So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 1 of…

AN OVERVIEW 


The title of this blog post series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?” is also the title of one of the tabs on the Signs for Hope website. The word deaf will be used to reference a child with any degree of deafness, including those labeled Hard of Hearing.


The website is focused more on a general look at the adoption process and only gives some of the more obvious ways the adoption of a deaf child can impact an adopting family.  This blog post series, however, is more focused on the overall encompassing impact the adoption of a deaf child can have on a family, especially if that family is only minimally aware or even if they feel they are somewhat aware of all that surrounds deafness and those who live in the Deaf World. 

It is recommended to read this blog post first.  The Uniqueness of Deafness!

There are many things to seriously research and prayerfully consider before moving forward with the adoption of a deaf child, even if you are encouraged to do so by others and by your adoption agency.

The life-long journey of the adoption of a deaf child is anything, but easy, and it will be life-changing for all! 

 

Can you pick out the deaf child(ren) in this picture?
Because deafness cannot be detected with the eye (visually) some families are eager to adopt a child labeled “deaf” or “hearing impaired” more so than one who has obvious visually recognizable “imperfections”.  Deafness is often only detected after a child fails to begin talking by the age of two or three and sometimes beyond.  Some of the misdiagnoses of deafness include autism, mental retardation and/or the inability or refusal to speak which is often referred to as “mute” or “non-verbal”.

Deaf children, in general, tend to be about 18 months to two years behind their hearing peers, emotionally and socially, given their communication gap and lack of language acquisition from birth.  If you do not already know, adopted hearing children who have been institutionalized then adopted are typically about 18 months or so behind (emotionally and socially) hearing children raised in loving homes from birth. This makes that emotional and social gap for the deaf adopted child to be as much as 4 years behind hearing biologically raised children.  This is important to keep in mind at all times!

In some countries the labels “dumb” or “deaf and dumb” are still used for those who cannot speak, some how relating the inability to speak with low-intelligence. These terms were coined and accepted here in the US by the hearing population many years ago.  Today, the term “dumb” is no longer accepted in this country, but the hearing population has once again promoted a new, politically correct, label for the Deaf population, “hearing impaired”.  Deaf people who identify themselves with the Deaf culture, prefer to be called what they are Deaf”, a label that can encompass varying degrees of deafness and their precious Deaf culture since they do not believe they suffer from any impairment whatsoever. To learn more about how the Deaf population generally defines the above terms go to the National Association of the Deaf website.  


Not until hearing testing/screening is performed is it discovered the child has deafness to some degree. T
his may be primitive-like testing in other countries, the use of a squeaky toy or clanging pot lids behind the child.  Even then many people do not make the connection the reason the child does not speak (mute) is because they have not heard people speaking to them nor heard themselves vocalizing as they progressed through the babbling stage of development for spoken language.  This is the natural way a child without deafness learns to speak a spoken language.  The deaf child’s voice is usually intact, but it is untrained and useless for communication because the hearing aspect needed for acquiring and learning accurate spoken language is not.  The loud noises the deaf child will make with their voices and the sounds relating to other bodily functions, sounds they are oblivious to, will be the topic of another blog post in this series.

By the way, there is no known deaf child in the above picture.  It is simply a random photo off the Internet. You cannot tell by looking at a child if they are deaf or not.

If you think God is “calling” you to adopt a deaf child and you have little to no experience with deafness and you do not know anyone who lives in the Deaf World…STOP!  Go back to your spouse and the two of you take whatever time is necessary to make sure God has “called” you to this, before moving forward.  Ask God to show you in unmistakable ways.  You can be assured if you move forward without knowing this is from God, somewhere down the road you will begin questioning, “Why did we ever do this?” If you KNOW for sure, God has “called” you to adopt a deaf child, that knowledge will give you the added strength you will need to persevere no matter the cost to you and any other hearing family members for the challenges ahead.  The affects the adoption of a deaf child has on hearing siblings (adopted and/or bio), as well as other extended hearing family members, is often challenging as well and this, too, will be covered in this series.  
 
Adoption agencies sometimes do a great job of preparing families to embrace the culture from which their soon to be adopted son or daughter are born, but rarely do adoption agencies give the same attention to the Deaf Culture. Most are clueless, when it comes to Deaf Culture and deafness. The adoption of a deaf child will automatically thrust you and your family into the Deaf Culture whether you like it or not. Bear in mind when you adopt a deaf child from a different ethnic background (a different country) the number of cultures your family will now be exposed to will be more than just one. It is only reasonable to ask that you research their Deaf culture well, with an open mind, before proceeding with a deaf adoption. This is the same experience for the hearing family who gives birth to a child with deafness.  95% of all deaf children are born to and/or raised by hearing parents. In this country, today, less than 10% of hearing parents learn to sign with their biologically born deaf children.   Deaf people often desire to give birth to deaf children just like them, but less than 5% of Deaf parents will have the coveted opportunity to do so.

Here are a few links for increasing your knowledge surrounding the Deaf Culture here in America:

National Association of the Deaf

(A list of books about the Deaf are found at the bottom of this page)

Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language

http://deafness.about.com/cs/featurearticles/a/marthasvineyard.htm

In addition, to learning all you can about the culture of the Deaf, you and every member of your immediate family MUST be willing to commit to learning American Sign Language.  This should not be an option, but should be mandatory by your adoption agency. 
An entire post, in this series, will be devoted to this topic of Learning ASL. 

The vast majority of deaf children available for adoption are considered “older”, above the age of 3, and that, in and of itself, will be challenging for most families.  Even if you start the adoption process when the deaf child is under 3, they will often turn 3 before you can bring your son/daughter home. 


In case no one has told you, there really is nothing magical about adopting a child under the age of 3.  Adopting a child under the age of 3 can also be just as challenging for bonding and connecting with their adoptive family as it can for a child over the age of 3.


With the vast brain development research, available now, it is readily understood the brain of a child who has been traumatized develops much differently from one that has not. What is meant by traumatized?  Examples of trauma include institutionalization (orphanage-life) where neglect and lack of nurture abound; abandonment also breeds trauma for the adopted child, even if they cannot remember when it happened.  The brain of a child is deeply affected by trauma experienced in utero, as well, and could be related to the mother’s use of substances harmful to her unborn child and/or what she may be experiencing herself during the pregnancy.  Mom’s stress levels, during pregnancy. also impacts the physical development of her unborn child and not just their brain.  Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child, sites cleft lip and palate abnormalities in Asian babies as being directly related to stress the mother experiences when she discovers she is pregnant.  The one-child policy evokes great emotional upheaval for Asian mothers and that occurs about the time the palate inside the mouth of her unborn baby is developing in utero.

The brain of a child cared for by a loving family from birth compared to the brain of a child who is born into uncertainty, lack of nurture and neglect is vastly different. Families adopting a child that has experienced neglect, lack of nurture, hunger, and possible mind-altering events that took place in utero or trauma during a stressful birth must receive appropriate training for how best to connect with them, appropriate for parenting a child from the “hard place”. This kind of training will grant parents the ability to provide an environment geared toward increased brain function which will in turn grant the child the ability to respond in appropriate ways and not with unacceptable behaviors.

The Empowered to Connect Conferences, led by Dr. Karyn Purvis, are the best way to prepare for adoption.  They are also a wonderful place for learning more tools to help with parenting adopted children once they are home. Dr Purvis believes it is never too late to begin using the tools she equips parents with at these conferences and I agree.

Signs for Hope believes it is the right of the deaf child for their adoptive family to be fully aware of as many of the challenges they will face while raising them, yes, because of their deafness, but also because of their coming from the “hard places.” *

Trying to prepare yourself and your family, as best you can, to bring home a child from the “hard places” and learn ASL adequately, at the same time, is next to impossible.  You will either prepare well for one, or be inadequately prepared for both.

One more thing to prepare yourself for when adopting a deaf child; it is very possible and highly likely your deaf son or daughter has been physically and/or sexually abused.  It is sad, but it is a common occurrence here in this country, so you can only imagine how much greater the possibility is for this to happen in other countries’ institutions.

* A child from “hard places” is a phrase Dr. Purvis uses to describe children who have experienced trauma during institutionalization and/or foster care placement.

_______________________________________________________________

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

Update: December 6, 2014

There are now 12 blog posts in this series, So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?  Here are links to each:

Part 2, What is the Quickest Way to Learn American Sign Language?

Part 3, No One Told Me…

Part 4, Deaf Children are Anything But Quiet

Part 5, Why is the Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?

Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

Part 7, The Adopted Deaf Child and Your Church

Part 8, What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?

Part 9, Educating the Deaf Child 

Part 10,  Educating the Deaf Child, Homeschooling

Part 11, Don’t Do It !

Part 12, IEPs – Individualized Education Programs  

Part 13, Deaf Adoption – REALITY CHECK!
 




Bubble vs Bible – Protection vs Preparation

This is a new series, 1 of…

This is a topic I have pondered more and more, recently.  As I began to research this, once again I found I am not alone in this pondering, at least in some aspects.

Most often when we think of protection of our little ones we automatically think, physical.  However the spiritual is where we should be most concerned and spend most of our energies.

The picture above is from an article about a “new product” available for purchase from Family Christian Stores, released last year.  I couldn’t decide, at first, if this was real or not.  What do you think?

“GRAND RAPIDS, MI—After months of speculation and several product delays, Family Christian Stores finally rolled out their most anticipated product release of the year on Tuesday: the Protective Christian Bubble™ for children.

According to Family Christian, the Bubble™ is “a huge step forward in Christian protective technology” and is constructed of a “revolutionary” poly material that, while completely sealing the child from the outer environment, allows the child to breathe unhindered while the intelligent processor embedded in the skin of the Bubble™ works continuously to identify and block any visual or auditory stimuli its advanced algorithms translate as “secular.”

Available exclusively at Family Christian Stores, the Bubble™ is available in a variety of sizes, with prices ranging from $499 (young toddler) to $799 (college age). According to the Family Christian representative, if you want to get your hands on one, “you’d better act quickly, as we are seeing unbelievable demand for this product.”

Interesting…huh?!

I have been guilty when it comes to thinking we should, at all costs, protect our precious little ones from all the evils of this world at such a young and tender age.  Now, however, I am seeing the greater value in preparing them for them instead of trying to protect them from them.

Our world, today, demands it!

I remember all too well, both Joseph and Rachel referring to the “bubble” they were brought up in while they both were in college.  While there were some aspects of that “bubble” that were a positive impact on them growing into adulthood, others were not.  Especially, when life does not always end “happily-ever-after”.

Yes, I have now been exposed to hundreds of very young children who have been exposed to many forms of evil and at such young ages.  Yes, the trauma they have experienced is often life-altering.  Some of you would quickly cover your eyes and/or your ears to avoid exposure to what I have seen and heard, but it does not change the fact.

BUT…GOD!

God in His sovereignty is allowing the evil of this world to touch the lives of so many. We can choose to believe His truth that says He will make all things new or not.  It is those stories of evil being overcome with good where His light shines brightest. He delights in taking the most horrific and devastating of situations and breathing life, abundant life, back into those who have felt the breathe knocked out of them.  Changing lives from within, so they can impact the lives of many others.

We must learn how to respond biblically to these evils, not react to them, and we must train our children to do the same.

Equipping and preparing our young children IS their protection!

Not training our children in His truths, from an early age, will result in their inability to navigate these evils clinging to His truth as their armor.

If we do not train them, they will not be equipped and prepared for the battle.  They will be weak.  They will live in confusion.  They will not know the power of the living God as He so desires.  They will not grasp that His love for them is beyond their circumstances and is rooted in the eternal.  And their faith will not be rooted in the truth of His word in the midst of this world’s chaos. They will not stand!  They will not be salt and light!

Ultimately, in our world today, the ability we have to “protect” our little ones from the things of this world is being removed and very quickly. And so far we have not been able to reverse this and our God seems to be allowing it for ‘such a time as this’.  While the US may not be engaged in a physical war as are many other countries around the world, we are engaged in warfare of the spiritual and the next generation must be prepared and we must start training them, from a very early age.

The Bubble you and I live in MUST be deflated!  And we must, for the sake of our children, prepare them for the battle.  It is already waging war in their cartoons, in their preschool classrooms and right next door.  If they do not know what God’s word says and they do not love Him with all their hearts, all their souls, all their minds and all their strength…they will succumb to the evil of this world.

My thoughts go to David when I think of being prepared and at a young age.  Not only was he prepared physically, he was prepared spiritually to face the giant, Goliath.  Saul called him a boy.  We don’t know for sure how old he was when he picked up those 5 smooth stones to kill not only Goliath but his 4 relatives, but he certainly was not big enough to wear the King’s armor for his protection. David’s own “armor” had been proven over and over. At this point in his young life, he had already experienced hand-to-mouth contact with a bear and a lion when the sheep he was shepherding had been carried away.  He had killed the animals with his bare hands.  Obviously, there had to be some intense training going on in David’s life prior to this.

And David’s spiritual training prepared him to say, “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

How do parents, grandparents, pastors, Sunday School teachers prepare our little ones for spiritual battle and do it well?

When I say “well”, I mean train them in such a way they love all people fiercely and at the same time know best how to lead them to Christ.  They are salt and light in this evil world.  And that light dispels the darkness.

I will be researching this as this series develops, but feel free to share in the comments, ways you have used with success in practically training your youngest children to be prepared for whatever our God allows to come their way and at whatever age.

 

The Action Bible is a best seller in the Deaf Christian community.  I carry a supply with me wherever I go.  Our families who have adopted Deaf children have made this their #1 choice Bible for training their children.  Many hearing families I know, would be appalled at the graphic pictures in the Action Bible, afraid these graphics would cause nightmares and undue “trauma” for their little ones. I, too, would never have shown these pictures to Rachel and Joseph when they were children, but you better believe I will share them with my grandchildren. Not to cause them fear, but to train them appropriately about the evil and to know greater is He that is in them, than he that is in the world.  For those who desire to train and develop an accurate picture of our spiritual warfare, which is reality, I suggest exposing your children to this Bible at a very young age and engage them in conversations about them, daily.  Make it the norm, instead of making it the fear.  Make His power, His strength, His mercy, His grace the natural response for the Believer.

Believer’s today are the most fearful folks I know!  WHY?

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:6-9

First and foremost, if you and I are not prepared for this battle and wear the armor of God ourselves daily, we certainly cannot train our children and grandchildren to be prepared for this battle for their life.

 

 

Oh, LORD, Forgive Me For I Have Sinned!

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
~James 4:17

I have pondered this and believed it, with little declaration or action, far too long.
Forgive me, LORD!
Forgiver me, Brothers and Sisters!
Forgive me, unborn children!
There are MANY atrocities against children (and others) across our globe, some I have seen with my own eyes. However, each time I am confronted with such injustices my God reminds me, without fail, of the murder of the unborn child, legally, here at home.
How can I become so zealous to do whatever is necessary to end those atrocities in other countries, when I am doing NOTHING to end the legal murder of our own unborn children?
Brothers and Sisters, I no longer can remain silent about the genocide of our own unborn children. You and I have sat back and allowed the enemy to deceive us far too long.
I cannot help but believe our doing nothing for the unborn child, for so long, is part of the reason we are now where we are, as a nation, in so many respects. “Our doing nothing” really is an oxymoron, since it has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of unborn children, here in our own country and legally.
While I was on my sabbatical last week, the Lord led me to a sermon by Matt Chandler, one of Joseph’s go-to pastors/teachers on the Internet. I scrolled through the sermon topics on The Village Church website and chose “Sanctity of Human Life”, not necessarily because of the topic, but because Matt was the speaker, that day.
His words, “Believe and declare” have convicted me to the core. Belief without declaration is no belief at all.
It was no accident or “it, just so happened” I chose that one. Obviously, my God has decided I can no longer do nothing and say nothing.
So, what will I do for the unborn? I do not know the details, yet, but one thing for sure I…WILL NOT…do nothing any longer!
First and foremost I will begin praying!
Monday’s, from here on, will be a day of prayer for the unborn. It will be a day where I ask God to forgive me/us and lead me/us to repent. It will be a day of me asking Him what, when, where and how am I to right this horrific wrong. It will be a day of showing His love to those who have chosen abortion, for whatever reason, and sharing the fact that God’s forgiveness includes those who have done so, including me…by my doing nothing to stop it.
I am NOT here to debate anything, since basic embryology (the study of embryos and their development ) has always declared without doubt that at conception…it.is.a.human.being. 

“Thou shalt not commit murder.”

Oh, LORD, forgive me for I have sinned. My hands are guilty of murders, many. The sins against our American unborn children are just as heinous as every other countries’ sins against their already born children. Guide me in my repentance to seek how, when, where and with whom I am to share this. May the light of Your truth shine bright in this land as we seek Your forgiveness for our complacency with regard to the right of every unborn child to life, which You alone give.

I pray for your mercy on us as we deserve the same judgement our own laws have established for those who murder another human being.

How do we right this wrong, LORD? Is it even possible?
Give me wisdom and discernment to respond and not react to my own guilt in some over zealous action with no lasting positive outcomes. To respond in a way that will ultimately bring reconciliation between You and me and all others you so desire to be reconciled with. LORD, making laws will not always be sufficient to change behavior, but changing hearts will. Help me to be a heart-changer instead of a law-maker.
I am undone, before You, LORD!

Signs for Hope, Red, White & Blue Tie Dye T-shirts

We now have our 2017 Family Retreat t-shirts available  for sale.  $22 each (all sizes).  

$22 includes shirt, tax, shipping and handling.

The Adult shirts (2XL – S; limited supply) are red, white & blue (Gildan 100% Cotton, Americana Swirl) with light blue printing on the front and back. 

Front – SFH logo. 

Back – SFH logo with website and “Coordinating the adoption of deaf orphans in the world.” And “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; Proverbs 3:5” 

See below.  

Children’s sizes (L – XS; limited supply) have the same printing front and back but are blue on blue tie dye (Gildan, 100% Cotton, Blue Ocean) with white printing.  See below.

$22 per shirt, all sizes. 

3 ways to order:

1) By Credit Card
Email your size(s) and number of shirts for each size, along with your shipping address to becky@signsforhope.org.  I will generate an invoice from our SFH Square Store.  Once payment is received, your shirt(s) will be shipped as soon as possible.  





2) By Check

Send a check or money order to Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC 28730

3) Asheville – local delivery
Cash or check. Email me at becky@signsforhope.org the size(s) you want and I will deliver.  


MudLOVE & Signs for Hope’s Campaign for our ASL-Immerision Family Retreat 2017!


Our Signs for Hope ASL-Immersion Family Retreat for hearing families who have adopted children with deafness is truly unique! 

This is our 2nd year to offer this ASL-rich experience specifically for helping the hearing families of deaf children learn better how to communicate with their adopted children via sign language and who better to share with them than our Deaf volunteer staff? 

MudLOVE was born in 2009, the same year as Signs for Hope, and their desire to provide clean water for those in Africa in great need was their motivation.  Today, every product purchased at MudLOVE provides one week of clean water to someone who needs it in The Central African Republic (www.waterforgood.org) AND it helps Signs for Hope raise funds to host our annual family retreat, held May 31st – June 4th.
 

This campaign is a double-win!  Your purchase supports 1) clean water for those in need and 2) ASL-immersion for hearing families in need.  









Each mug is hand-thrown with love by artisans at MudLOVE! 

Click HERE to place an order on the MudLOVE website to support our SFH family retreat, 2017. These mugs and wristbands make wonderful gifts for yourself and others AND Mother’s Day is coming! 

 
 



 
The cost for our family retreat runs over $10,000, each year.  We desire to provide $100 scholarships for each Deaf attendee and we cook and/or provide 4 meals for each attendee to help keep our families’ and volunteers costs low. In addition, we provide a family retreat t-shirt for each attendee.  We are seeking to raise $1,500 through this campaign and we are well on our way with 38%.

If you like what you see, please share!

You can always make tax-deductible donations to Signs for Hope securely online HERE.

Or mail a check for any amount to Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730.  Contact me directly with questions please or if you would like more information about attending our ASL-immersion family retreatbeckyblloyd@gmail.com 

Give the Hope of Christ this Christmas to Deaf Children Around the World!


 MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
This is our wreath from Lynch Creek Farms on our front door, right now!!

Signs for Hope is excited to offer a holiday fundraiser that provides enjoyment for you and those you love this Christmas while giving Deaf children hope around the world. 




I found this amazing evergreen company,  
Lynch Creek Farms, well into the Christmas season last year. 

Facebook, thankfully, reminded me of it a couple of weeks ago.  They offer a 20% donation to Signs for Hope for every sale. 

We got our wreath seen above on our front door and our table arrangement this past week!!

They are BEAUTIFUL and smell wonderful!  

On my table in my home, right now! 


Don’t Delay…Order Today! 

You can call Lynch Creek Farms (888-426-0781; they are on the west coast) or you can order securely online.  Share Signs for Hope’s name when you order by phone or be sure to click on the Signs for Hope link here when you order online.  This will help make sure SFH receives your 20%. 

Note:  If online you have trouble finding our SFH campaign enter 28730 zip code when searching for us.

Please share this with others…these are AMAZING! 

And she brought forth her first born son and she called Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin!

What My Eyes Have Seen…Part 5

Over the past three weeks I have been in three cities in China and one in the Philippines.  The combined population of these 4 cities is well over 50 million people and all are rapidly growing. Interesting to note, Japan is the only country on the planet that has a declining population and the facts surrounding that discovery are somewhat fascinating and alarming.  Check it out.  Of course you know any given population is constantly changing with births and deaths every day.  How does anyone actually know how many people there are at any given moment in time?

Beijing – 21.7 million

Zhengzhou – 9.3 million

Guangzhou – 13+ million

Manila – 13+ million

To give a more clear perspective of these numbers in relation to the United States, the current US population is approaching 325 million people, total. Our largest city is New York which has 8.55 million people and Los Angeles our 2nd largest city, just over 4 million. 

Over the past 3 weeks I have been transported in a rickshaw, ski-lift, toboggan, cars, vans, taxis, buses, bullet and regular trains, trams, subways and planes, no scooters, motorbikes or boats this trip.  I have looked into the faces and eyes of countless people and precious children. Since I have light skin and blue eyes (on some days) I draw attention in these masses. Thankfully no children screamed in terror when they saw me on this trip.  I have had that reaction by some when visiting African countries; it breaks my heart every time.  I have been very well treated and called ma’am or madam, by all ages, more in the past three weeks than in three years here in the states.  Yes, some cultures still respect their elders and train the next generation to do so.
 

