one doesn’t.
The siblings do seem to get along with each other. Often, when we were there and we didn’t understand a sign, they would grab their sibling to translate. One technique they use to clear up a misunderstanding is writing on their arms with chalk! We all laughed because we know that we can’t do that with our white skin. We loved their creativity to communicate! I was thrilled to learn that the school uses American Sign Language. Some of the signs were different, but I understood a majority of their sign. It was so much fun interacting with the students.
The teachers all asked us to have a meeting with them. One teacher asked, “How is our signing? Does it need to change?” I told them, “The purpose of language is communicate, to be understood. You are achieving that.” They all nodded in agreement. The proof was in the pudding. When it came time for the students to take their exams, they all passed! Having success in education is great, but what is it worth without Christ? We were sad to learn that although the leader of the school is a Christian and wants to see the deaf reached with the gospel, he fears he will lose students if he makes it a Christian school. We were able to encourage him by saying that we found the opposite to be true in Togo. Not all the teachers at the deaf school are Christians, so the transition would be hard, but it would be worth it. Please be praying for the Benin school and the deaf in West Africa.
It feels strange to think that I have nearly come to the end of my time in Togo. In one month, I will be back in the states. It feels weird that I havn’t given my mom a hug in over a year.
As much as I am looking forward to my family’s embrace, I’m not looking forward to the goodbyes here, especially, Jonas. He always gives me the biggest smile and cheers when he sees me. He’s not going to understand why his teacher and friend just disappeared. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to do my best to explain, but he doesn’t have the vocabulary to understand. Please be praying as I bid farewell to Jonas and prepare for this transition. Please pray for Jonas; this is going to be hard on him.
Transitions are hard and messy. I have been reading “Ending Well” by Ellen Rosenberger and “Re-Entry” by Peter Jordan to help in this process. Great reads. These books have been encouraging to me during this time of transition. As I think about driving along the coast and seeing the ocean that I will be flying over soon, this verse comes to mind,
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is,” Ephesians 3:18.
Please pray that I will finish well and love well.
Praise God for a successful trip to the Benin deaf school!
Praise God for the developing deaf ministry!
Praise God for the progress Jonas and his family are making in learning sign language!
Pray for team meeting about deaf ministry on November 6th
Pray for wisdom about deaf ministry in Togo
Pray for the deaf school in Benin
Pray for a smooth transition for Jonas as I leave
Pray for the deaf school in Kpalime who we are sharing the gospel with!
Pray for God’s direction as I consider full time missions
Pray for an ASL interpreter – big opportunity for one!
Pray that I will finish well during my last month in Togo