Let me give us even greater perspective.  These numbers simply represent the current population of the globe.  They do not represent all those who have already lived and died.  They also do not represent those who are yet to be born.  

Debriefing after a trip like this takes time…deliberate and intentional time.  One of the things I do for SFH team members following trips, especially to Liberia, is help them process through what they have experienced. 
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.“~Psalm 33:11

My experiences over the past three weeks are too numerous to recount. I do not have any one to debrief with, except my LORD.  He was the only one traveling with me, as a team member, this trip.  
He will provide others to help with this process in a variety of ways though and I am anticipating those opportunities. I trust my LORD to lead me through this time of debriefing over the next days and weeks, making sure I retain and glean all He desires.  The gospel of John is our focus for Bible Study Fellowship this year and I have no doubt He will speak through this study in numerous ways.  I constantly tell my Brothers and Sisters, “Our God wastes nothing!” This is true for all my experiences these past three weeks, as well. 

I have to wonder how many of those, I have seen with my own eyes, do not know Him or do not even know of Him.  I also have to wonder how many of those DO know Him and embrace His love and plan even more so than you and I do.

Note: I realized I was thirsty, just now, so I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water…FROM THE FAUCET!   Not something I could do over the past three weeks. The things I take for granted…


One step deeper!

Maybe you are thinking how insignificant you really are in relation to the masses?  Maybe you think God is too busy with everyone else, He does not have time for you?
Maybe you think there is nothing you could do to make a difference in this world? 

Think again!  And take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, as I must do. 






This is what the Bible teaches about you and me and every other human being of this world and how personally engaged our God truly is with each of us!
“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”~Matthew 10:30
“The sheep hear His voice, and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.”
~John 10:3

“You have searched me, Lord,
    and You know me. 

 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    You perceive my thoughts from afar. 

 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue
    You, Lord, know it completely.

 You hem me in behind and before,
    and You lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.”

~Psalm 139:1-6


“For You created my inmost being;
    You knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

 I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. 

 My frame was not hidden from You
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 

 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in Your book
    before one of them came to be.”

~Psalm 139:13-16

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in Your book.”
~Psalm 56:8

But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
~Psalm 3:3

Because He bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!”
~Psalm 116:2
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”
~Matthew 10:29


Be assured our Creator God knows the intimate details of every one of us at any given moment in time, even when the census folks do not.  Do not allow the enemy a foothold and cause you to think mistakenly you and your life do not matter among the masses.  It is the one-to-one that our God delights in and was the reason He sent His one and only Son to every one of us.

When God Honors Our “Yes”: Our Sign Language Journey, Part 2

Guest post by Vicki Raleigh.  When God Honors Our “Yes”: Our Sign Language Journey, Part 2.

In Part one I described how the adoption of our daughter, Ava, born with cleft lip and palate and deafness, set us on a journey to become skilled in sign language. Our desire to support her ability to communicate with others led us on a roller-coaster of experiences and emotions, which culminated in our decision to learn and implement American Sign Language in our daily lives. 

In case you’re not already familiar, please note that the phrase “sign language” is a general term which can refer to any number of various forms of manual communication. American Sign Language (ASL) is a true language, complete with it’s own set of rules and guidelines. ASL is a conceptual language and does not parallel, or correlate to, spoken or written English. While ASL is the goal in our home, for the benefit of the reader, I will typically use the more general term, “sign language”.
People who watch us sign with one another will typically ask, “How did you learn to sign?” My usual answer is that we are still learning. I often say that the more I learn, the more I realize I still have left to learn. We strive to use ASL; sometimes we rock at doing so and other times, well, not so much. It’s a process that, for us, has evolved over several years.

So…. how did we get from Point A (a family who knew some basic signs) to Point B (a family for whom signing has become second nature)? Let me begin by saying that there is a vast array of options for families desiring to become fluent in signing and numerous scenarios for educating those who are deaf, as well. Our story is just that…. ours. It’s what has worked for us. We are sharing our experience, knowing that no two families have quite the same needs, and with the knowledge that this journey will look different for everyone.


When Ava was adopted at age 4, she had no formal language system and rarely engaged with others in her environment. Her only forms of communication were pointing or leading us to a desired object. She had no way of expressing her wants, needs, or emotions. Imagine having no way of giving meaning to the objects in your environment, your thoughts, feelings, or experiences. Imagine not even knowing you had a name! That was our starting point. 

Introducing sign language changed all of that – and more – for Ava. For the first time, her world had meaning. Objects and people had names and she could use those names to draw attention, express her needs and desires, and form novel ideas. Ava was no longer living with an apathetic mindset; she now realized she had a purpose and power to control her environment. She began to come into her own.

When cochlear implantation was no longer a possibility, we realized that Ava’s best option for language and communication would be American Sign Language. As part of my education, I’d been required to take two courses in Manual Communication, so I already had some basic knowledge of ASL; however, we needed to find a way to educate ourselves and others who would interact with Ava on a regular basis. We were fortunate to be able to hire an instructor to teach a small group in our home. For a year, our extended family, sitter, and church staff/volunteers, met in our home on Saturday afternoons for ASL lessons. That experience was invaluable as it allowed us the opportunity acquire vocabulary and practice our developing skills with one another.

In the midst of this new endeavor, we adopted two more children, both age 4 at the time. Our son’s hearing is within normal limits, our daughter has unilateral microtia/atresia, resulting in a moderate-severe conductive hearing loss. With the use of a bone-conduction hearing aid, she hears within normal limits. I mention this, specifically, because I want to share how using sign language with them, as hearing individuals, impacted their transition into a family, as well as their development.

First and foremost, we were able to bypass most of the frustration that occurs when parents and children don’t speak the same language. Will and Sophie caught on quickly as we signed to support our spoken English. If they didn’t understand what was said, they certainly understood what was signed to them.
They began to sign their own wants and needs almost simultaneously. We were able to meet those needs much more consistently than I’d anticipated and, as a result, they felt secure and cared for. Sign language helped foster trust, thus aiding the attachment process. 

Additionally, signing facilitated their acquisition of spoken English. It helped to cement vocabulary in their minds and was available to them when they had difficulty remembering an English word. Truly, they attained English speaking skills so rapidly that many adults assumed they’d learned a fair amount of English while living in China. In a short time, the two modes of communication seemed to merge and today, at age 8, both are fluent in English and sign language. 

As they have matured, we’ve focused on teaching them to “turn off their voices” so that they can better communicate in American Sign Language. Sophie, especially, can hold her own in a signed conversation and has recently begun discussing what types of careers would allow her to use her knowledge of sign language.
With the addition of siblings, Ava began to blossom. For the first time, she had peers who could communicate with her. As a result, Ava began to look to them as models of appropriate social and developmental skills. She demonstrated an attitude of “if they can do it, so can I!” 

Having said that, the real tipping point occurred when, a year and a half after adopting Will and Sophie, we welcomed Claire into the family. Adopted at age 7 1/2, profoundly deaf and, like Ava, having no formal language system, Claire was a force to be reckoned with. Although she has more hearing ability than Ava, Claire is also not verbal. She arrived, a master of gestures and facial expressions, and brought with her an insatiable desire to learn. The rate at which she acquired both receptive and expressive signing skills was mind-boggling! 

Claire is 6 months younger than Ava; however, she put on the mantle of “First Born” almost immediately. From day 1, she demanded that Ava communicate with her. Although Ava interacted with Will and Sophie, she continued to prefer solitary activities. Claire would have none of that! 


For Ava, having a sibling “like her” was an impetus to – finally – truly engage in the world around her. The parts of her heart that she’d kept so closed off began to open. She gained a confidence in herself that we’d never seen before. Claire’s desire to communicate, along with her natural leadership skills, somehow bridged the gap between older and younger siblings – between deaf and hearing children.
Another unforeseen result of adopting Claire is that, as parents, our signing skills have improved. She’s eager to learn, meaning we must be equipped to teach – which brings me to the topic of education.

For many reasons, when we began to consider educational options for Ava, homeschooling was an obvious choice. Since then, we have continued to homeschool all four children. While I have a background in education, I knew homeschooling a deaf child would mean we’d need to call in additional resources. I met with educators who taught ASL, educators who were certified to teach deaf learners, and persons who were certified ASL interpreters. I sought their guidance as I formulated an educational plan for our daughter. Each of these people offered a unique perspective and supplied us with a wealth of knowledge. Several persons have continued to provide us with much support over the years; for that, I am truly grateful.

If I’ve learned anything as a result of educating our deaf daughters, it’s that flexibility is key. Just as with homeschooling hearing children yet, perhaps more so, there is a lot of trial and error. 

I’ve also realized that part of my role, as teacher, is to allow each child to set her own pace for learning. Sometimes I school the girls together; sometimes one-on-one teaching is a better option so that each child can demonstrate her knowledge and receive support where it’s needed. I’ve learned not to negate the seemingly small victories; such accomplishments are stepping stones for greater achievements.  





 

Finally, I’ve learned to trust my instincts and know my limits. When I find I can’t do it on my own, I reach out for assistance. Social media groups have been an unexpected avenue through which I’ve gleaned wisdom, insight, and innovative ideas.
Currently, homeschooling remains a good learning environment for our daughters; however, we are considering a move so that our daughters can perhaps take advantage of what a school for the deaf could provide them.

In the meantime, we continue to access other resources to meet the educational needs of our children. Over the past several years, we’ve employed the services of tutors to support Ava and Claire’s learning. Our girls have received one-on-one instruction from a certified ASL interpreter and from a teacher for the deaf to help them acquire knowledge in American Sign Language and written English. They have also been a great support for myself as I navigate acquiring for knowledge and schooling the girls in various subjects. 

Additionally, we’ve been fortunate to have my mother step in as the primary educator of our hearing children. Prior to her doing so, I was essentially teaching school in two languages and in trying to meet the needs of everyone, was coming up short. Now we’re able to better address the learning styles of each child as we school separately and when able, in conjunction with one another.

Almost 7 years after beginning our adoption journey, we continue to reap the benefits of using sign language. As we have endeavored to learn and teach a language so very different from our first language, we have learned to persevere. We’ve encountered setbacks and obstacles along this course, but have refused to give up. Through signing, we’ve gained a perspective of acceptance and compassion for others. 

Communicating via sign language is something that many consider so very “different”; however, that difference is our norm. I believe that has gone a long way in enabling us to see beyond others’ differences and to see people for who they are.
Finally, sign language has played a role in unifying us as a family and is an integral component of our lives. Signing has become more than just something we do; it’s part of who we are.

Whether your hope is to teach your child a few basic signs to foster better communication and facilitate spoken English or if, like us, you are diving into learning American Sign Language so that you and your child can communicate with each other, I hope our story can encourage you. 

The road isn’t always easy but with faith and determination, along with a willingness to learn from others, it can be done. 

Step forward, give Him your “yes”… and trust that His plan is good.

What My Eyes Have Seen, Part 4…

This was originally a Facebook post I shared May 29, 2016.  While looking for another article I thought I had shared, I re-read this one and thought I should share it here, too.  There were several who thanked me for sharing this initially and I pray God will use it for whatever He desires.

When God called me to “coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world” He knew what I thought about adoption. He knew the stories I knew of the deep sadness and severed hearts in families of those far and those so close to me. Of families destroyed and torn apart while doing what they thought God had called them to do.

Yes, I questioned, “WHY?” “WHY would you call ME to do this? You KNOW what I have seen with my own eyes?” I have cried with those I loved when they loved seemingly in vain. This was before His call ever came.
I believe that is one reason why His call was so clear, so unmistakable. He knew without it I could never be convinced to do such a thing. He knew my past, what He had allowed and planned for me to experience of adoption. He knew it would impact His calling for me. This journey He has called me to, to walk with those who have been called to adopt is not something I would ever have chosen by choice, but He is the One who does the choosing.
Before, I walked it WITH those He had knitted my life to, because He calls us to “do this life together”. Now, He wants me to take part in this process of willfully bringing the great possibility of pain and suffering into the lives of those families He calls to adopt and the children He places in them.
He knew I would search and search for some way to give hope in the midst of the pain of adoption. And that is the parallel journey He has me on, searching for not only resources for families to embrace to help ease the pain of adoption but for the true purpose of pain and suffering…His purpose!
This life…it is not my own. It is His. He bought it with the precious blood of Jesus Christ His only Son.
Why? Why would I think that earthly adoption would be any less painful than yours and my heavenly adoption? The pain our Savior endured on the cross to approve our adoption into God’s family was beyond anything you and I can truly comprehend. Yes, it was physically one of the most, if not the most, excruciating and horrific ways to die, nailed to a cross and for all the world to see. But what of the pain, the suffering it caused the Trinity? What was it like for the One who knew no sin to become sin for us? We have no idea!
Why would I assume adoption meant ‘happily ever after’ when yours and mine does not? Why do I expect these precious ones who know nothing of love before would willingly embrace love without a time of testing?
How much testing, and for how many years, do you and I force our God through to prove His love for us before we are fully convinced and deeply embrace Him no matter what He allows to touch us and those we love? He died on that cross…is that not enough? Obviously not!
There are those who avoid me because they are afraid I will try to convince them to adopt. The opposite it far more true. I spend much time trying to convince folks not to adopt, UNLESS of course God has “called” them unmistakenly to do so. Once He has convinced them of His plan and families are sure of it, I then tell them the truth about adoption. It is painful. It causes trauma. Many will suffer because of it. It will, however, be the greatest faith-building experience of their lives. They will be forced to depend solely on God to be able to persevere on His lifelong journey called adoption.
The refiner’s fire becomes the hottest just before the dross, the impurities, the sin is set free from the pure and floats to the top to be skimmed off leaving nothing but the purest gold. How we have come to believe this life, this life of following Christ, should be free of pain and suffering I do not know. But unless we can gain a better understanding of His perspective, which is clearly seen in His Word, we will continue to doubt His love when things we call “unloving” happen.
Do I understand fully God’s purpose’s for pain and suffering? Or why He has planned that pain and suffering are what can cause you and I to be what conforms us to the image of His Son? NO! This is a part of that great mystery that you and I must accept by faith. UNLESS He reveals this to us as we are depending on Him as we go through those flames of purifying. That revelation, of the intimacy those who feel with their God “in the midst” of the fire is like nothing else. It cannot be compared to anything of this world, thankfully.
I had not planned to share all of this, but it seems He wanted me to write it down, if just for my benefit.
The earthly adoption of precious children is not the end of the story, but just the beginning. But I believe without His adoption of these precious ones their earthly adoption is in vain. It is His adoption of them that will truly give them life, life abundant and life eternal. Apart from His adoption His will for adoption goes unfulfilled.

When God Honors Our “Yes”: Our Sign Language Journey, Part One

With permission, I am sharing the first of a multi-part blog post series by Vicki Raleigh.  She does not know this, but I began following the Raleigh family’s adoption journey as soon as I found them on the Internet, in 2009.  Their family was one of the first God connected me to through my constant search to learn more about deaf adoption. 

This article beautifully describes what happens “When God Honors Our “Yes”:  Our Sign Language Journey, Part One”

Thank you, Vicki!

In May 2009, I first saw her face. She couldn’t possibly be our daughter; she didn’t “fit” any of the criteria we’d committed to on our Medical Needs Checklist and there was no way my husband would agree to adopting her. True, we’d agreed that caring for a child with cleft lip/palate was something we were capable of, but he’d been clear the added diagnosis of deafness was something too far out of his comfort zone.
Still, her image stayed with me and, on what seemed to be a whim, I found myself inquiring about the little girl with eyes that told a thousand stories.

Fast forward to October of that same year and there we were, meeting our profoundly deaf daughter in Zhengzhou, China. I was in love with her instantly; she was funny, inquisitive, obviously bright, and above all, she gave me the gift of motherhood.
On the flip side, we saw signs of much greater deficits than we’d expected. Our daughter, while quick to explore her surroundings, was far removed from any sort of real engagement with others. She was withdrawn, detached, and made no eye contact.

Acronyms and words such as ADHD and institutional autism were discussed. We felt in over our heads; we were terrified. Nevertheless, she was our daughter and we were committed to do everything in our power to enable her to form relationships, to learn, and to thrive.

Prior to meeting Ava, we’d made plans to communicate with her via sign language. We were unsure of the degree of hearing loss but knew that she had no formal language system in place. From day one, we signed to her and began teaching her signs as well.

She was a quick study and would humor us by signing a request, when prompted, but in those first days it was obvious she had no understanding that sign language was a tool that would allow her wants and needs to be met.

I’ve heard it said that you have to find a child’s “currency”; we discovered Ava’s on October 31, 2009. In a hallway of the The White Swan, trick-or-treating with other adoptive families, Ava discovered that if she signed “candy”, a little candy-coated bit of chocolate would be dropped into her hand. It was her “light bulb” moment; over and over, as fast as her little hands could move, she requested candies and popped them into her mouth! For the first time, I had real hope that we could reach this little girl who seemed so removed from the world.

Once home, as we continued to foster communication with sign language, we began the process of cochlear implantation (CI). At 5 years old, and with absolutely no hearing, CI would likely not enable Ava to acquire verbal language as her only mode of communication. Our hope was that it would give her more environmental awareness and perhaps afford her some speech capabilities that would be further supported by sign language.

It was not to be. Ava was implanted in February 2011 and subsequent to a cerebrospinal fluid leak and bacterial meningitis, the implant was removed in April of that same year. A second implant was deemed too great a risk; CI was no longer an option.

So there we were, grieving the loss of all we’d hoped for, uncertain of what the future would hold for our daughter, and wondering if we’d totally “missed God” in this endeavor. Everything we’d done had been done in obedience to Him and out of love for our daughter; now it seemed He was telling us “No, this is not for her, not for your family.” We were disoriented, angry, and wounded. We were battle-weary warriors, ready to surrender.

Then one morning, while still in the hospital recovering from the latest surgery, God spoke to me. He reminded me that while these were troubling days, we would, in the future, recount how He brought forth beauty from ashes. He works all things for our good and this would be no exception.




I’ll be very honest. When that CI was removed, it felt as though the ground beneath us had shaken, split, and was swallowing us as we tumbled, aimlessly, down into a chasm. As we’d gone through the process to acquire a cochlear implant, our vision of Ava’s future had become centered around her having some level of hearing, with some possible speech skills. Everything we’d begun to envision for her was hinged on her having a cochlear implant and now it felt as if all was being snatched away from her. 

We were imagining a life for Ava based on our perspectives as hearing people; we had to accept that such a viewpoint wasn’t fair to our daughter.
Her life would be no less meaningful or purpose-filled without a cochlear implant. Supporting our daughter meant we needed a change in perspective – one that included American Sign Language

Personally, as a speech-language pathologist, I had now entered territory that was beyond my scope of knowledge. I had a good grasp of general sign language but no real understanding of American Sign Language, which is a true language, vastly different from English. 

ASL was something we’d thought we’d dive into if, and when, the time came. That thought process now seems very naïve; however, in addition to attempting to form attachment and give our daughter vocabulary and basic communication skills, we’d been busy addressing other medical needs related to her cleft lip/palate, as well as various other developmental delays so often present in children who have been institutionalized. 

Signing with Ava was paramount but learning ASL had taken a back seat. Once again, we found ourselves stepping out in faith and saying “yes” to the unknown as we endeavored to learn a new language. Our sole ambition in doing so was to be able to truly connect and communicate with our daughter. 






Five years later, God’s word to me has come to fruition. Ava is an amazing 11 year old who is happy, healthy, and thriving. She’s become one of the most securely attached children I know and she is fully engaged in life and relationships.

She loves to create, whether it’s painting/drawing, constructing, or making jewelry. She also enjoys swimming and horseback riding. Science, particularly life science, fascinates her; she has an insatiable curiosity for spiders and insects, a love for any and all marine life, and thoroughly enjoys gardening.

Ava has made tremendous strides in all facets of development. The delays and behaviors we witnessed in those early days have either disappeared or become almost nonexistent. We give credit to our miracle-working God for the transformation that has occurred in our precious girl. Signing, specifically, learning ASL, has been key to her development, education, and attachment. ASL opened doors that had been locked for so many years and Ava continues to walk through doors to new possibilities.

Our adoption journey to Ava, walking through some very dark days, and eventually learning ASL has opened doors for us, as parents, too. We have since adopted three more children from China. Our youngest daughter has moderate-severe hearing loss in one ear and our middle daughter is, like Ava, profoundly deaf. She receives some benefit from hearing aids but ASL is her sole form of communication.


I know that, had we not experienced life with Ava, we’d have found it very difficult to agree to adopt the children we now call ours. I hate to think how we could have missed out on our greatest blessings!

We’ve become a bilingual family – something we never imagined in our journey to become parents. Our deaf children offer a unique perspective on the world and it is one which fascinates me. I never imagined that first yes – stepping out of our comfort zone to adopt a profoundly deaf child – would lead to the family we have now. I am so very grateful that it did.

I am ever-reminded that even when God says “no”, He will honor our “yes”.

Click here for Part 2


Signs for Hope ASL-Immersion Family Retreat 2016!

WHEW!!  That was a lot of work!   And FUN!




Worth every minute of it!


Matthew 18:5, “Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me.”


Plans for next year’s family retreat have already begun with lots more volunteers ready to assist!  Praise God!

It is funny…God’s will. Sometimes it is exactly what we think it is, but often it is not anything like we think it is.

This family retreat was “in the works” for over 3 years.  Families adopting deaf children were begging to get together and then hearing families were begging for help with their ASL learning. 

I prayed! Others prayed!  I shared and searched and searched some more and thought the doors would open here or there, somewhere, but they did not.

Until…this past October 2015.  The contract was signed in early November and I let our SFH board members know the dates, immediately. Somehow, I thought they could all be a part of this first ever SFH ASL-Immersion Family Retreat, but it was not to be. 

I have had three years to plan and re-plan, in my mind, our first SFH family retreat using much of the training I have received over the past 3+ years relating to children who come from “hard places” and also attending a Joni & Friends Family Retreat as a STM (Short Term Missionary) three summers ago. 

When God did not open the way for all our SFH board members (general and/or advisory) to join us, I just kept moving forward. How could I not?  The need was great! 

We were so blessed to have two SFH board members, one advisory and one general, join us and their commitment and sacrifice to do whatever asked was encouraging and so needed.

Maybe I was hoping He had a plan for others to join me, in time?  I never really considered abandoning this years family retreat, even though I knew things were not going as they should, having a detailed plan in place, on paper not just in my head, and a full team of volunteers to help facilitate every detailed part of the plan. 

Psalm 10:14, “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; You consider it to take it in hand.  The victim commits himself to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless.”

I KNEW there would be many unfinished plans, lack of clear communication, especially as the date for retreat grew closer.  There was NO WAY I could get everything done and in place in time. We just did not have an adequate number of volunteer staff. Yes, the framework was there for all.  And everything I wanted for the hearing families to experience was in place, i.e., bringing these families together and providing an ASL-rich encouraging environment for all.  However, as the details and volunteers for the children’s program did not match the number of children families both deaf adopting families and our Deaf support families were bringing…YIKES! 







No, I never wanted to do all this all myself.  Are you kidding me?  I already have plenty on my plate to keep me on my toes, every single day. 

I do know how to delegate when I have volunteers ready, willing and able.  God has gifted me that way.  I have planned and organized events well on this scale before, but I had dozens of volunteers from the beginning each with a skilled leader I knew personally as their guide, in place in plenty of time.
So why did God allow these inadequacies to go on for our first family retreat? Why did He not provide what we prayed for…adequate volunteers and Deaf support staff?  Why were all our SFH board members not able to join us? 

Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, 
Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”


Some would say it was because this was just not HIS timing for our family retreat, we should have only moved forward when we had every person needed and in place to do so.  I would tend to agree most of the time with that thinking, as it has biblical foundations.  And that is my approach for our 2017 family retreat.  I am a firm believer in the orderliness of our God and His desire to do things with great quality and not just halfway. 

However, this time I believe it was to spread God’s vision for SFH beyond those already involved.  God did provide some willing Deaf volunteers, at the last minute–His perfect timing–some with no experience at all with adopted children whatsoever and some who had adopted deaf children.  Those who had no experience with adopted children learned much in the three days they interacted with our hearing families and their adopted deaf children and they want to come back next year for more, as do the others. 





Intermediate ASL class for hearing parents who have adopted Deaf children.


Helping educate His Church one-by-one in how they can obey the command to ‘care for the orphan’ (James 1:27), when not called to adopt, is always on our radar.  Giving them the opportunity to see how different it is to raise an adopted child, especially one with deafness and no language prior to coming home, helps them connect with and support these families in ways they never could had they not “done life with them” at family retreat. 

In addition, the staff at Bonclarken Conference Center, the place for our first family retreat, went above and beyond to accommodate and serve us in every way.  This began with our initial visit there in October and continued throughout the retreat. Had this not been such a good fit and partnership, with so many uncertainties surrounding our first family retreat, I suspect I would have been easily tempted to cancel this year’s event.

There were no expectations placed on us for providing the specific number of folks joining us until about 10 days prior to the retreat and then we were granted flexibility to add folks right up until Thursday at check-in. Which we did.  We were not required to pay for anything we did not use.  $200 held our dates from November and they would not even accept a partial payment one month prior to the retreat saying we would settle up the week after retreat.  THIS was the most tangible reason why I continued to push forward fully knowing our staff insufficiencies.  ONLY GOD!

Yes, discussions are ongoing for next year’s family retreat and folks are volunteering to fill in those vacancies of leadership.  I now know them and together we will make improvements.  As soon as the dates are secured and a contract signed, we will begin promoting family retreat 2017 fully for volunteers and families.  Praise God!

Now, allow me to share some very interesting facts surrounding this year’s SFH ASL-Immersion Family Retreat!

Asheville Deaf Church joined us for worship on Sunday and our children were eager to learn the signs to the song, Jesus Is Champ!


Ten hearing families joined us from five states with their hearing biological children and their adopted deaf children.  One family had multiple adopted hearing children, as well.  These families brought twelve deaf children who were adopted from China, Poland, India and the US Foster Care System.  We had six hearing couples. One couple is in process to adopt their first deaf child, one was a hearing single mom, one was a hearing dad attending without his wife and adopted deaf son. They are missionaries in the Philippines, their deaf son is Filipino and mom and son were still in the Philippines. And one hearing grandmother took a hearing dad’s place. 

Yup!  A hearing grandmother is learning ASL to communicate with her two deaf adopted grandsons. 

James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. And to keep oneself unpolluted by the world.”


Our 4 Deaf families (support staff) who have adopted Deaf children and biological children, served either in the children’s program or in our hearing parents program each morning and evening.  We had a Deaf grandmother of one of our Deaf support family’s join us, as well.  And the hearing mother of one of our Deaf support staff brought her therapy dog for all to love on.  

We ended up with 65 children ages 16 mos. to 17, with the majority of the children being 7 or under.  Many of our older hearing siblings became “helpers” with the younger children.  There were some great blessings observed with this. 

Next year, I am praying we have a 3 to 1 ratio of adult volunteers to children and ample space to spread them out appropriately, with additional volunteers to facilitate the behind the scenes activities as needed.



Our own family and friends support staff, some local and some not so local, were invaluable in their support and help.  No they do not know sign language.  Their support began even before set-up on Thursday morning and included grilling Thursday and Saturday evenings meals, baking cakes, decorating and/or serving for our parents special event, driving golf carts to transport things and people, to the clean-up after Asheville Deaf Church joined us for worship and lunch on Sunday.  You guys were great!

What would we have done without each of you?!?!

There are three ways you can help us prepare for next year’s family retreat. 

You can thank God for what He allowed to happen at this years family retreat.  I shared many of our hearing families comments and photos in our May/June 2016 PrayerLetter here

You can join us in asking for God to continue to provide the needed volunteer staff and the needed donations specifically for our SFH ASL-Immersion Family Retreat 2017. 

And you can ask Him if He wants you to join with us next time. 



Matthew 25: 45, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these, you did it unto Me.”




“So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child”, Part 13 of…


This post has been on hold long enough.  This is #13 in a series entitled, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”  There are many more just waiting to be written, completed and shared.

To be linked with the other 12 start here.
 

Yes, I have covered much of this in previous blog posts, beginning in June of 2014.  But the ongoing day-to-day challenges and frustrations that our Signs for Hope families face, who have adopted children with deafness, mandate the need for this redundant post.

This often comes from the new families who have adopted deaf children God connects to us sometimes on a daily basis and sometimes in crisis. 

Do not!  I repeat…DO NOT…adopt a deaf/HOH child thinking this is going to be easy!

Technology does NOT make this easy!  In fact, I believe it makes it harder! 

I will dedicate an entire post to support that opinion with research, soon.

Even if you are ASL-fluent, this will NOT BE EASY!


Adoption Agency Staff…PLEASE DO NOT tell your families, “The deaf/HOH child is an easy special needs adoption.”  If you have not checked in recently with your own families who have adopted deaf children, do so.  See how they truly are doing, before you proceed with any additional placements of children with deafness.

Deafness!  No family!  No formal natural language exposure!  No formal education exposure!

A
deaf older child fluent in another sign language and then placed with a non-signing or newly signing family!  Please, do not do this, please!!
And if that is not enough…

Trauma – possible in utero, during birth mom’s pregnancy!

Trauma – possible during labor & delivery, premature birth, early hospitalization!

Trauma – from institutionalization & abandonment, lack of nurture & neglect!

Add to that…

The very real probability of multiple abuses, verbal (truly the nonverbal body language since they cannot hear), physical and more often than I care to think about… sexual abuse.


All of the above have great impact on the brain’s development, or lack thereof, of adopted children with deafness.  Research is growing in so many of these areas relating to deaf children, especially those who have been abandoned and institutionalized with no exposure to an environment of natural language learning of any kind during that critical period, that first year of life.

Since some of you are thinking this, I will go ahead and mention it.

If by some miracle the deaf/HOH child you are seeking to adopt was abandoned at a older age you may be thinking they MIGHT have received that initial nurture/bonding in their birth family’s home, prior to abandonment.  Even if they did, the shear challenge of dealing with abandonment can negate all that.  And their deafness has prevented them from being exposed fully to a spoken language whereby creating that great deficit during the first year of life. 
The brain is the central command center for every system within the human body.  God designed it in such a way that “connection” with others is the fuel it needs to develop uniquely according to His plan.  Research now proves even babies between the age of 4 and 6 months recognize language over non-language and choose to turn toward it repeatedly.  Removing  “connection” through neglect, lack of nurture and lack of natural language exposure leaves challenges for a lifetime.


I recently completed an online course at Gallaudet University, offered by the Linguistics Department and will be sharing the incredible research related to the above in the near future.

The reality is, these many challenges require many years of tireless devotion by adoptive parents to help their adopted deaf child(ren) to reach their greatest potential socially, emotionally, academically, mentally and spiritually.  Often this comes without much effort or commitment from the deaf child(ren) themselves.  Lack of self-motivation by their adopted deaf child(ren) to learn and achieve successes is a common complaint among our families.   

The delays in exposure to language because of deafness brings with it cognitive, emotional and social deficits and delays, which can lead to a variety of disorders in these areas.  Often times these cannot be fully overcome, no matter how much opportunity and time is invested for such. This research is based on children with deafness born to hearing parents, not those coming from abandonment and/or institutionalization backgrounds.

Even after deaf children have been “home” for as long as 5 years parent’s expectations for improvements go unmet.  One of the hardest realities for parents is keeping an accurate perspective on the “real” age of their adopted deaf child.  The chronological age of the deaf child is so far removed from their real behavior-age, which is usually much less than half their age in months and years.

One way of keeping this more realistic is to ask families and then remind them often to think of their deaf son or daughter’s birth date as being the first day they bring them “home”.  Keep in mind though, they are not a “blank slate”, but rather this child already has deficits and delays, since they have never received what God intended in utero and from birth on, naturally...full nurture and full language.  And they have survival skills you and I will never understand, fully.

This is why I stress the need for families to be fully convinced this is God’s plan, not theirs before adopting.  This is why families who proceed with the adoption of a child with deafness must have a strong support system securely around them.  Even then, we have families who tell us that support system they thought was in place, was not in reality and disappeared once they brought their son or daughter home. This is not only those who can identify with them in the challenging adoption process, which is lifelong, but it is a support system that can and will support them in the deafness aspects, as well.

If you are a believer and you are reading this post, no matter if you are seeking to adopt or seeking to place a child with deafness…PLEASE pray before you proceed and pray every time. Do not trust something just because you have always thought this way or that or done it this way or that.  Joshua made assumptions about God’s plans for attacking Ai on the heels of his miraculous win in Jericho.  Thirty-six Israelites died because of Joshua’s lack of seeking His plan, His way.  And there was disobedience to deal with, as well; sin in the camp.  You and I must seek Him constantly when making decisions of this magnitude.

Let me pose a few questions for which I do not yet know the answers, fully:

Is there a BETTER way?


Is the trauma adoption causes equal to the trauma of no adoption
, at times?


AND

When is it “BEST practices” to support deaf children in their own countries in “family homes” with the $25,000+ it costs for one international adoption?

I am not asking you to do something I will not be doing, as well.  I will keep on asking, seeking and knocking until He gives me the answers and all for His glory! 

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding; 

 in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 
 

BECKY’S WORLD BAZAAR!

WHATBecky’s World Bazaar! 
 

Shopping for special treasures from around the world for
Mother’s Day, birthdays, or “Just For Me Day”!

WHERE
– 149 Churchill Downs Drive, Fairview, NC  28730
WHEN – Friday, April 29 & Saturday, April 30; 9:30 – 4:30 each day!
WHY – I am helping our hearing families who have adopted Deaf children & our Deaf Staff (short-term missionaries) raise funds to attend our  first annual Signs for Hope
ASL-Immersion Family Retreat June 2 – 5.
My travels have taken me to the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria and Vietnam since my last open house in November! 

I have many new treasures to share with you!

And we will certainly accept your donations, which are always tax deductible!

Donate securely here on the blog or mail a check of any amount to: Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730

Note:  If these dates and times are not good for you, I will make private showing appts. after or before these hours.  Just ask! 
beckyblloyd@gmail.com    828-691-2581

Short-term Missionary Needed – ASL instructor/tutor in Honduras!

ASL-fluent Short-term Missionary Need!
 
1 – 2 year commitment in Honduras!
 
 
Join a hearing missionary family as they begin their Spanish language learning in Siguatepeque, Honduras later this year.  They have multiple biological and adopted children and one of them is deaf, so this little one and his hearing family need help learning ASL while on the mission field.   
 

 
Requirements:  Two years teaching ASL and at least 5 years immersion in the ASL community. 
Please submit your detailed resume’ asap to becky@signsforhope.org for consideration.
You will need to raise your own support. 

Please share this need with others!  

Deaf Adoption for the Harrison Family – $750 SFH Matching Grant!!

HELP  BRING  EVAN  HARRISON  HOME!!
 

Evan – 23 months old, China


                  Signs for Hope – $750 matching grant! 


For each dollar received Signs for Hope will add a dollar to match it, up to $750.  
                                                          
                                                     
   Total$1,500!! 

Kris and Anne Harrison live in Walla Walla, WA with their 3 biological children and Evan will make their 3rd adopted child.

 

Our son’s name is Evan. He is 23 months old and was born with bilateral atresia. It basically means he is missing his little ears. Our family has committed to love him and become his advocate. For the last 6 months we have been working with a private tutor learning sign language and preparing our family to bring him home. While we have a long way to go, we are beginning to understand the unique calling before us and the beautiful, courageous community of the deaf and hard of hearing.


But more than anything, we want Evan to feel the warmth of our loving arms around him and to help him heal the wounds in his heart he doesn’t yet know he bears. We want to step into his loss and help him carry the load as he grows into the man God will have him become. Our heart’s desire is to stop the lie that he is not worth fighting for. Because he is.  Our family knows first hand that lives that can be saved by saying yes to adoption. We have seen what love and time can do to heal wounds and hearts.


We have raised $33,000 thus far and are still needing to raise about $7,500 for our travel and incountry expenses. 

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Travel approval was received today, by Kris and Anne and they will be picking Evan up in less than 3 weeks!

Please join with Signs for Hope in bringing Evan home to the Harrisons!   Click the “Donate” link above or mail a check payable to:

Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730.

                       God places the lonely in families.  

                                          Psalm 68:6

Ponderings, While In Sofia Bulgaria January 2016!

This blog post originated from four Facebook posts I shared while in Sofia, Bulgaria for a Deaf adoption in January of 2016.  
Christopher Collicott – September 2015


January 22, 2016

“Much to ponder these days! These are just some of the verses His Spirit is bringing to mind, tonight. The concepts that He is impressing on me:
What is our “reasonable service”? To be a living holy sacrifice to God. Notice this is reasonable, because of what Christ has done and is doing for me, not radical.
The life I now live, is not mine. It is Christ’s. It does not belong to me. When I think it does, I have stolen it from Him, for my glory and not His.
“Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the compassions of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy to God, well-pleasing, which is your reasonable service.”

~Romans 12:1
“I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

~Galatians 2:20
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
~1 Corinthians 6:19-20″

January 23, 2016

Something to ponder…


God did not reveal the truth of these verses to me until He called me into Orphan Care. And even then, it has been a process of revelation. He never called me to adopt, but He has called each of us to care for the orphan and the widow. AND He calls us to keep a tight rein on our tongues so we are not deceived by our own careless words. In addition, we are called to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. What if you and I started making a list of how the world has polluted us; how long would our lists be??? And what should we begin to eliminate from that list???

While adoption has it’s place under the umbrella of Orphan Care, if we, His Church were caring for the widow (and her children who are at-risk of becoming orphans) and the at-risk-fatherless family, as we should be, the number of orphans and those in the foster care systems in our world would decrease. Do not misunderstand me, “caring for” means walking alongside of them, connecting them to a variety of sources of support, empowering them to care for their children and discipling them. It does not mean paying their way. We will be held accountable.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
~James 1:26-27

January 24, 2016

Sofia, Bulgaria – Only 7 days left!

What my eyes have seen, these last 6 days!

THE UNKNOWN!! That seems to be what causes the most fear, sometimes. Once the unknown becomes known…that fear often is completely dispelled!

Watching Lisa, the PICU nurse who God sent here to help Doug, Lynda and Erikka learn how to care for Christopher has been an experience I will never forget. While I am not surprised by all that is taking place, I am moved that our God has chosen to reveal so much to all of us during this time together. When you do life this close with others, He delights in it and He shows up in ways we cannot think or even imagine. You are a part of all of this as you pray, tear-up over the pictures and videos and as your heart is softened toward our God and His unconditional love that cannot be explained.

So many of you prayed for Lisa without knowing who she was, but God knew her and He knew she was the best for this family. Several of you prayed and asked God if YOU were the one to be with this precious family, but you were not. Thank you for asking Him to show you clearly. Lisa’s experience in other countries with hundreds of children (maybe thousands) is invaluable and that experience makes training the Collicott family seem like just an every day event. The flexibility and confidence Lisa has translates into helping these three learn how easily NG tube feeding can be accomplished…and it can be done just about anywhere. The knowledge she has and is giving to them is vast, it is freeing and it will be life-changing as they move forward caring for their new son and brother, Christopher Collicott.

Watching Christopher’s transformation in just 6 days has taken my breath several times. Some of what we see reflects on the positive care he has had for the past, almost 6 years of his life. No, not all of it has been positive, but some things that he can do and does reveals someone did care along the way and that cannot be ignored. Be assured our God is keeping all His promises to the least of the least, even though you and I do not understand fully, how that possibly can be true.

If we stormed heaven with prayers, daily and without ceasing, for these children and their caregivers, I dare say our God’s response would be far more miraculous than any other action we could initiate. The eternal impact would also be destiny-changing for many. Please refrain from passing judgement as that is NOT our responsibility, instead our responsibility is to PRAY continuously and without ceasing for God’s Spirit to touch hearts that are hard, so they can become soft, not just toward these precious children He has created but for the Creator, Himself. And our actions toward not only these children, but also toward their care givers must reflect the love of Christ, as well. We are the ones mandated to share the love of Christ with everyone we meet. He is the One responsible to give the increase for lives to be changed forever because they have been exposed to a God, through you and me, who loves deeply and forgives completely.
At the same time, we must ask God to make us ready and willing for whatever it is He has planned for us to do in this process. Be assured, as we pray for those we believe to be the enemies of these children, God will give us His heart for them. If you think about it, you and I were once in the same place, with hard hearts against Him, enemies of God, and that is when Jesus Christ came and died for us all…while we were yet sinners! ONLY GOD!!

January 25, 2016

Who is to BLAME!?!

This morning, Monday morning in Sofia, Bulgaria, I was checking FB to see what was “new” since I went to bed last night. We are 7 hours ahead of ET in the US. As I have been catching up on your lives over night and on Christopher’s night, to see maybe if he slept well or not, God’s Spirit brought a familiar story to mind.

Placing blame on others for another’s pain and suffering or injustice is something we humans do constantly and very well, sadly. This is not new to our generation or to our country of America. In fact, the disciples did it long ago. I believe I have much to learn from their human desire to place blame… somewhere. This story mandates that I must gain a better God-perspective, not just on Christopher’s life, but on everything and…”What My Eyes Have Seen”.

“As He [Jesus] went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
~John 9:1-3

This is one of the Biblical stories God has revealed to me as I try constantly to understand His perspective and not trust my human/limited perspective on pain and suffering He allows in this fallen world because of sin. I have a couple of blog posts about this journey beginning in 2012 entitled, “Pain & Suffering…His Plan?” on the Signs for Hope blog. www.signs4hope.blogspot.com

Here is a blind adult man (blind from birth) who has endured many years (surely at least 20) filled with much oppression, depression, full dependence on others even into adulthood possibly, and only God knows what else. Jesus is clear, neither he nor his parents sinned to cause this life of darkness. Instead God planned this blindness for the explicit purpose He had planned for this man even before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) “so that the works of God might be displayed in him”.

So often, when we hear of “innocent children” being abused in whatever ways, our first thought is one of disdain for those who are “guilty” of such atrocities. Who is to blame?
Had this blind man been born, today, in many countries of our world his life might look much like Christopher’s. As an infant he would possibly have been placed in an institution as his mom would feel she could not adequately care for him. Yes, her heart would break, but…
What if…our thoughts went FIRST to “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” instead of…? You fill in the blank with your first thoughts of blame surrounding Christopher’s history.

And if you and I still feel the need to “blame” someone, maybe it should be God that we blame?!?! Who do you and I blame for the pain and suffering and death of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son? Maybe the Jews or the Romans or maybe we take blame because of our own sin. Acts 2:23 is clear, God Himself takes full responsibility for the pain and suffering His Son endured for you and for me. And He is God and He is the One who chose the details of His plan of salvation for you and for me and He chose it to include pain and suffering for His only Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

What will by my response?  What will be your response?

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The Collicott Family picks up Christopher in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria!


TO GOD BE THE GLORY! 
GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE!

Year-End Giving 2015!

I am always thanked for this reminder!  

Make donations to Signs for Hope securely online, just click “DONATE”.

OR


Mail donations to:

Signs for Hope
PO Box 460
Fairview, NC 28730

As long as donations are mailed in 2015 they will count in 2015.

Donations made by credit card in 2015 will count in 2015 even if they are not paid until 2016.

We are an all-volunteer organization and your funds will directly benefit deaf children here and around the world.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”~Luke 6:38

When Love Is NOT Enough!



This is a perspective God gave me several years ago when praying for and sharing with frustrated, frazzled and burned-out adoptive and fostering families and He reminds me of it often.  I am sure He has given this insight to others, as well. 

The myth that love IS enough when it comes to adoption and foster care is staggering!

“My love for him will make up for all the pain and suffering he has endured in the orphanage and from being abandoned!”

“She just needs someone to truly love her!”
“If I could have loved him more, things would have turned out differently!”
Fostering and/or adopting a child brings with it many expectations, some realistic and some not so realistic.  False assumptions and unrealistic expectations are often cause for much collateral damage in families who are fostering and/or adopting children. 

Assuming you will instantly “fall-in-love-with” the child you are fostering or adopting may or may not come to pass, ever.  The reverse is often true. Just because someone bears the name “daddy” or “mommy” or “son” or “daughter” does not automatically ensure connection and attachment will reflect these titles, naturally.

So often we falsely believe that love is just an emotion and that a mother’s love or a father’s love for a child that is fostered or adopted, just comes naturally.  Sometimes even loving our biological child can be challenging.

Love is so much more than just a feeling or emotion!  Most often, it is an act of the will.  We choose to love or choose not to love.  How do you and I truly love someone, unconditionally, especially when they are not easy to love and even reject the love we give them?  This can be our love for a spouse, a mother or father, or even a biological child.  And it can easily be the child you are fostering or have adopted.  


The first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 is…love. 


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.”


Before I go any farther, let’s unpack the English word…LOVE…in the Greek language. 

In the Greek language, there are at least 4 types of love with 4 different words to define each, however they are all translated into English by our one word…love. As you can imagine this is cause for great misunderstandings as we read and study the scriptures if we are unaware of this limitation in translation.

The 4 types of love in Greek are:

1)  Agape – God’s perfect unconditional love for me and for you, even when we were His enemies, not dependent on our loving Him in return, ever.

2)  Phileo – To strongly like something or someone.  To feel an attachment to.  When you and I say we “love” chocolate or coffee or the sunset, phileo is the appropriate Greek word.  When you and I have a strong bond with another Christian brother or sister, phileo is the appropriate Greek word for this kind of love. 

3)  Storge – This is the love that is often experienced within a family, for each other.  While this Greek word for love, storge, is not found in the scriptures it is found in conjunction with phileo, philostorgos, in Romans 12:10:
 

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

This combination of these two loves, phileo and storge, represents the Spiritual bond we have with each other, as believer’s in Christ, brothers and sisters, God’s sons and daughters, which can often supersede the bond we have with a biological relative, especially if they are not a follower of Christ.


4)  Eros – This is the kind of love which is most closely related to our emotions and represents physical, self-seeking, self-satisfying actsThis is where our English word erotic originates.  Eros is not found in the scriptures, however it does represent the Greek culture of the Corinthians which was focused on many gods with the most infamous being their god of love…Aphrodite. The ultimate love, agape love, God’s love for you and for me which is unconditional and does not depend on our returning love to Him, is the only kind of love that will endure and bear all things.  1 Corinthians 13 describes in detail what agape love is and what it is not. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”~1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

If this is NOT a description of the love you and I have for others, we should repent and ask God to fill us to overflowing with His Spirit’s agape love for others, even those we have a hard time loving. And we should ask Him to fill us with agape love so we can love Him equally and unconditionally in return.
In reality, even if a parent chooses to love a child with agape love, the God kind of love, the love that endures all things, the end result may or may not be evidenced by their love returned.  
Really?  How can that be?

Imagine with me for a moment a home environment that is perfect in every way.  It is a beautiful home with just the right amount of everything needed to provide an environment conducive for all family members to love each other and to thrive together.  A father who loves his children perfectly and unconditionally, always.   And a home where the father only gives one “no” among an innumerable number of “yes-es”.  

Suddenly this peaceful and contented home becomes a place of turmoil as the children decide to disobey the one command and they are expelled from their perfect home.

The biblical example God gave me for this realization comes from Genesis, God’s own story of His perfect family, in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

God the Father loved His children, Adam and Eve, perfectly with agape-love and yet they chose to turn their backs on that perfect love and disobey their Father when tempted by the Evil One.  Even God’s love, as perfect as it is, does not force another to love Him in return.  Agape-love is always a choice. 

 


Then you have those of us who are also loved unconditionally by this same perfect love, agape love, by our perfect Father in Heaven and we just cannot seem to accept it fully on face value.  We somehow cannot truly believe it is a free gift.  Some how, some way we have to do something to earn it. 

And…

When my own thoughts and actions are not instantly lovingly obedient all the time, as God’s own beloved daughter, how does that make my adoptive Father in Heaven feel? 

When I forget to thank Him for the vast number of blessings He has given me, freely and undeserved, how does that make Him feel?  When I refuse to accept His best and settle for something else, how does that make Him feel? When I tell Him “no” knowing full well it is His plan, which is always in my best interest, how does that make Him feel?  When I choose to ignore or doubt the promises He has made to me, even when I do not see them fleshed out, how does that make Him feel?  How about when I misquote His words and twist them into something He never said, how does that make Him feel?  When I go days or even just a few hours without thinking once about Him, or speaking with Him, how does that make Him feel?  When He tells me “NO” and I do it anyway, how does that make Him feel?  What about when He wants me to do something a certain way and I just want to do it My way, how does that make Him feel?  The list goes on and on.

The way I treat my heavenly Father who has adopted me into His only truly forever family is how God helps me better identify both with those being adopted into earthly families and families obeying God’s call to adopt children here on this earth.  This correlation between how adoptive children treat their adoptive parents and the way I treat my own adoptive daddy, God, is constantly on my mind.  In addition, I cannot help but stop to think about how my selfish, self-centered, attitude causes my Father in heaven grief and disappointment.  No, He is not surprised by it because He knows all about my baggage and my sinful nature, but I do believe He is still wounded by my disobedience, compromise, pride and lack of faith…just to name a few.

Does He ever say, “I do not like you right now, but I still LOVE you?”  NO!  His love or like for you and for me is never based on our behavior, right or wrong, it is always and only based on His character and His unconditional love, His agape love, for us…ALWAYS!

If fact it was while you and I were still sinners that Jesus died for us.  We were enemies of God.  And yet, in all our mess and chaos He died to save us from our sin.

I suspect He often feels much the same as parents of children, adopted and some biological, who act the same as I mentioned above.  This is the perspective He is constantly bringing to my mind. 

When I hear and read the stories of adopted children doing this or that and the collateral damage it causes within families, He quickly shows me the things I am doing which causes collateral damage within His and my own heavenly family. 

So when the agape-love you show others is trampled on, you now know you are in good company as you and I are constantly trampling on His agape-love for you and for me, as are those who reject Him fully.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
~Romans 5:6-8

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:12-13







T4A 2015 God-Connections! ONLY GOD!!

It has been a while since I stopped long enough to share specifics surrounding His never-ending, awe-inspiring…God-connections.  They always take me by surprise and I cannot help but smile and shake my head in disbelief.  This year’s Together for Adoption conference certainly was full of them. 

They started during the Thursday afternoon pre-conference.  The presenter had us each introduce ourselves and state why we were there.  There were about 25 of us in attendance.  At the break, one of the other attendees came over to confirm what I had said.  His wife teaches at the Florida school for the Deaf in St. Augustine.  I told him I have multiple Deaf family members living in St. Augustine.  We shared contact information for whatever God might have in store for us in the future.

 

Exhibit booths were open during registration after the pre-conference.  Charles and I dutifully placed ourselves at ours.  Originally, the Signs for Hope booth had been assigned to a rather obscure place. When I saw the map of the vendors and their placements, my first thought was, “No one will even know we are there.”  Almost immediately, His Spirit reminded me of the many God-connections He makes even when I do not have a booth at orphan care events.  He’s got this!  Two days before the conference I received notification our booth had been moved to a new spot, since one of the vendors had pulled out.  When I saw the new placement, in the auditorium at the back next to an entrance, I was humbled. 

Within a few moments I greeted one of the volunteers standing at the entrance.  He said he had already noticed our booth and told me his daughter was in Deaf Education in Durham, NC.  A few moments later, another volunteer came closer and began to talk about whether or not she would adopt again.  She was afraid she was getting too old.  Of her multiple adoptions one daughter was deaf and another son Hard-of-Hearing.  The exhibitor manning the Bair Foundation booth next to us was fascinated by what God has called us to and wanted to know if she could connect her brother who is working with orphans in Ethiopia to us?  Yes, of course!

Following the general session, multiple folks stopped by the SFH booth and again on Friday and Saturday morning. One couple was thrilled to see us and took a business card so they could connect her sister and brother-in-law in Greenville, SC to us since they are in the process of adopting a deaf child. 

I shared our T4A trip on my FB page on Wednesday and was contacted by a young lady, living in Durham, who had been connected to me by a dear friend a few months ago.  Was there a time we could meet while I was in town?  Of course.  We spent about an hour and a half together during the dinner break Friday night.  It will be exciting to see how God continues this connection.

One of these days, I will have to start keeping up with these, as they happen, so we can all know the exact count.  Suffice it to say, the percentage of folks who had deafness connections was very disproportionate to the number of attendees…which was about three hundred. 

We found out on Saturday, just after the conference ended, a third T4A presenter, I knew of two previously, was a dad of multiple adopted Deaf children. It is always fascinating to see where God has placed precious Deaf children. 

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Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21
 




Don’t Be Fooled…Pure Religion is Far More Than Just Adoption!

On this Orphan Sunday and following the Together for Adoption Conference, below are my observations, musings and ramblings. 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
~James 1:26-27

Together for Adoption 2015

As always, God is constantly growing me spiritually by causing my roots to grow deeper in Him and His Word and by His pruning my unfruitful, sinful branches.  Our spiritual growth can be painful and is certainly humbling, but it is great benefit for His Kingdom and His glory. 

If you do not experience this when His Word is read, preached, taught, discussed or meditated upon…well, let’s just say you might want to do some serious self-soul-searching and ask Him, “Why not?” 


From the beginning, March 18, 2008 that day I will never forget, when God said, “I want you to coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world”, He has made sure I never mistakenly focused on just the first part of James 1:27, but the entire verse.  Not until this past weekend at the Together for Adoption conference, did He lead me to also include verse 26, as well.

In addition, He also led me to a stronger and deeper understanding when grappling with the orphan crisis in our world, today.  His agenda for me is always different from mine when attending orphan care conferences.  He challenges me to think beyond the surface of things and pulls me in deeper to His heart. Confirmations of His past convictions, by His Spirit, were also reiterated during this conference.

As James expounds on the topic of “religion” in these verses, one is not more pure than the other.  It is all three in conjunction with each other, 1) a tight rein on the tongue, 2) caring for/visiting orphans and widows and 3) keeping oneself from being corrupted by the world (Dan Cruver, Thursday night). 


I have learned much about the “orphan” and God’s perspective on the orphan, in the past seven plus years, but it is obvious I still have much more to learn.  My limited human understanding pales in comparison to our God’s full intent when it comes to “caring for the orphan”.  
Our God’s own deep relational character demands our obedience to His command for caring for the orphan become more relational.  For many of us this makes things far more challenging.  It may mean sacrificing more of our time to develop relationships. It may mean being forced to connect with others relationally, which is a greater challenge for some more than others.  It may mean our deep relationships forged, may involve heart-break and suffering, at some point in time.  And it might even change the entire focus of what we have been doing, previously. 

This deeper relational aspect does not come easy.  Simple?  Yes…but.not.easily. 

Christ in you and me…the hope of glory!

This is when we realize “caring for the orphan” is beyond something you and I can do apart from God.  In fact, one presenter this past weekend suggested if you and I are “caring for the orphan” without our God and His gospel being central, it is possible what we are doing is in vain. 

Jesus Himself tells us in John 15, verse 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Sounds pretty simple.  Huh?!  Why is it, then, you and I make it so hard?
Two areas of “orphan care” that are often overlooked, by the Christian Church, is reunification and family preservation or the prevention of more orphans. 

Reunification is when a child has been removed from a family, for a time, with the purpose of providing interventions and empowerment for family members to ensure the child can be reunited with the then strengthened family. 

Family Preservation (the prevention of more orphans) is often focused on providing necessary stabilization aid and strategies for the family suffering from poverty.  

Sometimes we justify this oversight, by saying saving the family just is not feasible; they are too far gone.  Often we become so obsessed with “saving the orphan” we miss the need of the orphans’ family needing salvation, too.  Is this always God’s plan?  No, but it should be soberly considered and bathed in prayer each time.

It is possible, you are wondering how I can even mention the above?

Along with orphan care conferences God has exposed me to many things “orphan related” via Joseph, our son.  One of his mentor families provided foster care for three brothers over a period of time, recently. During this time, the foster dad spent time discipling and training their biological father on a regular basis.  Reunification was the goal.  After sufficient time, these brothers were reunited with their father.  This gives me a perspective that I cannot ignore or overlook, any longer.

Allow me to unpack the word “orphan” just a bit.  Rarely, does this label mean mother and father have both died.  More often than not, the more accurate label should be “fatherless”.  While this does not necessarily mean the father has died, it does mean the father is no longer functioning as a father should, providing for the family and so on. 

These differing definitions of the word “orphan” have been cause for some inaccurate thinking, within His Church, as the following quote from UNICEF’s website explains:

“This misunderstanding may then lead to responses that focus on providing care for individual children rather than supporting the families and communities that care for orphans and are in need of support.”

Some sobering statistics, surrounding the fatherless crisis here in America, are found on the following website:

https://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/

Christ’s sufferings include all the suffering of orphans, from the beginning of time, presently and for those to come.  When you and I care for/visit the orphan, we are sharing with them in their sufferings, which all have been translated to Christ.   
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.
~Romans 8:17


When thinking about this plethora of horrific sufferings by the orphan/the fatherless…I dare say His glory in which we will share in, IF indeed we are His children, will be far greater and beyond anything any of us can imagine.
More so than ever before, I am asking God to give me His perspective on all things relating to “caring for the orphan”.  In doing so, I am also asking Him to give me the ability to embrace His promise, below, at the same time.
 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

SFH Matching Grant for the Collicott Deaf Adoption!

PAH!! Matching Grant is fully Matched!!
Funds still needed to bring Christopher home!
All donations are tax deductible!!

$750 Matching Grant = $1,500

   Help bring Christopher Home!  



It is time to bring this precious “little man” home!  Christopher will be the 3rd deaf adoption for Doug and Lynda Collicott.  I have had the distinct privilege of traveling with this family on three previous trips to Bulgaria to adopt and this one is by far the most humbling.  Christopher is labeled deaf with many other special needs and he will be 6 in February, weighs a mere 11 lbs and is 29″ in length.  He does not walk yet, but with some TLC and medical interventions, he will, soon! 

Funds are being collected by Signs for Hope (all tax deductible) to help with travel expenses for the family and for a medical person to travel with the family, too.  Once Christopher is picked up from his Bulgarian “home” he will be admitted to the Japanese hospital, Tokuda, in Bulgaria to help stabilize him for travel to the states.  The medical person will help care for Christopher while in Bulgaria and on the long flights home.  Once here in the US, he will be admitted to Children’s Hospital in Houston for evaluations and medical services.  Insurance will cover Christopher once he arrives on US soil. 

Signs for Hope will also be paying my travel expenses for this adoption home-trip, as well.  I will be Doug and Lynda’s interpreter as they are both Deaf. 

The Collicott family is in full fundraising mode to collect the final monies needed.  Our $750 matching grant will help with those costs, but additional funds will be needed. 

My best guess for all travel expenses (12 – 14 days required in Bulgaria) for the Collicott family (Doug, Lynda and Christopher), the medical person, the ASL interpreter and Christopher’s Japanese hospital expenses is roughly, $7,500 – $8,500, depending on airfare costs at time of purchase and Christopher’s length-of-stay at Tokuda.  Travel is expected in December or January. 

All donations are tax deductible as Signs for Hope is an approved IRS charitable organization, non-profit. 

Donations can be made online through our secure Qgiv donation page or you can mail checks to:

Signs for Hope
PO Box 460
Fairview, NC  28730
God places the lonely in families. Psalm 88:6a 




What My Eyes Have Seen! Part 3 of…

This blog post is the 3rd in the series entitled “What My Eyes Have Seen!”  Part 3 – Deaf Adoption, Up Close and Personal continued.

Part 1 – Is Sign Language the Natural Language of the Deaf Child?

Part 2 – Deaf Adoption, Up Close and Personal


These posts are shared in an effort to help me and others along with me gain a deeper biblical perspective of some of this world’s injustices because of the fall and most often those injustices against the least of the least…in my opinion…deaf children.  

After a year of filling out the required paperwork and waiting on both countries to do their work it was time for me to join soon-to-be-Deaf-mom, again, on the first required trip to visit with this precious “little man”.  To see him with our own eyes and confirm the official commitment of soon-to-be-Deaf-dad-and-mom to in fact embrace him as their own son.   Dad had recently started a new job, therefore he would not travel with us on this initial trip of confirmation, but would join with us in a few months on the trip to bring their son home. 

This boy’s adoption was already confirmed by both mom and dad, over a year ago, this was just a formality in their minds required by their son’s country of birth.



How does one prepare for something like this?  I knew God would have to do a work in me prior to my visually seeing this “little man”, with my own eyes. He is now five and a half years old and weighs 11.2 pounds and is 29 inches in length, not height, as he does not yet walk. 

One of the things my Father has been reminding me of in various ways, during the past year of waiting/preparing, is the sanctity of every human life and the many ramifications of what that truly means on so many different levels and in many different arenas.  The ways He has done this are mind-boggling for me.  I needed to be led through this process before I arrived here for ‘such a time as this’ and as always my God knows before I do what I need. 

Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8

I was intentional to ask Him for weeks prior to our trip to help me not react inappropriately to what I saw, but to respond, instead, in an appropriate way with an accurate perspective, His.  Many times before our flight, my mind visually took me back to previously seen pictures embedded forever in my memory. Through the years I had seen photographs of young African children with distended malnourished-bellies and photographs of the men literally starving to death in the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1930’s. But never…with my own eyes.
 

Our first morning visit, the unknown was the hardest.  We were all three a bit nervous.  This was our adoption guides’ first time to see a child like this, too.  Mom and I had already discussed so many things prior to this first morning meeting, we each knew we were nervous, but were both trusting our God to give us what we needed that moment our eyes saw him for the first time.   

After the formal introductions with “home” staff, we were all asked to put on, over our garments, green disposable gowns, shoe covers and masks.  Mom instantly explained that covering my mouth would make our communication very difficult as she is skilled at reading lips and depends strongly on this.  Our guide shared mom’s concerns and it was waved off as not a problem. We proceeded down the hall a short way to a small room with five of the “home’s” staff.  They were not wearing any protective gear.  It was obvious we were on display for all that morning and this felt very awkward, too.  It was very warm and humid, as well, and the additional gowns and masks made things more uncomfortable in that overly crowded tiny room.  





In a few moments, another “home” staff came in carrying a tiny frail body with dark hair, eyes and skin in the crooks of her arms, swinging them a bit back and forth.  We awkwardly just stared at him.  I suggested mom sit on the built-in child-sized bed on one side of the room and he was placed in mom’s arms for the very first time.  Mom has raised five children of her own and adopted two others, but it was clear she had great concern she might cause this little one pain or injury…just by holding him. 

She and I both pulled our masks down around our necks so we could communicate, as moms hands were both full, now.  No one seemed to notice or to care.  Praise God!

Mom studied him intently counting his fingers and to her delight he could grasp her finger with both hands.  She began to lightly rub his face, head and then his torso and he did not seem to mind this at all.  In fact, he would place his hand on hers as she rubbed up and down slowly on his torso.  She kept him in the same position for most of the hour, in the crook of her left arm, studying his face and body as best she could since he was clothed in two shirts and heavy denim pants and socks. 

Miraculously, for the afternoon visit, we were left alone with only our adoption guide to monitor us.   This had been a prayer of ours from the beginning.  Mom wanted to see his legs and feet, so she pulled his socks and pants off, very gingerly.  That is a preemie size diaper he has on in the photo.  I took many pictures and video of this sweet “little man” that will be shared with doctors and others in the states before he comes home. No, I did not ask permission, but was very discreet in my actions.  We thank the Lord for allowing us to do this!


His legs are bent at the knee in this photo. 
His club feet will likely require surgery.

These are some of the verses that His Spirit brought to mind which helped to sustain me throughout the week while we were there and beyond.  

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.



Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21

Just to clarify…

Signs for Hope pays the travel expenses for a qualified ASL interpreter to travel with Deaf mom and dad when they adopt.  The ASL interpreter donates his/her skill and time to provide this service.  If you would like to help support this great need, please click on the “DONATE” button above and choose the “ASL Interpreter Fund” when given that option. 

ASL FOUNDATIONS, NO ENGLISH

 Prayers Appreciated! 




I am in the beginning stages of developing a new way of teaching American Sign Language (ASL).  This approach to teaching ASL as a second language, as a completely separate language from English, was one I began to envision, develop and use almost 7 years ago when I could not find anything else already published.

When God called me to all things Signs for Hope​, in 2008, I let go of this “vision”.  Little did I know He would bring it back to me.

About 7 months ago, while teaching on the college campus and at the same time hearing multiple pleas from hearing parents who have adopted deaf children begging for HELP to learn ASL, I began my search again for an ASL curriculum using this method. NOTHING! 

Since that time, I have presented this idea to many hearing and Deaf folks and all are intrigued and wonder why no one has done this before now. 

I am not pleased with our current ASL teaching curricula as I see so many hearing folks struggling to learn the most basic and yet most vital foundational aspect of ASL, the ASL handshapes. 

There are differing opinions on how many handshapes there really are in ASL, but I will focus on what I believe to be the most commonly used across North America, initially. 

Please join me in praying for me as I continue to develop this curriculum and for this method to be one that will benefit greatly those desiring to learn and master ASL, especially family members with their deaf children.   

John 15:5b  Apart from Me, you can do nothing. 

Together for Adoption 2015! Orphan Care = Gospel

   

ASL INTERPRETERS PROVIDED!!
Please let us know you are coming!

I have exciting news to share with you!  Please share this with others! 
The Together for Adoption 2015 conference is coming to Durham, NC this November 5 – 7.  ASL interpreters have been secured for all aspects of this event, covering both adult and children’s activities. 

I want to share a few quotes from Dr. Russell Moore, the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, from his 2009 SBC Resolution on Adoption & Orphan Care: 

“Something is afoot among Christian families and churches of virtually every kind.  God is calling the people of Christ to see the face of Jesus in the faces of orphans in North America and around the world. Southern Baptists have affirmed our belief in the authority of Scripture, and the Bible tells us pure religion is defined by care for the fatherless.”

“We’ve been defined by our commitment to evangelism, and there is no greater field as `white unto harvest’ right now as children in orphanages, group homes, and the foster care system, children who don’t know a parent’s love and who don’t know the name of Jesus. When Satan wars against children, we should be the ones who have compassion on them, even as Jesus did and does…”

“My prayer is that twenty years from now there are thousands of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries, and church leaders who started their lives as orphans, now preaching the gospel of God their Father.”

James 1:27 – PURE RELIGION


Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:

to look after orphans and widows in their distress and

to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Together for Adoption


“Over the past 5-7 years orphan care has become a bona fide movement within evangelicalism. This is why Together for Adoption’s primary focus 
is to look out 50 years and provide that which we know will sustain

the church’s long-term care for orphans, namely,

a vibrant gospel-centered theology of adoption.”


Our Mission:

Together for Adoption (T4A) exists to provide

 gospel-centered resources that

magnify the adopting grace of God the Father in Christ Jesus and

mobilize the church for global orphan care.

__________________________


Signs for Hope has secured ASL interpreters for this event and we have special rates for registration and hotel rooms for Deaf attendees.

Contact Becky Lloyd, asap, for all the details.  beckyblloyd@gmail.com

If you cannot attend this amazing conference, personally, please join us in praying God will be glorified and His kingdom advanced because of T4A 2015 and those who are obedient to ‘care for the orphan’ will spread the gospel as they do. 
 

What My Eyes Have Seen! Part 2 of…

2014
Eastern Europe 
Gender: Boy
Age: 4
Multiple special needs, including DEAFNESS
Weight: 10 lbs 

His picture and the label of deafness is what caught the attention of his unknowing soon-to-be parents, because they are Deaf themselves. 

I remember, vividly, the day his picture was shared in the adoption group in 2014. Even fully clothed, the years of limited nourishment were blatant, as was his distant stare.

Four years old and just 10 pounds?!  Surely that was a typo, a misprint or a gross understatement?  Maybe it was in kilograms instead of lbs?  That would make more sense for a four year old boy…roughly 18 kilograms, that would make more sense.   I remember soon-to-be mom commenting on advocating for this precious fragile one.  If she and soon-to-be dad had not just brought home their 2nd deaf adopted son earlier that year, maybe…

I remember thinking, “He looks like a __________ (last name of soon-to-be mom and dad).  No, I did not share that with them, then.  

A few weeks later, I just happened to be in soon-to-be mom and dad’s home for a visit.  With great pleasure, I was observing the growth and improvements of their two already adopted deaf son’s from the same country as this one.  
A few days prior, God had begun to open the windows of heaven for soon-to-be mom and dad to bring this third little one home.  I sat and smiled, shaking my head in agreement, as they shared with me story after story of the ways God was moving to convince them, especially soon-to-be dad, he was to become their third deaf adopted son and He would provide all the funds for his adoption and He would equip them to care for and raise him.

I had traveled twice before with this family to bring home their first two deaf adopted sons.  This time, I would actually be going into the orphanage with them, for their first of two required adoption trips, IF the orphanage director would allow it. 

We did not know it then, but it would be almost a year before that first trip would take place, but already my heart was pounding as I wondered how I would react to seeing this frail little one, for the first time…with my own eyes!

                                 <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>


Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant 
brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,  
equip you with everything good for doing His will, 
and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, 
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13 : 20-21
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for 
teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3 : 16-17

 
 
 

COLOMBIA SFH DEAF ADOPTION MATCHING GRANT!

God places the lonely in families. 
Psalm 68:6
We are so thankful to be able to offer another matching grant for the Coleman family for the adoption of a precious deaf boy in Colombia, South America!  For every dollar you donate up to $750, Signs for Hope will match it!!   Read the first chapter of the Coleman Family’s Deaf Adoption Journey below:


Hi! We are Jacob and Misti Coleman from Slidell, Louisiana. We have 3 biological children, Anna Beth (7), Lynnsie (6), and Creek (4).

We started the process to adopt from Colombia in January 2013. On our “special needs list” for our dossier, my husband and I both marked “Deaf” as a special need we were open to in our adoption. I grew up signing to music and have always loved the language and my husband had a very good friend when he was a child who was deaf. My husband also currently has a very good friend with a daughter who is deaf – which played a big role in him being open to deafness as a special need.


We were presented with the file of a precious 22 month old little Colombian boy in February 2015 who was diagnosed with profound deafness, following an audiogram in December 2014 and a delay in speech development. Our hearts screamed yes immediately, but we wanted to make sure we had the ability to provide an education for him through our school systems, first. We had already started discussions on the possibility of moving to be closer to the School for the Deaf an hour and a half away, if it was needed. It took 8 months for our son’s orphanage to officially match us and send the referral. 

During our time of waiting, we completed several exercises of deaf education, as requested by Lifeline Children’s Services, our adoption agency. We immediately began teaching our children sign language through the video series, Signing Time, at our local library and purchased the Learn and Master ASL DVD series for ourselves. We have also met with an ASL interpreter in our community who is willing to come work with our family in our home when we all return from Colombia. We have connected with several Deaf adopting families through Facebook, as well. In addition, our local Deaf action center has a monthly Deaf gathering at a local coffee shop that we plan to be a part of. 

One of our biggest prayers right now is to be able to connect with another Deaf child who is the same age as Silas. We hope that the Louisiana School for the Deaf can assist us in that.


We’ve also been extremely excited about the support we are receiving from our family, friends, and church family. Extended family and very close friends here are eager to learn ASL so they can communicate and love on Silas. Just yesterday, his future Sunday School teacher said we needed to plan an ASL training for the church volunteers who will be working with him. When I related this message to our preschool minister, she told me she had been praying about this very thing for a long time.  


What My Eyes Have Seen! Part 1 of…

IS SIGN LANGUAGE THE NATURAL LANGUAGE OF THE DEAF CHILD?



This blog series, What My Eyes Have Seen!, will be an ongoing series in an effort to share what my life’s journey has revealed to me through my research, experiences and exposures to the Deaf community, locally and around the world over the past 15+ years.  While the Deaf community in other countries do share many similarities to all others, there are also, at times, some major differences because of the majority culture surrounding them.

Many who read this post and others to follow, will not be able to understand my perspective, simply because they have not walked the path I have walked.  They have not chatted with the Deaf folks I have chatted with.  They have not chatted with the hearing parents of Deaf children and adults I have chatted with.  They have not chatted with Deaf educators I have chatted with.  They have not chatted with the ASL educational interpreters I have chatted with; nor have they observed deaf children for many hours within many different family environments.  And they have not researched time and again, the many topics weaving their perspectives surrounding the Deaf community, as well. 

Do not be mistaken, I am a hearing person and always have been.  I am simply conveying my own personal experiences for these blog posts, in an effort to broaden and deepen the knowledge of those members of our hearing world as it pertains to the Deaf community and especially that of the deaf child. By far, the best way for a hearing person to learn about the Deaf community is to immerse themselves into the Deaf community by befriending Deaf folks and learning American Sign Language. We have much to learn from them. 


I will be the first to admit that my perspective has not yet attained perfection, as research always continues to unfold and I will be forever learning, but my current  perspective comes with years of experiencing the above and thus far it is what it is…because of What My Eyes Have Seen.

The first topic I would like to share about encompasses the question,

Is sign language the natural language of the deaf child?

This remains one of the most debated questions by so many and so many times by those without full knowledge of the topic allowing for inaccurate debate. 

In an effort to help our understanding grow deeper, let’s dig a little deeper before I address this question, directly.

So what does “natural” mean?  According to Merriam-Webster:

Natural

: existing in nature and not made or caused by people
: coming from nature
: not having any extra substances or chemicals added
: not containing anything artificial

: usual or expected

Research of many sign or manual (visual/gestural/on the body) languages around the world, points to the natural development of each.  Most utilizing gestures and space, in the beginning, to get a point across in order for Deaf folks to converse with one another within their own groups, naturally occurring over time. 

As some sign languages continued to evolve from this initial foundational phase, they began to influence others especially during the Modern “Colonial Era” (1500 – 1900) by western European countries as they spread out over the world.  In addition, the signed languages and/or sign systems missionaries took with them to other countries have also impacted the cultures, as well as, the development of some countries’ signed languages. This is a fascinating topic for another post. 

“World 1898 empires colonies territory”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:World_1898_empires_colonies_territory.png#/media/File:World_1898_empires_colonies_territory.png

No doubt, ASL’s strongest roots come from France, but be assured Native American Indians and those living on Martha’s Vineyard, year’s ago, as well as, home signs developed by deaf children being raised by hearing parents have also shared their influence.  We often, mistakenly, limit our thinking of sign language to only American Sign Language. 

The use of signed languages dates much farther back than America. There is documentation of sign language being utilized as far back as 5th century BC.  There are currently hundreds of different recognized sign languages around the globe and others that have yet to be discovered.

Deafness has been noted as an “ailment to be treated” since 1550 BC.  Deafness occurs in every culture on the planet.

God, Himself, mentions deafness, much earlier, in Exodus 4:11 when speaking to Moses, “ The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
In addition, the wordless form of entertainment called pantomime–or mime for short–dates back to 800BC.  One must wonder if the observance of those who could communicate through signs, but not speak, lead to this form of entertainment and communication by hearing performers.

And do not forget, in Luke chapter 1, where Zechariah learns very quickly he must use signs to communicate to others after his ability to speak (it does not say he could not hear) was removed following his doubt of the angels’ prophecy concerning the future birth of his son, John (the Baptizer). 

Now, just because a deaf child is born into a hearing family–and this is true more than 95% of the time–this does not mean the hearing family automatically begins to use gestures and mime to communicate with them.  In fact, the opposite is most often true and the deaf child will often be the instigator of “teaching” home signs to their hearing family members in an effort to get their needs and wants met.

For years, I have used the phrase “NO language” when describing deaf children and deaf adults (yes, I said deaf adults) in this world who have not yet been exposed to any formal signed language.  However, I was challenged by a ministry friend just this week as we chatted about deaf children and their natural language learning via “visual language” even prior to exposure to or training in a formal sign language. 

She matter-of-factually responded to my dismay and delight of the quick Vietnamese Sign Language (VSL) acquisition of the deaf children, ages 8 – 14, I had visited with last month with, “Well, of course they did!”.  After only 6 months of formal training in VSL these deaf children were easily communicating with each other, their hearing teacher and even hearing foreigners using VSL and gesture. Naturally, some were more adept than others, but all were communicating remarkably well for just 6 months of formal exposure to VSL. 

Even after I reiterated to her they had NO language prior to the VSL exposure this past November, she quickly countered, “Maybe no formal language, but they did have visual language learning from birth.  Light bulb…ON!!! This has been a reconfirmation for me that the learning of a manual language (sign language) IS the natural language for the deaf child.  Their visual world has been evolving since birth, actually even in utero, and needless to say when granted the opportunity to be trained in a formal visual language their already visually thinking brains are more than primed for it.
Deaf children ARE exposed to “visual language learning” from birth, if they are not both deaf and blind when born; j
ust as hearing children being taught sign language reproduce those signs, with full comprehension, long before they can verbally speak them. 

 
Of course, training a deaf child in a visual sign language IS natural, as they already have a strong foundation for visual language learning since birth.  This realization, for me, supersedes my previous thinking that many deaf children have “NO LANGUAGE”, but rather they have no”formal language” training, yet. 

Visual language is not a new concept.  Visual thinking is also not a new concept.  ASL interpreters covet the skill that visual thinking grants them for interpreting English into ASL. 

While information that is only visually received by our brains may be limited, at times, visual language and visual thinking are occurring and evolving from the moment a child is born, deaf or hearing.  That visual information is being received by the brain and impacting the brain in its development, making it “ready” for the learning of a formal sign language, in my opinion, even beyond the optimal age for learning a spoken language.


I believe this is one reason it is much easier for even a hearing baby to learn to mimic signs they see for expressing their wants/needs before they are able to verbally do so. 

My conclusion…

Deaf children really are not totally language deprived, ever, since they use their visual sense to absorb everything around them in their silent, but fully visual world.  Hence, learning a formal sign language becomes the natural progression for learning language for the deaf child and that gives them the foundation needed for learning to read and write English as their 2nd language

SFH Matching Grant for the Pruyn Family & Their Deaf Adoption

God places the lonely in families.  Psalm 68:6a

We are the Pruyn family and super excited to be in the process of adopting a deaf toddler from the Dominican Republic. My name is Jessica, but everyone calls me Jessie. Well almost everyone…my mother hasn’t gotten used to that one. I grew up on a small rural west Tennessee farm, learning to love God and the outdoors!


I currently work as an educational interpreter and have done everything from freelance to Sorenson Video Relay Service, although interpreting isn’t really my cup of tea. Alas, I do have to say at the end of the day, I love my job! The amazing thing is how I just fell into the Deaf world from my small rural lifestyle, but that is another story for another day. The important part is that through our local Deaf Church I met the love of my life!

Brice is a native California boy through and through. Growing up in the bay area, the ocean is literally his second home. An alumnus of the California School for the Deaf, Fremont this boy stole my heart when his dad brought him to our church picnic. We became best friends and the rest, they say, is history.

Adoption has always been something very close to our hearts. My mom, uncle, and three siblings are all adopted so it was no surprise when Brice and I began our courtship in 2009; adoption was one of the many topics we discussed. We both knew that we wanted to adopt one day, but always thought it would be later down the road. In 2012, we welcomed our beautiful biological baby girl into our home and life has been an adventure ever since. Never did we dream that being parents would, could be so amazing! Soon after, we began once again talking about adoption. God slowly began opening doors during the summer of 2013 and we began inquiring about adoption from various agencies and friends for future reference. We asked a few questions, figured out what we would need to get our house in order (a large addition to meet the minimum square footage requirements) and just tucked it away as something we would do later and went ahead with our own family plans. Little did we know that He would be leading us in this direction quite so quickly!

It was spring of 2014, shortly after our second miscarriage that we were contacted about this
specific child. When the agency told us of the requirements per the Dominican Republic, the 5-year marriage requirement, 6 months living in-country, and $40k we both prayed and agreed to take it one day at a time. The first step was to see if we could get the time off from work for the 6 months required for us to stay in the country. Brice asked his company where he works as a floater for a factory—he is a machinist/welder—and was assured he could take a leave of absence for that length of time. We called the adoption agency and told them we would press onward. We both agreed that God had opened this door and we were just going to trust Him to make it happen!


We could NOT deny the clear leading of God to this specific country. It has been over a year, now. We have worked almost non-stop on our house and finally this May right before our 5th wedding anniversary we finished our home study! We are now officially married 5 years and in the dossier process! God has provided every step right as we have needed it and we are trusting that He will continue!
 
Prayers as we move forward, please! The long in-country stay is going to be very taxing on us as we try to rent out our home, cover our bills both here and in-country and deal with lost wages. Please pray that all these needs will be met in the coming months as we continue to prepare! 
Signs for Hope has offered the Pruyn family a $750 matching grant. For every dollar that is donated to their adoption fund, up to $750, SFH will match it. The full amount of support will be at least $1,500. If God touches your heart to go beyond praying for the Pruyn family in this adoption of their deaf toddler from the Dominican Republic you can make a donation on the Signs for Hope website here.  Or mail a check to Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC 28730. All donations are tax deductible. 

ENCASED IN GRACE – Beth Moore

God revealed to me an online Bible study series, in October of 2014, that I believe has the potential to grant you and me the greatest opportunity to live the “abundant life” here on this earth God has promised and so desires for us to experience, fully.  I shared this originally with 40 brothers and sisters, via email, last fall, and now God has reminded me of this study, yet again.  I am sharing it here in hopes God will allow many the access to these truths through this simple blogpost.  Below is the original email I shared last October.
 
 
The truths Beth Moore shares in this 7-part short video series, “Encased in Grace“, pinpoint what I believe to be our greatest challenge to truly living and embracing a life of true freedom in Christ through His grace, every moment of every day.  Each part has it’s own link below for ease of access. 

God has easily convicted me of areas where I am guilty (areas of sin) after watching the first three video clips (by the way the subtitles for these videos are near perfect) and I am sure He will continue to reveal additional improper thinking that prevents me from embracing 100% of His grace 100% of the time through the next 4. 

I want you to understand, I am not a “lover” of Beth Moore (I love her in Christ, alone), so this is not just a promo for her, but I am a “lover” of God’s truth and I believe God’s truths proclaimed in these videos are profound and life-changing for me and for you, for today! 

These truths are not new to me, but I have never heard them presented in such a way, with such relevance and timeliness, that have caused me to reevaluate my own life and thinking to such a deeper level.  This is exactly how the Enemy delights in preventing us from experiencing God’s abundant life, whereby He can reflect His light through us to each other and to a lost and dying world.  I have said this for years and I know it is the title of a book and I am convinced it is true, “The Battle is in the Mind!” ‘Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’ is our greatest challenge and yet it is our greatest defense.  But only IF we know/embrace/experience the Son’s truth, can it truly set us free!


I pray these truths are not what we simply agree with, but we actually and actively allow God to change/renew our minds with them, so that we live a life that shows we are dearly loved by God (Eph 5:1-2) all the time, not just when we are what we would call “good”.  And when we know and live like we are dearly loved by God, then we can truly dearly love others and…that HOPE does not disappoint!



For ease in finding each part (only about 15 mins each) of Encased in Grace on the Life Today website:


Part 1- http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-1/ 
Begin at minute 2:13 and ends 17:12


Part 2 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-2/ 
Begin at minute 3:11 and ends 15:51


Part 3 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-3/ 
Begin at minute 2:05 and ends 17:18


Part 4 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-4/ 
Begin at minute 2:13 and ends 17:13


Part 5 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-5/ 
Begin at minute 1:35 and ends 17:42


Part 6 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-6/
Begin at minute 1:27 and ends 18:36


Part 7 – http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-7-2/ 
Begin at minute 2:35 and ends 17:46


This is not just for women, but it is for all of us, brothers and sisters. If these truths impact you to change, share these videos with others, please. 

I am praying you and I will allow God to embrace us with a love that we cannot understand, so that we can in turn love others with that same kind of God-love!  We can only love others because He first loved us. His love for you and for me must be our motivation for everything we do! 



Our Greatest Faith Builder of All, Parenting – Part 1 of…

This is the first post of a new series for the Signs-4-Hope blog.  I have no idea how many posts there will be in this new series, Our Greatest Faith Builder of All, Parenting.  Therefore, it will be labeled which part it is with the mark of … after it, to designate another one will be coming, just like the ongoing So, You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? series.  This new series will cover topics in relation to the training I have received throughout 2014 and early 2015, via TBRI (Trust-based Relational Interventions, Texas Christian University) and NCBP (National Center for Biblical Parenting) and the 30 years of training I continue receiving as a parent of two biological adult children and their spouses.  No, my husband Charles, and I do not have any adopted children, as God never called us to adopt. However, He did loan us two biological children to raise for His glory and that has been and is, by far, the greatest faith building opportunity I have experienced as a follower of Christ.  My prayer is this series will help parents of adopted and birthed children recognize that in order for us to raise up children to love and follow Christ we must be and must live that example before them, with authenticity and transparency.  Our failures and our weaknesses as parents, God can use and will use, IF we allow Him the opportunity to do so.

Anger is a God-given emotion! 



My interpreting experiences, over the past several months, have placed me in two counseling groups in our community.  One is “Anger Management” and the other “Depression and Anxiety”.  I have observed, first-hand, many of the things I have been learning over the past 9 months in my TBRI (Trust-based Relational Interventions) class through Texas Christian University.  The overlap between these is really not surprising, but fascinating for me all the same.

Most of these adult folks, men and women, who for the most part, “look normal on the outside” have endured much trauma during their childhood years.  Their stories are all too familiar to the stories of the deaf children Signs for Hope loves and serves which include emotional, psychological, physical and sexual abuses. These traumas are in addition to lack of nurture, neglect and abandonment. Things no child, no human being, should have to endure, but the result of the sin of mankind via Adam and Eve.  God has allowed me to see, with my own eyes, in these counseling sessions, the consequences of childhood trauma which grows into adulthood trauma, with adult consequences, when left without any interventions.  These folks are often uncontrollably violent and some have taken the lives of others when they launch into their emotional tornadoes which engulf others as they tear down their path of destruction.  Others are daily haunted from within by depression and/or anxieties.  Once again, the tell-tale marks of emotions out of control (fight, flight and/or freeze) and centered in the trauma-brain…the amygdala.  Only, now, that trauma-brain resides in the body of an adult.

So often you and I quickly notice anger in those around us that we love, but how often do we miss it when you and I react in anger ourselves?  How often is it our own anger triggers  an anger-reaction from the ones we love which escalates to a level beyond what it should? 

Anger is not a sin, it is a God-given emotion.  The Bible tells us to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26).  Jesus, Himself, was angry when He saw His Father’s house being used for monetary gain and not for prayer and worship, its designed purpose.  However, His response to that anger, turning over the tables of the money-changers,  was not one of sin. Needless to say, I am sure those in the temple, knew without a doubt Jesus was angry and could have done much more than He did. I believe this is one of the greatest examples of meekness in the Scriptures. Meekness is not weakness, but rather it is great power under control.  Jesus could have easily destroyed everyone in the temple courts with a simple exhale. He is omnipotent God.  Think about it.  If Jesus had destroyed them, He would have been justified, but would His justified actions be perceived as being self-controlled or would they have been perceived as being out-of-control? Which made the greater impact for eternity? They had seen His miracles with their own eyes.  I believe His anger, under control, cut to their hearts and convicted them of their wrong-doing. It did not trigger an anger-response back at Him, but instead one of complete conviction of their sin and shame for what they were doing. 



“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27

Let’s face it, you and I, all too easily, can instantly react in anger given the right circumstances.  We are emotional beings, as God has created us to be, however emotions left uncontrolled can become our demise and can bring with it collateral damage to those around us, those we love.  These are not responses of God’s Spirit who is living within us, but rather human reactions that are uncontrolled and have been “triggered” by something.  How does this happen so quickly and unexpectedly?  Afterwards, we might think, “Where did that come from?” Or maybe, “Did I really say or do that?”. 

“For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, His Spirit fills us with power, love, and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 TEV)

Becoming MINDFUL of those things that trigger our own reactions to anger is of great benefit, granting us the ability to have self-controlled anger-responses. However, if we never stop long enough to notice or become mindful of what our anger-triggers are, we will continue reacting to them instead of allowing God’s Spirit to help us control our responses to them.  If you and I cannot become self-controlled with the help of the Spirit of God, how can we expect those around us, those who live with us, to do so?   


 
What triggers your anger?
Unfortunately, it is all too often those we love the most, or at least those we spend the most time with, are whose behaviors seem to irritate us the most.  These irritations can easily build up, if they are not dealt with in a timely manner, and turn into a trigger for an outburst of our anger…which most often…is not without sin and its consequences.

However, recognizing our “triggers” which can lead to outbursts of uncontrollable anger give us the chance to “catch them” prior to them snowballing out of control and thus granting us the opportunity to bring them under control. If not recognized, this is when the amygdala sabotages our ability to think rationally and fight, flight and/or freeze becomes our default setting. This is a basic strategy that those in the anger management groups are taught.  This is also a basic strategy of the TBRI training for parents and their adopted/fostered children.  Withdrawing, if at all possible, from this volatile environment that is primed for failure, is the first step in controlling an unwanted anger reaction.  Calming techniques can also be employed to help control the amygdala’s natural response to that first twinge of feeling threatened.

This is not something you and I can truly accomplish apart from the Spirit of God.  Being self-controlled is a fruit of the Spirit. 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
Below are a few great resources for helping us learn more about God’s design for anger and for tools in helping us learn how to resolve our uncontrolled anger problems and then help our children do the same, together.

What Does the Bible Say About Anger?
Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids

The National Center for Biblical Parenting
 

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 12 of…

This ongoing blog series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?” is written primarily for hearing families contemplating the adoption of a deaf child.  Yes, they will benefit others, as well.  Many of these topics are ones that other families wish they had known prior to proceeding with the adoption of their deaf child.  This is number 12 in the series.
Note:  There are many embedded links in this blog post.  For more details and resources click the underlined words to go to the additional websites for additional information.
 

So there is no doubt, Signs for Hope believes it is the right of every deaf child, around the world, to be given the opportunity to learn a manual language, a visual on the hands and body language, hence the name “Signs” for Hope and to become fluent in that language.  In addition, we also believe in providing whatever tools are necessary to help ensure the best possible outcomes for them to also learn their everyday written and read language.  These two things will not only improve their lives, in ways we may never be able to comprehend fully, it will also give them access to experience God’s indescribable love for them.  

IEPs…Individualized Education Programs


 
“No one told me I would have to become a full-time advocate for my adopted deaf child surrounding their educational needs.  Now, I am responsible to educate those educating my adopted deaf child, so he can be granted the best possible educational experience throughout his academic years.”

Many classroom experiences for all adopted children are challenging for the child, their parents, their teachers and their child’s’ classmates. Add deafness to that and little to no access to language-learning prior to the child’s adoption and the challenges easily multiply.

If you are contemplating adopting a child with deafness and you know nothing about the educational rights of a child with special needs, and more importantly the rights and needs relating to the child with deafness, please do not proceed with your plans to adopt, until you do.

IEPs, IDEA, ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, what do they all mean?  How will they impact the life of your deaf child and those who educate them? 


Myth:  “The laws are in place, I can trust my child’s teacher and educational support staff to know what is best and provide for the unique needs of my adopted deaf child.” 

Sadly, most public school educators are clueless when it comes to knowing how to meet the educational needs of an internationally adopted child, let alone an adopted child with deafness with minimal exposure to language, if any. Deaf schools, often, are as unprepared for the behavior challenges, emotional and social delays, as well as, language delays of the adopted deaf child, just as much as the public school.  Numerous books and articles have been written about such things, for the hearing adopted child, but a teacher is rarely, if ever, confronted with these challenges until they suddenly have a new student assigned to their classroom, for the first time. That could be your recently adopted child…with deafness. 

Keep in mind, in the elementary years, your deaf child will have a new teacher each year.  While you will become more skilled in advocating for the unique needs of your deaf child, as you begin to learn what those needs are, over the years, your child’s new teachers each year, rarely do. Starting at the beginning is not an uncommon requirement, each year, for parent advocates.


The goal is for the deaf child to learn how to self-advocate for themselves, but it will take many years of training for that skill to develop appropriately and will remain challenging throughout their years of academia.
Allow me to put aside education for a moment and just focus on language learning.  The paragraph below, taken from the article, entitled “Language and the Older Adopted Child: Understanding Second Language Learning” by Dr. Sharon Glennen, helps us understand the realistic process a hearing child faces when simply learning a new spoken language following his/her international adoption and when no one around them now speaks their first language.  By the way, this is referred to as second language learning, not bi-lingualism, as the child’s first language dwindles to nothing very quickly when no one else speaks to them in their first spoken language and their first language is not being used to teach them their second language.  


“Consider these facts: the typical six year-old understands over 20,000 English words. A five-year-old child adopted from another country would need to learn an average of 54 new words every day in order to fully catch up in language comprehension abilities by age six. If the catch up time-frame is stretched out to two years, the adopted five year-old would still need to learn an average of 27 new words every day to fully catch up by age seven. However, while the adopted child has been playing catch-up, his six year-old friends have also added an average of 5,000 words to their vocabulary. By age seven, the typical child understands 25,000 words. In order to fully catch up within a two year window, the adopted five year old needs to learn an average of 34 words per day. In summary, expecting older adopted children to develop proficient English language skills within one or two years of adoption is unrealistic.”

In fact, expecting an adopted hearing child, one that is already speaking their native language, to reach the same level as their peers (in their first language development) in five years, given their additional social and emotional delays, caused from their maltreatment/institutionalization in the early years, is also unrealistic. This understanding for hearing adopted children gives us a better idea of how challenging it can be for the adopted deaf child, with little to no language exposure in those crucial early years. Add to the above any additional unknown physical and/or learning disabilities you will not even be aware of until the deaf child is home and the language acquisition and educational challenges can be even greater. 

Of course, there must be language in place in order for education to proceed. Unfortunately, all too often, first language learning and education must occur simultaneously for the deaf adopted child.  There is no research, that even discusses how this impacts the long-term development of the deaf child. I wish there was some way–especially for the older deaf child who has not been exposed to language–to grant them a two year “catch-up” opportunity to begin learning ASL, in the home, in the most natural environment possible, before they are thrust into the formal educational environment.

Navigating the education of a deaf child can easily be compared to
navigating a maze!



 

REST…IN THE MIDST OF IT ALL!

REST! 


This is the path God is leading me down these days.  Before you mistakenly think God has allowed things to happen that have caused me to have to rest, take it easy, slow down, take a breather, be assured my life is very full of His doings now, just as much as the past 6 years and maybe even more than ever. The rest God has been leading me to and what I believe God desires for each of His children to dwell in, experience, internalize, embrace, is His rest…in the midst of it all. 
You know how it is; you hear the same topic preached, taught, and then some how it pops up in your own personal quiet-time through a devotional or scripture or on the radio, repeatedly, over a short period of time.  That’s one of the ways He delights in gaining our attention for either a new revelation from His Word or a reminder of truth He has already revealed to us, previously.  Often, we must be reminded of past-revealed truths, for some reason we simply cannot incorporate them adequately into our daily lives the first time around.


Bible Study Fellowship is studying the Life of Moses this year.  We recently finished Leviticus 25 – 26 where God teaches His people about multiple Sabbath’s.  God, Himself, took a day of “rest” following 6 days of creation, which was the first weekly Sabbath.  As God was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, He established the 1st year as a yearlong Sabbath for the land.  Imagine, no planting, tending crops or harvesting that first year in the Promised Land.  Would there be enough to eat?  Where would they get their food?  From then on they were to observe a 7th year Sabbath for the land.  The land was to rest every 7th year, planting was to begin again in the 8th year. In the 6th year, God promised to provide harvest enough that year, for the 7th year and until the crops were ready to be harvested in the 8th year.  A double and a half harvest in the 6th year.  That would roughly be two and a half years or 30 months where the Israelites rested and trusted God to provide.  Basically, God made sure the Israelites were given the greatest environment and opportunity to trust Him and His promises to care for them AND to keep their focus on Him AND be thankful for all He had done and was doing for them. They were to rest physically from their labor of planting, tending their crops and harvesting and they were to rest in the fact that God would faithfully provide for their every need of food, while they were resting. So what would they fill their free-time with each day?  Obviously, they would be forced to think on Him, worship Him, each and every day as their entire daily-routine of planting, tending and harvesting ceased during this time. 

Of course, this was a new generation which had spent the last 40 years wandering in the wilderness.  There was no planting, tending or harvesting during those years. God had already been providing for their every need for food and water, how was this any different? I am sure the temptation to plant was there, they wanted more than the manna God had graciously provided. His provision was not enough for the Israelites, they wanted more and bigger variety.  Sadly, this sounds all too familiar.  


 

Can you and I even imagine what this kind of faith and/or rest is really like?  I dare say, only if God allows certain things to happen in our lives that will force us to depend on Him fully.

You and I do realize, the meaning of the word worship is not just singing hymns or songs of praise when we gather corporately to do so?  It is not just praying.  It is not just reciting scriptures or praying corporately together.  It is not just hearing the Word of God proclaimed. It is not just receiving Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper.  While it can be any and all of these, worship is much more.  At the same time while any and all of these are taking place, it can be without one drop of true worship ever taking place.  True worship happens each and every time you and I encounter Yahweh, the GREAT I AM.  It is when we are confronted with His character and His actions and that encounter forces us to pause to consider, to contemplate, to be humbled in His presence. That, brothers and sisters, is worship!  We do not go to church to be in God’s presence.  Many people attend church and are never present with God.  God is present in you and in me every moment of every day!  He lives in us!  We LIVE in His presence every moment of everyday!  





To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of Him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome Him, in whom He dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. (Romans 8:8-9, MSG)
The Israelites did not experience that kind of God’s presence.  He did not indwell them 24/7.  How much more should you and I be experiencing worship, on a daily basis, since God Himself is LIVING in us?  

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1-2


Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

Sunday, the sermon topic…“REST”.  It was shared you and I most often think of rest much different than our God.  We tend to think “rest” is when we cease doing whatever “work” we do, for a time of personal pleasure or vacation.  Yes, I guess that was the partial focus of the weekly Sabbath in the Old Testament, break from work, however, the main purpose was for worship. This 7thday Sabbath, was set to prod the Israelites into spending time thinking, contemplating, meditating on God, for all He had done and does.  Unfortunately, that eventually became nothing more than a legalistic free-for-all forcing duty without devotion. God’s original design for the Sabbath was to provide the best possible environment to create a mindset of the “worth-ship” of God.   If there is an intentional, conscious effort to keep our thoughts focused on Him, then the end result will always be, WOR(TH)SHIP!

Our worship of God is what ushers us into His-rest…in the midst of it all!


In Hebrews, the writer speaks of God’s “rest” for the believer as if it is an act of faith.  He refers to the rebellious Israelites not entering God’s rest, in the Old Testament, referring to the Promised Land. Their lack of faith prevented them from experiencing the “rest” God promised them.  While I believe “rest” refers to our salvation in some respects and the “rest” we will experience in heaven, I also believe the “rest” God provides is one in which we can live out in our daily lives.  All to often, our lack of faith prevents us from experiencing this promised blessing from God, fully, in the here and now.  Jesus, Himself…is our rest!


While you and I know the right words to say and to pray, I wonder, do our lives scream unbelief to those around us?  Or does it exude His-rest that only He can provide in the midst of our chaos?


While I so desire to enter that final-rest God has promised for those who do His will, I also desire to experience that daily-rest only total surrender to Him grants, in the here and now!   Will you join me?

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You 
in perfect peace, 
for it is trusting in You. 
 Isaiah 26:3

 

“So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?’ Part 11 of…

This blog-post, 11th in the ongoing series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”, is written specifically for those hearing parents who are contemplating the adoption of an older deaf/HOH child who is already using sign language as their mode of communication and for agencies that are “advocating” for their adoption. 

DON’T DO IT !

A heart-wrenching plea with a precious picture or video-link comes across your email or through a group feed.

“AGING OUT”!  SOON IT WILL BE TOO LATE! 

It’s a boy or girl, age 12 or 13, and they are deaf/HOH.  They attend a school for the Deaf, which focuses on sign language not oral communication (speaking, lip-reading)

You know a little bit of sign language because when you were a teenager you learned it at church to sign with a song.  No one else in your family knows any sign language…but they could learn. Your thinking, “Maybe, our family is God’s answer for this Deaf child about to “age-out”. I have always loved sign language and always wanted to learn it. Maybe this is why God gave me a love for sign language.” 

OR

NOT!  


First of all, when adopting an older child, deaf or hearing, you must be realistic about the challenges your entire family will face simply because they are “older”.


Before I move on to specifics concerning the adoption of an older deaf/HOH child who is already sign language fluent, allow me to deviate from my topic, for a bit. 

Trauma is no respecter of age.  A 6 month old child, abandoned to institutionalized care for any length of time will have “trauma” to deal with.  The adoption of a “young” child is no guarantee of a “happily-ever-after story”.  The trauma-brain (a brain that is impacted by trauma, even in utero/pregnancy) is one that will need the right amount of structure and nurture to overcome the negative affects that trauma has caused on the brains’ development.  I’m not talking about the ability of the brain to be educated, however that is also impacted, but I am talking about the inability a trauma-brain child has to think logically and therefore is evidenced in defiant behaviors of many kinds.  Truly, the trauma-brain is the brain that is controlled by…fear. Fight. Flight. Freeze.

Now, allow me to mention some additional challenges that often come with adopting an older child that are often never considered. The most obvious is the physical “size” of the older adopted child. With “older” comes bigger and stronger, physically.  Restraint, becomes more challenging.  Tantrums and meltdowns are bigger and bad-er.  Violence and/or destruction of property is more damaging. The expectations placed on an older child are greater, even though their trauma-brain holds them captive emotionally, socially, and often academically, to half their chronological age and often younger. This means the adopted 8 or 9 year old child will only be functioning emotionally, socially, and with every other behavior at a 4.5 year old age-level or below. 

That is hard to comprehend, especially when they live in a 8 or 9 year old body and that is what is “seen”. What cannot be seen is the brain that has been stunted in it’s growth, since even before birth. Self-preservation has become “their job” from a very young age, therefore manipulation has become their greatest skill. This is not proof they are simply being defiant, but it is proof their trauma-brains need great care to begin to grow beyond that of manipulation for self-preservation to one of trust and felt-safety. 
In addition, their experience of the world is locked in infancy.  They have no idea what danger, in the outside world, is and do not instinctively know when they are in danger.  They do not know if they run into the street they could be killed by an oncoming car nor do they know fire can burn them.  Unless that was an abuse they endured.  No explanation is adequate for them to comprehend these dangers.  These must be taught, in the same way as they are taught to toddlers.  Sometimes they are learned better by natural consequences. These children have had no one to teach them these things and many have rarely been outside their orphanage or school. This seems to be even more common for deaf children, with limited to no language, as they are often held out of school and events because their behavior is so unpredictable without the ability to communicate basic needs. Imagine trying to force a 8 or 9 year old to hold your hand for safety, when everything in them resists.






Why would anyone, in their right-mind, adopt an older child?  Because God calls them to do so. Yes, much preparation and training is needed in advance, and the resources for doing that are much greater today, than ever before.  God equips those He calls, but commitment to receiving and perseverance for that equipping is vital.

Trust-based Relational Interventions (TBRI) works miracles with children from the “hard places”, but simply reading a book, like The Connected Child and trying only a few of these tools, briefly, will not produce lasting impact.  The outcomes parents desire to attain, brought about by a heart change accessed by a brain that feels safe, will require them to be mindful of their own behaviors and why they behave the way they do. Recognizing their own need for a heart change will grant parents the ability to begin to meet the great needs of their child(ren), adopted and biological.  AND it will require a paradigm shift in parents’ old way of thinking relating to raising a child, which most often employs behavior modification, a system designed to control behaviors based on rewards and punishments.  However, reaching a child’s heart is based on a relationship built on mutual trust in an environment of balanced structure and nurture that produces a heart that desires to behave, not one that is forced. Once parents understand their God given responsibility is to parent their child’s heart, not their behaviors, life-changing behaviors can occur for both parents and children. The National Center for Biblical Parenting offers a vast library of resources for families desiring to utilize the relational-approach to parenting, one designed by God.



Back to the topic of this blog-post. 


For the older Deaf child, if you are not already ASL-fluent and immersed in the Deaf community, with an acceptable Deaf school nearby (which also provides a broader base for a larger Deaf community in your area), please do not even consider adopting an older Deaf child who is sign language fluent.  This, almost assuredly, is a recipe for disaster for everyone. 

So, what hope do older Deaf children who are already fluent in sign language have? 

They have you!  Your willingness to advocate for them to grant them the great opportunity to be adopted by a family who is already ASL-fluent and possibly even better…to be adopted by a Deaf dad and mom who can often identify with them far better than a hearing mom and dad ever will

I suspect the percentage of deaf children who are adopted by Deaf parents is less than 15%, maybe less than 10%.  Why is that?  While we want to believe we have surpassed the stigma deafness brings with it, many hearing people mistakenly believe the Deaf are ill-equipped to parent a child, adequately.  In addition, many Deaf couples have stories of being rejected by adoption agencies, simply because they are unwilling to devote the extra time and money to provide adequate communication for them for homestudies, meetings and pre-adoption training via ASL. Misunderstandings of the cultural differences between the hearing agency personnel and the Deaf parents, unfortunately, are also reason for rejections, as well.  These stories of rejection, permeate the Deaf Community.  And finally, the cost of adoption for the Deaf population, which is under paid and under-employed has long been an insurmountable obstacle felt by many.  

Will you advocate for qualified Deaf parents to be given the great opportunity to adopt deaf children?

Sign language fluency can come within a few years of daily exposure, for Deaf children immersed in the language. That means an 8 or 9-yr old who has been attending a school for the Deaf, that utilizes sign language–not all of them do–for roughly two years, is quite possibly already fluent or well on their way.  In addition, they have now been exposed to the Deaf community which is vastly different from their indigenous hearing community and certainly from the American hearing community. 

Deeper aspects of the culture of Deaf people will be shared in future posts.

Why is it a deaf child can often become sign language fluent in such a short amount of time, as compared to a hearing person? 

Deaf children who have been waiting for years to be given the opportunity to begin to communicate with those around them, God has wired our brains to crave communication, often become sponges when their world is turned upside down with language…visual language.  Finally, something they can visually understand without the need to hear or speak. 

Us hearing folks…well, we can hear and that supersedes our “need” to communicate via sign language. Ultimately, the “need” for the deaf child to learn sign language, their first language, is far greater than the need for you and me, hearing folks, to learn a 2nd language that does not enter our brains via the ears. Let’s face it, you and I respond to noise automatically and instantly, that is natural for us.  For those who live with deafness, they respond automatically and instantly, to what they see, that is natural for them. 

If you or your adoption agency do not know what the Deaf child, you are considering for adoption, is currently receiving at their deaf school, find out.  Deaf schools in China and in Eastern Europe often never use sign language and only focus on teaching the deaf children to speak and read lips.  Other countries are not so focused. For some deaf children who are learning a sign language, some SWI’s (Social Welfare Institutions), in China, think it will be better if they tell you the deaf child is learning to speak, when in fact they do use sign language to communicate.  Their thinking…a family will be more likely to adopt them if they can “speak”.  It’s the age-old myth that if a Deaf child can “speak” then they are not mentally deficient and will be more adoptable. Other times, the Deaf child does use sign language for their mode of communication and that is vitally important to know, to know how to best advocate for them and their needs.

Deaf children cannot speak because they cannot hear the sounds to learn to speak, not because their brains cannot function at a certain level. Albeit, there are those deaf children who do have additional challenges, in addition to their deafness, but deafness, alone, is not an indication of being mentally challenged. Language deprived deaf children, however, will have additional challenges to overcome, mentally, socially, emotionally and academically. Check out Part 5, in this ongoing series, “Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind?”

Non ASL-fluent families who do adopt older Deaf children who are already sign language fluent and adoption agencies who allow them to do this are sewing seeds for consequences they will not want the responsibility to bear. Disruption/dissolution is not uncommon and the collateral damage on all involved is great. 

Remember those who are deaf/HOH often cannot learn to speak a spoken language clearly enough, simply because they cannot hear adequately enough for their brain to allow them to learn spoken language accurately.  This is not an option for them.  On the other hand, every hearing person, on this planet, can learn sign language, IF they are willing.  Yes, it takes time and commitment but they CAN learn it.  It IS an option, for them.  It is not a question of are the deaf willing to learn, but one of “can” they learn since they cannot hear adequately?  Some can and do learn to speak fairly plainly, but most cannot, even with hearing aids and/or Cochlear Implants. 

It is not deafness that separates the hearing from the deaf, it is the inability to speak clearly that separates them from us.  We cannot “see” their deafness, but we can “see” abnormal speech and because we are naturally hearing…that “screams” at us. Adequate speech for speaking, for the d/Deaf person, does not mean there is adequate hearing in every situation of life to allow for smooth communication in speech.  
 

If you are told by your adoption agency, or any others for that matter, the Cochlear Implant will easily make your deaf child hearing and “normal” in every way, be wary.  That is just not true.  Do your own research.  The Cochlear Implant is covered more in depth, in Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

I hear stories all too often and so do others, of eager hearing families who will “rescue” their Deaf son or daughter from their peril, before it’s too late.  Too often, when hearing parents, maybe well prepared for raising a child from the “hard places”, but who are clueless about the Deaf culture and know too little sign language, bring their son/daughter home…all hell breaks loose and hearing family members are shell-shocked. “How could this happen?” Or the Deaf child withdraws, which in the end can be even worse than those who are openly violent.

This is not just because this is an older child adoption, while that will certainly be a significant part of it, add to that the Deaf child’s frustration with the inability to communicate in the same mode of communication as they have known and loved…a manual (on the hands and body) language, not dependent on the ability to hear.    

There are those who recommend the use of “translation technology” when adopting children who are post-lingual (those who have already learned spoken language) from another culture where English is not used, especially in those first crucial weeks. This is used as a “bridge” for a short time, to help the transition be a little less stressful for the adopted child. Be aware this technology is far from perfect and many misunderstandings are experienced.



Translation technology has also been used to facilitate communication between hearing parents who do not know sign and their deaf children who do know some written Mandarin or other written language.  Deaf children who are fluent in sign are often taught to read and write in Mandarin, as well.  While there are benefits to this kind of communication in the first few weeks and maybe months, relying on this for prolonged time is not recommended. This in no way will provide a strong foundation between hearing family members and their deaf son/daughter.  We all know how technology has restricted and negatively impacted the next generation in their ability to develop strong social relationships with one another.  One can only imagine how limiting this mode of unnatural communication will negatively impact a recently adopted sign language fluent Deaf child if it is allowed to continue beyond a few weeks or maybe a few months.  I do not believe you and I can begin to imagine the disappointment and frustration an adopted Deaf child, fluent in sign, would experience when their adoptive hearing parents and family members are unwilling to learn to communicate with them face-to-face directly in sign.
 
The adoption of an older child, brings with it more than enough trauma for a lifetime.  Add to that the inability to identify and bond with parents through a shared language utilizing the same mode of communication…either spoken language for hearing children or manual language for Deaf children. That has been labeled by some, as…child abuse.



Then, there is another deeper issue to be addressed here, as well.  That is one of culture. Once deaf children have learned a signed language, they will naturally be drawn to those who can communicate with them easily and can identify with them deeply…those just like them.  This is often hard for hearing family members to understand and to accept, especially when they themselves have not become fluent in ASL.  Many hearing family members will live in denial of this fact and when reality sets in are heart broken by their Deaf children’s allegiance to and desire to spend most of their time with those who “know” them best.  As stated above, future posts will share more details surrounding the Deaf culture, which is vastly different from the counter, hearing culture


Another thing to keep in mind.  If you are not already ASL-fluent when you bring your deaf son or daughter home, be aware it will take as long as 6 years, maybe longer, for you to become fluent. And that requires spending much time devoted to doing so on a weekly basis and not just from a book or classroom, but interacting WITH the Deaf community, regularly.  My definition of ASL-fluent…you are comfortable carrying on an in-depth conversation with every native Deaf signer you encounter, one-on-one.  For me, that was about 6 years and this included constant classroom participation with Deaf teachers and multiple days a week interacting with the Deaf in my community.

One thing to keep in mind, IF you adopt a 12 or 13 year old they turn 18 in just 5 or 6 short years. 


To gain a better  perspective, try to envision what it might be like for a hearing child, age 5 – 6 yrs. old or older, already fluent in his/her native spoken language, to be adopted by an all Deaf and fully signing family, with extended family members who are also Deaf and sign, and from another country/culture.  This hearing child, fluent in spoken language, would have little to no exposure to those who speak a language.  Wait a minute!  Would an all Deaf family be granted the ability to even adopt a hearing child who is fluent in spoken language?  Some would say…that’s child abuse. 

 
While this is not a perfect comparison it does help us gain perspective.  The great advantage of a signed language, as opposed to spoken, is it’s visual qualities that can lend itself to providing comprehension/communication without a single spoken word.

This video shows how the lives of deaf children can look when they are impacted by sign language at an early age.  Sadly, most deaf children, here in America, and around the world never receive this kind of vital input, as less than 10% of hearing parents ever learn to sign with them.

“So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?” Part 10 of…

Educating the Deaf Child – “Homeschooling”
Part 10 of the ongoing series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”
This blogpost is shared by Elizabeth Albers.




We were told our son was profoundly deaf but that he wore hearing aids and could hear and talk. Hoping that he could hear with hearing aids we learned little sign language before we brought him home. Other than that we had no experience with ASL or deafness. We brought our little boy (5 years old) home July 2014. After spending just a few hours with him we knew that his hearing aids weren’t helping him at all. We immediately started taking on-line ASL courses (while we were still in China) and looking up any and every word we could on-line. Since bringing him home we’ve continued to learn ASL.  He did get new hearing aids and they do bring him into a moderate to severe range which brings him some hearing and speech. 

We have chosen to homeschool our son for many reasons. One being that we homeschool our 4 other children. Homeschooling a deaf child has been challenging, but we know that God prepared us for this little boy. While we haven’t had much experience with deafness we have had many years of experience with homeschooling. We take it one day at a time and we introduce things as we feel he is ready. He’s been home 6 months and he is thriving at the level of a K-1st grader. One of the hardest things about educating a deaf child at home is that it is somewhat new territory. There isn’t a lot of curriculum or resources for homeschooling deaf children. We have to sort of figure out things as we go. We are part of an on-line community of homeschool deaf/HOH families. They have been invaluable to us. Always offering support, ideas and suggestions. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming being the only one in our community who is homeschooling a deaf child, and these on-line families help us to know we are not the only ones trying to do this.  
We also utilize our public school for some extra services. After months and months of meetings and insisting that our son work with a Deaf Teacher, the school board has allowed my son and I to join in on a class a couple hours a week with a Deaf Teacher and one other little deaf boy. This has been an amazing opportunity for our son and it’s so great to see him interacting with the other little boy. We also utilize speech therapy through the school system and have just started on-line AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy) through CASTLE, UNC. It took a long 6 months to get services in place, but the fight was worth it. 
We’ve also tried to help others in our community learn more about deafness and ASL by starting an ASL club. Note: Not to be confused with the original Deaf Clubs created within the Deaf Community. This has not been an easy task. It’s hard trying to get people involved, but we are determined. We’ve also visited a deaf church (about 1.25 hours away) to get to know more people and learn more about how deaf people interact. We hope to attend more deaf events, but again this is difficult because there is no real deaf community. But we keep going and trying and doing our best with what we have. We have a desire to give our son the best of both worlds.
Overall we have had a great experience educating our son. Some days it felt like we were the only ones homeschooling a deaf child, wondering if we were doing the right thing, but now that we are six months into this journey we feel so much more confident in our choices and our ability to teach our son.


“So You Want to Adopt A Deaf Child?” Part 9 of…

 “Educating the Deaf Child”  
Part 9 of…in the series “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”

The next several posts will be covering the education of deaf children. Remember the purpose of these blogposts are to help families understand the many unique challenges they will face if they proceed with the adoption of a deaf child.

I have asked families who have up-close-and-personal experience to share them with you. Parental involvement and attitude is paramount in the education of the deaf child.

This topic will be one that will be open ended, as the research for educating deaf children is ongoing. There are many differing opinions as to what is “best” for educating a deaf child. Each deaf child is unique in ways that will impact their learning. Especially when adding institutionalized care to the equation.  In addition, these differing opinions have impacted the classrooms of deaf children at the deaf school, as well as, in the public school arena. 

Families adopting deaf children need to be aware the education of your deaf child(ren) will be challenging and frustrating in many ways, no matter the choice you might make, the deaf school, the public school setting or via homeschooling or a combination of any or all.


You must also realize it is possible the brain of a deaf child that has been deprived of learning language from birth could have great impact on optimum learning capabilities.  Add to that the trauma the brain has experienced from neglect and lack of nurture during those early years. Having a realistic understanding of the possible educational challenges facing a deaf child with no language from birth and a trauma-brain is vitally important for those families desiring to adopt them. 

Do not misunderstand me! 

I am not saying all adopted deaf children will be limited in their learning capabilities or they will be low-functioning.  I am saying parents must be realistic and understand what possible challenges they could face when adopting a deaf child, especially educational-wise. 

Do not expect your local educators to know how to appropriately deal with and educate the adopted deaf child, either.  If you are not willing to become a full-time advocate for your deaf child’s education, be it in a formal setting or in your home, you must genuinely reconsider deaf adoption.  You will also teach your deaf child how to self-advocate for their future.


In addition, you will not know what really goes on in a school or a classroom until you have observed it with your own eyes and on multiple occasions.  DO NOT ASSUME just because something bears a name or title, ASL, Bi-lingual/Bi-cultural, etc., it truly represents that name or title.  Check it out for yourself!  Often what is promoted or advertised is NOT what is actually taking place. 

When Marc Marschark’s book “How Deaf Children Learn:  What Parents and Teachers Need to Know” was published late in 2011, I breathed a sigh of relief to see much of what my research had uncovered through the years was now shared under one title. This is a “must read”!



A JESUS-PARASITE !?!

Update, January 19, 2015:

I have been hives-free for 9 days and the muscle pain in my arms is diminishing…PRAISE GOD!  Thanks so much for your prayers! Please do not stop.

Note:  After 6 months of chronic hives in 2014, April to November, Charles and I decided I should visit an allergist.  You must realize these hives were not a constant concern or bother.  Yes, they were almost a daily occurrence, but only once in a while did they truly affect my daily life.  In October, the allergist told us how very few people with chronic hives ever know why.  After hearing my travel history of foreign travel, he also mentioned chronic hives could be a sign of parasites.  No, I had no other symptoms other than the hives, until mid-fall when I noticed chronic muscle pain in both arms. I thought it was from overuse lifting suitcases in and out of car trunks and overhead bins on planes. As it turns out that, too, could be indicative of parasites.  However, he was not convinced.

“Parasites are microorganisms that live off of other organisms, or hosts, to survive. Some parasites don’t affect the host. Others grow, reproduce, or give off toxins that make the host sick resulting in a parasitic infection” (Healthline.com).

 

There is always a bigger picture than you and I anticipate surrounding every thing God allows in our lives.  I have not obsessed over having parasites, but I must admit talking to others about it has been a bit uncomfortable, concerned the other person will think it is much worse/gross than I do.  As usual, God just will not allow my mind to dwell there for very long.  There are few I have discussed this with and most are in the medical field in some capacity themselves.  Charles deals with parasites on a daily basis in caring for animals, so our perspective is probably not necessarily the same as others.

By the way, it was not easy to convince our family doctor and then the infectious disease doctor to follow through with all the testing for various parasites, “They are just so rare”.

This morning, I have just taken the first round of medication (3 large caplets) to rid my body of Schistosomiasis, tape worms.  I will do that again, later today.  No, they have not found them in my urine or my stools, but via a blood test, only, created specifically for diagnosing them.  I chose today, for the first round of treatment, as the information surrounding the drug states “do not drive the day of treatment and do not drive the day after, as it could impair thinking and/or judgement”.  Since I am now interpreting everyday and in the medical setting, no less, the weekend is the only reasonable time for me to do this.  Charles went to our family doctor on Wednesday for his annual physical and told him of my diagnosis.  He said, “Well, that’s a first for me!” He did tell Charles it was very possible the symptoms I have been having, the hives and possibly the muscle pain, could be much worse during the treatment.  So, I have doubled my daily dose of Zyrtec to anticipate at least the hives being worse.  I repeat this treatment, one-day 2-dose, 2 – 4 weeks from now.  
Fresh Water Snail
“Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or “snail fever”, is a parasitic disease carried by fresh water snails infected with one of the five varieties of the parasite Schistosoma. Found predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical climates, Schistosomiasis infects 240 million people in as many as 78 countries, with a vast majority of the burden occurring in Africa. Schistosomiasis ranks second only to malaria as the most common parasitic disease.” (www.globalnetwork.org)
My symptoms are not typical, gastro and/or urinary tract related, so there really is no information out there for muscle infestation, other than to say they can take up residence there “in rare cases”.  By the way, since the physical therapy sessions before Christmas, for my chronic muscle pain in my arms and hip, has not resulted in improvement, Charles and I now believe it is quite possible the parasites are causing the muscle problems, as well.  This week, was the fist time I noticed the muscle pain flares as I interpret, but prior to this week I had not noticed any pain during interpreting. 
Schistosomiasis Distribution – Snail Fever
As I reread the definition of a parasite, the thought occurred to me that it could be a very good thing for you and me to be considered a “parasite” of the Word of God. Just suppose you and I were “parasites” of His Word.  We would be the ones reaping the great benefits of “living off” His Word (written and living), receiving daily sustenance, food and water, and thriving. Truly living the “abundant life” God has promised us, right here on this earth. Actually, as we study the scriptures it is fascinating to see some of the wording God uses that seems to relate.

Jeremiah, God’s prophet proclaimed, “When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.”  When God called Ezekiel as His prophet this is what He said, “And He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He gave me the scroll to eat. Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. He then said to me: “Son of man, go now to the people of Israel and speak My words to them.”  

Then in John chapter 7, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” And to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”  

Then in John 6, Jesus to the Jews, “Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on This bread will live forever.” This particular statement is when many of Jesus’ disciples/followers turned away and no longer followed Him. 

And in closing, at the Last Supper, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then he took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

If this is one way I can better identify with His precious deaf children living with parasites every day, with no means of diagnosis or medicine to rid their bodies of them, I pray I do not miss all He desires for me to learn in and through this experience.

Parasites of the Word of God!   Let’s commit to “eat and drink” more of Jesus in 2015, than ever before.  Fascinating…isn’t it?!?!

What If I Give Financially to Signs for Hope…Where Does the Money Go?

“Coordinating the Adoption of Deaf Orphans in the World”


Maybe you are wondering…

“What if I to give financially to Signs for Hope, where will the money go?

No one at Signs for Hope (SFH) is paid or has been paid in the past. Everyone who does anything for Signs for Hope is a volunteer.  They volunteer their time, their talents and skills, and often their own money to do whatever God calls them to do through Signs for Hope.

Becky Lloyd, the founder and CEO, is the only “full-time” volunteer at Signs for Hope.  Signs for Hope is still a relatively new ministry, approved by the IRS as a “charitable organization” in October 2013 (501c3).  Yes, all donations to Signs for Hope are tax deductible.  You can read more about Becky and God’s story for the beginnings of Signs for Hope on the Signs for Hope website here.  Archived prayerletters are also available on the website to give you even greater insight into the ministry God does through SFH.

Charles, her husband of 35+ years, handles the bookkeeping for the ministry.  Signs for Hope has a CPA that handles the tax returns each year for the ministry.  If you want a more detailed copy of this year’s or any previous year’s financial statement, just ask Charles for it (chlfrvw@juno.com).

This is a partial list of what gifts donated to Signs for Hope have supported this past year, 2014:

Over $25,000 was donated to families to help with the costs related to the adoption of deaf children this year.


January 2014 & October 2014– Paid travel expenses, in January, for a qualified ASL interpreter to travel with the Collicotts, Doug and Linda are Deaf, to Bulgaria for the adoption of their deaf son, Brett. Paid half the travel expenses for a qualified ASL interpreter to travel with the Colvins, Kris and Barbi are Deaf, in October, to China for the adoption of their deaf daughter, Baylee.  Lifeline Children’s Services paid the other half.  The ASL interpreters donate their time and their skills for these trips with Deaf families.



Brett & Doug Collicott, 2013, then 2014


Becky with the Colvin Family, December 2014

February 2014, Empowered to Connect (TBRI-based) in Birmingham, AL.  Signs for Hope attended the ETC conference with two board members and families who have adopted deaf children and those who are adopting deaf children.  Partial expenses were paid by donations to Signs for Hope to cover these expenses. 

Feb/March 2014, Liberia Mission Trip – Partial travel expenses paid for Signs for Hope board members (four) to visit and evaluate 5 Deaf schools across Liberia to know better how to partner with them to improve their education, over the next decade, of the more than 250 deaf children they serve. The team also met with the Liberian Ministry of Education to see how they can work in conjunction with their educators, as well, and with members of the Liberian National Association of the Deaf. We are patiently waiting the “all clear” to head back to Liberia in 2015 to begin implementing phases of training and support.  When the word “education” is used, that includes academic, vocational & life skills and biblical.  For a detailed report email SFH’s Chairman of the Board, Steve Farmer farmer3222@comcast.net

ACFI Deaf School, Oscar & Viola Stewart
School for the Deaf, Liberia
Virginia School for the Deaf, Liberia

Oscar Romero School for the Deaf, Liberia


April 2014 – Stipend paid to ASL interpreters in St. Louis (shared this expense with Show Hope) for the ETC conference there.  Two Signs for Hope families attended. 

April 2014 NC Road Trip – Paid Becky’s travel expenses on the back roads of NC, from the mountains of Asheville to the coast at Jacksonville, to visit with multiple deaf adoptive families and SFH prayer partners and supporters.  She was graciously hosted by families and stayed in their homes. 

May 2014 – Paid for Charles and Becky to travel to CAFO 2014 in Chicago.
                   $2,000 sent to Liberia to support the needs of the deaf children.


June 2014 – Paid for Becky to travel and attend the annual American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) conference in Framingham, MA. 

September/October 2014 – Paid Becky’s travel expenses for her additional education and training she received this fall through Texas Christian University (TBRI Training, the course itself was gifted to Becky, $3,000) and the National Center for Biblical Parenting (NCBP, Presenter Training in Los Angeles). SFH also paid for Jonathan Walterhouse (SFH board member) to attend the NCBP Presenter Training in Los Angeles, along with Becky (Oct).  Four (4) days in Austin , TX (Sept) were added to the TBRI Training trip, so Becky could visit with multiple families who have adopted deaf children there, as well.  

Signs for Hope Families in Austin, TX, September 2014

National Center for Biblical Parenting Training, October 2014

September 2014 – Paid for Becky’s road trip to DC for the ETC conference.  Six (6) Signs for Hope families attended this conference.  Also visited and shared with Open Bible Deaf Church, a monthly supporter of Signs for Hope, in College Park, MD. 

Empowered to Connect – DC, September 2014


November 2014 – Paid for expenses related to the SFH Passport to Deafness event held in Asheville, NC.  Over $5,000 was received during this event. 

PASSPORT TO DEAFNESS, November 2014


As you can see, God multiplies your gifts to Signs for Hope as this work is impacting hundreds of people, hearing and deaf, around the globe.

This does not account for any of the time Becky and the SFH board members spend researching and developing resources for the families of the deaf children being adopted and for the deaf children in Liberia, who will probably never have the option of earthly adoption.  Nor does it represent Becky’s, daily, one-on-one support for adopting families and Liberians involved with caring for deaf children.  Advocating for “Best Practices for the Adoption of Deaf Children” is another passion Becky works to improve. Her blog series entitled “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?” has been cause for hundreds to flock to this blog this year.  Check them out for your self, there are 8 of them so far.  In addition, helping parents and caregiver’s of deaf children learn better how to reach the heart’s of these precious deaf children for Christ is an endeavor of Becky’s that is never satisfied.  Becky believes by sharing Christ and all He teaches us with these deaf children and their families, God will call them to share the same with others. 

Did you know Deaf people locally and world-wide are among the top three unreached people groups in the world?  http://www.doorinternational.com/hearing/deaf-culture

We pray for God to touch the hearts of those He wants to support us prayerfully and financially.  It is amazing to watch how He does this. 

If God touches your heart to do either or both, pray for us on a regular basis and/or give to us financially, please contact us to let us know so we can continue to thank God for providing for all our needs, as He has promised to do so. 

May God richly bless you as you follow Him wholeheartedly!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.~James 1:27

Subscribe to the SFH Prayerletter on our website

Use the DONATE button above to use PayPal for gifts of any amount or mail a check to:  Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730

Contact Becky directly:  beckyblloyd@gmail.com/828-691-2581 (voice, text, FaceTime)





HAPPY HOLIDAYS & MERRY XMAS!

I tend to be an observer.  I learn so much just by observing.  I don’t plan to observe, that’s just…what I do.  



I never will forget Brother Ed Kofi, in Liberia, telling me on more than one occasion, “Sis Becky, you don’t talk much, but you observe.  I’ve watched you.” He is an observer, too (wink!).  My good friend, Dawn Barnes, has “caught me” observing and commented, “You are ALWAYS thinking.” Dawn is an observer, too (wink!)  When I am with Deaf and observing them, I catch/notice so many new signs.  Yes, even after 15 years!  If I am with my good friend who is hearing, Vandora, when I see something new I quickly ask her, “Did you see that sign for …?”  

Definitions vary a bit for the word, observer.  Most say it is a person who watches and/or one who notices things.  

Some would say I observe too much or too long, before I act.  I am guilty, as charged, I am sure.  I wish I could say I pray as much as I observe, but that is simply not true.  My observations are most often followed by much pondering and thinking and sometimes filtered with prayer.  

When I read/study God’s word my observer mode comes out, often.  Sometimes, I pause long enough to ask God’s Spirit to help me “see” or “notice” what it is He wants me to glean from His Word.  Many times, He shows me what He wants me to learn even when I do not ask Him to do so.  His Word is ALIVE (LIVING), so it will accomplish it’s intent.  

I tend to be a stickler for what His Word says and what it does not say.  There is so much you and I can learn when we, ourselves, devote time to reading and studying God’s Word for ourselves.  Yes, it is also important to receive wise counsel from others who do the same, but there is nothing that can take the place of you and me sitting in the presence of Yahweh, alone, one-on-one.




I hate assumptions, but I am guilty of them all to often.  Assumptions get us into so much trouble in our earthly relationships, one can only imagine what our assumptions relating to God can do.  The assumptions about our God are so destructive for so many.  It isn’t the nonbeliever’s assumptions that concern me the most, but more so the believer’s assumptions that are so damaging and debilitating for themselves and others and often for an entire lifetime.  

Please do not assume you know what God’s Word has to say about something, check it out for yourself.  Become an observer of His Word.  Notice things, that maybe others have never brought to your attention.  You may be surprised to find something very different from what you “thought” or “assumed” was true. All to often, we tend to develop thinking patterns based on assumptions instead of His Word.  Be aware, God will always be revealing more and new truths to you as you mature in your walk with Him, as well.  What I know and believe about the scriptures, today (age 55), are somewhat different from what I knew as a new follower of Christ at the age of 14 and even so as His follower at the age of 41.  

You and I will never know all there is to know about God, He is simply…too BIG!

An “assumption” that was revealed to me this year, by a dear friend’s Facebook post, surrounds the phrase “Happy Holidays”.  A few years ago, when the media and many in the retail industry decided they would no longer wish others “Merry Christmas”, this time of year, but instead they would say “Happy Holidays”, many of us became indignant.  And we were all to proud to boldly proclaim Merry Christmas back to those who wished us Happy Holidays…those heathens.  Turns out our pride may have been a little over zealous.  The word holiday means first and foremost “holy day”, according to Merriam-Webster, so wishing someone Happy Holidays is not far from wishing them a Merry Christmas, now is it?  Jesus is holy and these days are ‘set-apart’ to celebrate His ‘holy’ birth.  The same holds true for Xmas.  I remember many years ago, that became a popular way to write Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas.  How dare they take the “Christ” out of Christmas!  Once again, when someone took the time to search a little deeper, turns out the use of the X dates back to the early 1500’s and it is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. 

When God looks down on us, I wonder how often He shakes His head in disbelief at the insignificant things we become so zealous over and the vital things we overlook? 



Will you join me in celebrating the birth of the holy child, who lived a holy life, so He could die a holy death, for you and me to be holy?



EDYN GRACE!

S4H’s Wheels for the Walterhouse Family
(shared by Becky Lloyd, December 11, 2014)
Jonathan Walterhouse is a S4H Board Member
and his wife, Michelle, is a S4H Advisory Board Member

All donations are tax deductible!

All for God’s glory!

Shared by Jonathan and Michelle Walterhouse…

Edyn Grace is our 6 year old “princess” who has had a challenging life. She was abandoned at the hospital in Peru when her birth mother realized she was not able to take care of another child. Edyn was born premature with multiple health issues, most of which were not discovered until she was a few years old. She is Deaf, and was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Thankfully she was taken to an Orphanage in Peru run by Christian missionaries to the Deaf. She spent the first 5 years of her life there in an environment where she was cared for and nurtured to the fullest extent possible.

God called our family to adopt in November, 2010. It was a providential meeting between several families in which God connected us to the Orphanage where Edyn was living. Three years later and after God had provided over $36,000 for adoption and travel costs, our family was able to travel to Lima, Peru to complete the adoption. We flew back home on December 20th, 2013. God be praised!


Edyn Grace’s Gotcha Day, December 5, 2013!

Read more about His story for Edyn Grace on our blog MorefortheHouse.

Since returning to the US, last December, multiple tests have been performed in working with more than 6 doctors to determine whether or not the diagnosis Edyn was given in Peru was an accurate one. In short, we found that she does not have Cerebral Palsy. Rather, she has been diagnosed with a rapidly progressive Ataxia (muscle weakness and lack of muscle coordination) of unknown etiology. Essentially, she has, over the last 3-4 months, lost a significant amount of her mobility. She has much trouble controlling her core muscles and as a result began to fall repeatedly. There are many different variations of Ataxia, and we are still awaiting a recent test to ascertain which kind she has.This of course has changed our family’s everyday life, quite drastically. Edyn now uses a wheelchair for mobility. She currently has a pediatric manual wheelchair while we await insurance approval on a powered chair. Currently, with her manual chair, we wheel her up next to our van, help her stand and take a few steps towards her seat, then hoist her into her seat as we cannot brace her wheelchair in our current van. Once Edyn’s power chair arrives, we will not be able to transport her in our current van and will need to obtain a wheelchair-accessible van.

These vans are expensive! Even a used, 2011 van (wheelchair-accessible) with 54,000 miles has a price tag of $35,000. We are seeking approval for a low interest loan through our State’s Rehabilitation service office, but even at that–with the traditional 7 year loan–our monthly payment will be substantially higher than any vehicle payment we have ever had.

We have had many people ask how they can help, and to be truthful- the things we need most are prayer for God’s wisdom and funds towards the purchase of an “Edyn Grace Van”.

Would you consider helping us in this endeavor? 

Click on this link or on the DONATE button above to go to the Signs for Hope website to donate now!

Or mail a check to Signs for Hope, PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730 

James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.




So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 8 of…


What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?



The blog post below was originally shared in September of 2013 under the title, “What is BEST for the Deaf Child?”.  I have decided to include it, in its updated form, to become Part 8 in the series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”



In an effort to inform and equip adoption agencies, especially faith-based ones, as they seek to provide the best possible family environment for the raising of deaf children and to expand their understanding of the Biblical Worldview concerning the Deaf Peoples around the world, I have decided to write this post. 



 
Having numerous dDeaf family members (d meaning a form of deafness and D meaning a member of the Deaf Community) I often thought my husband, Charles, and I would end up giving birth to and being given the responsibility of raising a deaf child.  However, Rachel and Joseph are both hearing and we never had to face that all-encompassing question, “What is best for our deaf child?”   
 
Thirteen years ago when God led me to return to school in the fall of 2000 at the age of 41–2 yr. Interpreter Training Program degree and then 4-yr. degree in ASL Studies,--the answer to the question, “What is best for the deaf child?” became a personal quest of mine. At that time, I did not understand why I was so obsessed with wanting to know the answer to that question, but I do now, at least in part. 

I researched and researched and researched some more…I still do.  I talked to numerous educational interpreters, they are on the front lines and see what deaf children are faced with day in and day out…I still do.  I have also listened to many dDeaf people share their stories of frustration and pain with hearing family members who never learned sign language…and I still do.  
And I listen to the stories of those who experience deafness, but do not know sign language or were not exposed to it until much later in life and do not feel accepted by hearing people or by Deaf people, to this day.  They do not really “fit” anywhere! 

 
Sometimes, I feel embarrassed to admit that it took me several years to come to my conclusion. However, that uncertainty forced me to develop a strong and sure foundation for why I can boldly say, today, without reservation or hesitation, that providing the deaf child a sign language rich environment, as their strong foundation, is by far…BEST!


In addition, over the past 14 years, I have become heavily involved with the Deaf Community.  I have learned they are among one of the top three unreached people groups locally and around the world.  An unreached people group is an ethnic or ethnolinguistic people in which less than 2% of their population know of and follow Christ.
 
Often, Deaf people remind me of this story in the Old Testament, Exodus chapters 3 & 4, where the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking to Moses from the burning bush and Moses is making excuses as to why he should not be the one to do what God has called him to do.

“Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue. The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exodus 4:11, NASB)


Many Deaf people who do follow Christ, believe it is no accident God has allowed them to be deaf and that He clearly has a plan for each of their lives within their deafness.

This additional knowledge has led me to see more clearly, another reason, possibly even a stronger and more important one for granting the deaf child the right to be allowed to learn ASL and that is for the purpose of impacting those who are dDeaf with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We know, from much research, the ability to share the hope of Christ by others within their own people group is much more successful than when those from outside their group try to do the same.  If ASL-fluent and Deaf Culture-immersed families adopt deaf children and then provide them with a sign language rich environment there will be many more opportunities for God to lead some of those children to share their beliefs with other Deaf people as they become adults.   I already know stories of adopted deaf children who feel called to return to their home lands to share the gospel with the Deaf people there.  Their sign language fluent hearing adoptive family members will also have influence on the Deaf Community and vice versa.  However, if families never give their deaf children the opportunity to learn sign language or interact with other Deaf people, the possibility of them ever influencing the lives of Deaf people for Christ is minimal to none, at best. 

Maybe more of us hearing people should follow Paul’s example, learn sign language and become immersed in the Deaf Community:

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Some challenging questions for us to ponder:

For the sake of the gospel, should Christian hearing parents of deaf children learn ASL?  To date, in the US, 90+% of hearing biological parents never learn to sign with their deaf children. 

For the sake of the gospel, should Christian adoptive parents provide a sign-language rich environment for their deaf children? 

And, finally, should any and all hearing people learn ASL and be immersed in Deaf Culture, to possibly ‘win the Deaf’ and some how ‘save some’?

Before I am misunderstood, let me go ahead and say clearly, I believe the BEST for the deaf child is knowing and embracing both ASL and English, as best they can. In addition, I also believe they should be given every opportunity to embrace both the hearing and Deaf cultures, as well. 

Ideally, I also believe it is also BEST for all hearing people and all dDeaf people to do the same. 

God has purposefully given us family members who experience deafness.  This is no accident nor is it only a result of the fall of mankind or sin which we should simply accept as a part of this life.  Why else would He continue allowing 95+% of deaf children to be born to and/or raised by hearing parents?  And why else would He be allowing as many as 70% of our aging population of hearing family members experience debilitating deafness in their final years? 

We are long overdue for asking God, specifically, what His will is concerning the dDeaf in our midst.  Over the years, we, hearing and Deaf people alike, have constantly been separating these two groups of people, but God is constantly trying to ensure that the vast majority of deaf people (old and young) always have hearing family members.  The family is a part of God’s design from the very beginning.  When will we stop separating what God Himself has put together?  What are we missing when we separate ourselves from each other?

If you are an agency or a family not focused on adoption being, solely, His work and ultimately to spread His gospel, I urge you to do some soul searching and ask God to reaffirm to you why it is you are involved with adoption and more specifically the adoption of children who experience deafness.





James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.


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So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Ongoing Blogpost Series


Part 1, Overview

Part 2, What is the Best & Quickest Way to Learn American Sign Language?

Part 3, No One Told Me

Part 4, Deaf Children are Anything, But Quiet

Part 5, Why is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child

Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

Part 7, The Adopted Deaf Child and Your Church

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 7 of…

“The Adopted Deaf Child and Your Church”

These multiple blogposts, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”, are being written to try to better prepare a hearing family, for adopting a deaf child.  Rarely are these things ever considered when a family says yes to adopt a child with a hearing loss.  The increasing number of deaf adopted children being released for the adoption by a 2nd family is one of the reasons for these blogposts.  

This is the 7th in the series.  Here are links to all the others.

Part 1, Adopting the Deaf Child, An Overview

Part 2, What is the Best and Quickest Way to Learn American Sign Language?

Part 3, No One Told Me

Part 4, Deaf Children are Anything, But Quiet

Part 5, Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?

Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

Part 8, What is BEST for the Deaf Child and Beyond?

95% of deaf children are born to and/or are raised by hearing parents, who probably have never met a Deaf person in their life.  So they have some excuse for their not knowing all these things when they are suddenly confronted with raising a child that experiences deafness.  However, if you have decided your family is prepared to adopt, and the best option to adopt a child with deafness, this is one of the things you need to be prepared to accept.  Just in case no one has told you or you have not thought of this yourself. 

First, here is another little known fact, among hearing people, that still boggles my mind.   Less than 10% of those parents who give birth to and/or are raising deaf children, here in the US, ever learn to sign with them.  That statement shocks me every time I read it, hear it!  These numbers are coming from schools for the Deaf around the country, so these are hearing families who have accepted the fact their deaf children should be educated in a sign language-rich  environment, YET they are not willing to learn that language to grant them good, strong communication, with their deaf child. That fact is beyond my comprehension! 

Through the years, hearing parents of deaf children–this is after their deaf children have become adults–have confided to me two things, consistently.  One, they so wish they had learned to sign with their deaf children when they were young.  And two, others tell me they regret not allowing their deaf children to learn to sign when they were children, as many do not learn ASL until college-age. They realize how this has ostracized their children in both the hearing and the Deaf worlds.  By the way, these are not questions I pose to these family members, but simply conversations parents initiate with me…the interpreter.





Back to our topic at hand…

Unless your family is already attending a church where there is an established Deaf Ministry, this will most likely be an area of great struggle, frustration, and disappointment for you and your family, once you adopt a deaf child.  It is very possibly your family will have to seek out another church.  The only problem is, there are very few churches, across this country, doing a really good job of reaching out to the Deaf, through ASL interpreted services or with Deaf-led services. In the largest cities, where the concentration of the Deaf population is much greater, there are few thriving Deaf Ministries (most often hearing-led by ASL interpreters and some with Deaf leaders) and even fewer Deaf Churches, where the pastor himself is Deaf. 

Once you begin to learn about the Deaf Affinity Group, the group of people who identify themselves as Deaf living around the world, a subculture of every hearing-culture, you will quickly be confronted with the fact that less than 2% of all Deaf people know of and/or follow Jesus Christ.  That is true right here in our own US of A.  This fact puts them in the top three unreached people groups around the world. 

Think that through for just a moment. Try to think about how this could impact your adopted deaf child and your family throughout your adoption journey, which is life-long and will actually reach into the next generation.  For example, if you have dreams of your adopted deaf son or daughter growing up and easily finding and marrying another Deaf person, who is a follower of Christ, think again.  You do think about your deaf child growing up and becoming all God desires for him/her to be, don’t you?


Allow me to share a little Deaf Culture with you.

There are no statistics on how many Deaf people marry other Deaf people, nor how many mixed marriages (Deaf with hearing) there are, but in years past Deaf marrying Deaf was the most common practice.  Several reasons have been suggested:


1) Deaf people tend to feel only other Deaf people can truly identify with them on a deeper level through their language of ASL and their shared experiences, growing up in a hearing family that never learned to converse with them,.  They feel the bond they can have with each other is much stronger when they marry another Deaf person. This often comes from their life experiences of hearing family members rarely sharing details of their family’s spoken conversations, everyday.

2)  Deaf people would marry other Deaf people so they could keep their precious ASL and Deaf culture more pure. 


3) Many years ago, it was thought if a hearing person married a deaf person their deafness was contagious and it would spread.  So, intermarrying was taboo, for most hearing people, at least for a time. 

Back to our topic:


Let me help you think through some reasons why it is hard for an all hearing church to embrace the adopted deaf child of even one of their own?   



1) More than likely, no one in your congregation knows sign language or has any idea about the culture of the Deaf.  I know it may be a few years before your deaf child can communicate well via sign language, but when he/she does others need to be ready to converse with them.  If no one at the church can communicate with your deaf child, you can be assured there will be behavior issues to deal with on a regular basis.
Pairing your deaf child with a “buddy” who knows sign language, to some extent, could help reduce those frustrations for a time.  The vast differences in these two cultures, Deaf and hearing, will take someone who is passionate about the Deaf a life time of willingness to learn.  


2) Deaf children have an uncanny ability to make noise at the most inopportune and embarrassing times. You think this will be an easy fix?  Think again.  Since deaf children, often do not even know what makes sound and they cannot hear those sounds, they have no idea they are causing a disturbance to the hearing people around them.  Granted sometimes they do begin to do this just to annoy hearing people, but this is something deaf children and their parents deal with for many years.  These continual disturbances are not well tolerated by most hearing people and it will not take long for someone to tell you so.  Be assured, it is not only the Deaf who are being excluded from our churches, but all those who are not “normal” experience this oppression from the very ones that should embrace them with open arms.  

Here is a recent article about how few churches, in America, are reaching anyone with a disability, The Church and Disability.   

3) Hiring a qualified ASL interpreter for just your deaf child may not be well received by your church and often harder still, there may not be a local qualified interpreter willing to interpret on a regular basis. I dare say this is an area, where you will want the most qualified ASL interpreter who shares the same beliefs as does your family, to ensure the message for your deaf son or daughter is clear.  Again, this is not an easy find.  In addition, fees for qualified ASL interpreters, especially on the weekend, can easily start at more than $50 per hour.
I have read recent blog posts of families who are in the process of adopting a deaf child who mention how easy it would be for the adopting family who adopts a deaf child just to go ahead and start a Deaf Ministry in their own church.  Let me just say, from more than 14 years experience of being involved with Deaf Ministry and learning from several others, mentors, who have been involved with Deaf Ministry for over 40 years, themselves, developing a Deaf Ministry is far from easy. Trust me when I say, you will already have your hands full if you adopt a deaf child, leaving no energy whatsoever to start and maintain a Deaf Ministry. 


“Why is Deaf Ministry So Hard?” is a two part blog post shared by Marshall Lawrence–the hearing biological father of a deaf daughter, Rachel, founder of Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries and the children’s TV series performed by all Deaf actors, Dr. Wonder’s Workshop.  


To watch each episode in its entirety click here.


Others say hearing mom and dad can easily begin interpreting at church for their deaf child once they are home.
IF mom or dad are already trained ASL interpreters, that MIGHT be a possibility.  If that does happen your church will no longer be a place for you to refresh, refuel and reconnect.  You must keep in mind, casually signing in ASL and interpreting in ASL are two vastly different things.  Conceptually accurate interpreting is a skill that requires many years of training and practice and should be shared with a team interpreter if the assignment is longer than say an hour of continuous interpreting with no breaks. Ideally, that time should be no more than 30 minutes. Again, your life will be full to overflowing by the adoption of your deaf child and interpreting at church will become an added burden not a service filled with joy.  Some deaf adopted children are so embarrassed by being the only deaf person in their church and then having mom or dad interpret for them, drawing even more attention to them, especially if they are seated up front, becomes more than they can handle. 





If you have not given much thought to or prayed about the spiritual needs of your deaf child, please do.  As I shared earlier, the Deaf are among the top unreached people groups around the world.  Actually, this should be your main focus of prayer for your deaf son or daughter, in my opinion; to know and follow Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  While their spiritual foundations must come from within their own homes, the place the family decides to corporately worship with other believers will ultimately greatly impact your deaf child, as well. 

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.“~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

One of the best resources available for reaching the hearts of all children for Christ is the National Center for Biblical Parenting.  Check them out, today!


So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 6 of…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKKYBkJ9Hw
Click the above picture to go to the
Cochlear Implant Simulation
on Speech & Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKKYBkJ9Hw

The “Adopted” Deaf Child & The Cochlear Implant


Note: The term “deaf” is defined as partially or completely lacking the sense of hearing, therefore it includes those considered “hard of hearing”, as well. 

Hopefully, you have noticed in this series, “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”–6 posts thus far–the topics covered and information shared are somewhat different from other information found in other places.  We try to address topics that are rarely even thought about, prior to adopting a deaf child, but will greatly impact a family if they do adopt a deaf child.  We believe it is the right of the deaf child to have adoptive parents who are highly skilled and prepared specifically for their vast needs, prior to bringing them home.  We believe the information these blog posts are covering will help equip them to do that, IF they decide to proceed with the adoption of a deaf child. 


In the year 2014, we live in a world of much misinformation–false and/or inaccurate information sharing. Sometimes it is because only some of the information is readily shared or easily discovered.  Often times, the media shares information that will only cause the greatest emotional response, with hopes that will guarantee them more faithful followers in the future.  Sometimes, it is just easier not to share all the information upfront because it is too overwhelming.  Let’s just face it, sometimes, we are easily satisfied with what we are told, initially, because we like it and are not willing to do the necessary work to do an exhaustive information search on our own.  I could site many examples of this, but the one that is nearest to me, at the moment, is the one that I will share in this blog post. 



If I randomly interviewed people on Any Street, USA and asked the question…”Does the Cochlear Implant make someone who is deaf, hearing?”, for those who have heard about the Cochlear Implant (CI) before, I have no doubt an overwhelming  majority of people would respond, “Yes, of course, it does!”.  While their response is “partially true”–the Cochlear Implant (CI) does provide the recipient with the sensation of sound, albeit much different from the sound our natural hearing provides–there is much more information the parents desiring to adopt a deaf child must know. 


This will not be a simple or easy journey, gaining full knowledge surrounding the CI, but I believe it is a vital one and one every deaf child is worthy of.  Many adoptive parents, adoption agency personnel, and incountry orphan care workers ASSUME the CI will “fix” deafness.  That simply…is not true.  It will require much time in research and prayer, on your part, parents, to uncover all the necessary information to make a wise decision concerning the CI. Not doing so, I believe, is a disservice to not only the deaf child, but also to yourself and the rest of your family. 



Cochlear Implant Simulation:  Click the above picture to hear what “sound” sounds like through a Cochlear Implant.



For the “adopted” deaf/HOH child, whose brain has been deeply traumatized and whose emotional and social development is grossly immature, the functioning outcomes of the CI have never been researched.  The functioning outcomes of the CI are the measurable benefits the CI provides the recipient in communication access –listening and speaking skills. The ultimate test of these skills are when the recipient communicates with those in the natural hearing world and not just among their immediate family members who become accustomed to understanding their speech no matter the clarity.  The published outcomes of the CI on the deaf child are based almost solely on those who are born into loving families, with healthy developing brains and with the greatest of external professional resources for skill training, not on the “adopted” older deaf/HOH child’s brain. 


What is the Cochlear Implant? “A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to someone who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing HOH. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin (see the above picture).”  (www.nidcd.nih.gov) There is also an internal probe that reaches down into the Cochlea (inner ear), where sound is transported to the brain for comprehension.  The CI destroys all residual hearing the recipient might have. Of course, there are always risks involved with a surgery of this magnitude, so research those here.

 


Chances are you have seen the emotional videos on FB and/or TV showing the first time a young child has “heard” his/her mother’s voice.  They do pull at your heart strings, but these videos can be misleading as you must remember this child is not suddenly hearing AND understanding their mother’s voice, as you and I might first be tempted to believe, they are simply hearing “sound” for the first time, provided by the CI.  As you heard in the simulation video above.  Many years of intensive speech and hearing training and thousands of hours of therapies will be required to enable this young pre-lingual (knowing no spoken language prior to implantation) deaf child the optimum use of the CI, whatever that might be for each specific child, as it is different for each individual recipient.  



Do you ever wonder, as I do, why it is we rarely see follow-up videos and reports on the outcomes/successes of these children as they grow into adulthood?  One would think they would be the best advertisement for those doing the CI surgery and those manufacturing the CI.   I believe it is partially because ultimately the outcomes of the CI vary so greatly from one recipient to another and so many children implanted do not grow up to be as “hearing” as we are initially led to believe. 



While the CI is considered “successful” as it does provide “sound” for the recipient there is so much more involved than just “hearing” that sound.  The brain must be trained to translate that sound into comprehendable meanings that then translate into language and speech and most-desirable clear communication with another hearing person.  Sometimes the comprehension of speech being heard via the CI surpasses the recipients ability to then vocalize the correct sound(s) and speak clearly.  The ability you and I have to speak clearly is directly related to what we hear and how well our brain can translate what we hear, therefore what a CI recipient “hears” will directly determine how well they speak.  


Just to give you an idea of how hard it is to master spoken language, unnaturally, click on the video above. Rachel Kolb from the TEDxStanford website is profoundly deaf, but had 20 years of speech therapies and very supportive parents from birth.  She was a student at Stanford and a Rhodes Scholar when she gave this speech in 2013.  While she speaks clearly, to some degree, she prefers to communicate through sign language, as she says it is a much more natural communication for her.  Her talk is given in spoken English, but she is also fluent in American Sign Language.  Rachel is bi-lingual (English and ASL) and bi-cultural (hearing and Deaf Culture). 


Experiment: Try NOT looking at Rachel while she is speaking and see how well you can understand her.  


Rachel is studying abroad this fall at Oxford, majoring in English and writing.  An ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter will accompany her. 


Review the 3rd post in this series:

“The New “Member” of Your Family…the ASL Interpreter!”

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It is vitally important to understand the backgrounds of CI recipients to further understand the unique challenges they will face in interpreting the sound generated by a CI accurately and then utilizing that interpretation for communication and functioning in the “hearing” world.  Generally, there are three different categories or groups of CI recipients.

1) Post-Lingual (after spoken language develops) CI Recipient – typically the age represented by this group would be a hearing child or adult that is already speaking, age 36 months and older, but lost their hearing suddenly due to an injury, illness or as a result of prolonged use of certain drugs prescribed for an illness.  This category represents a very small group of deaf/HOH children, as the above situations are rare.


If the recipient of a CI was hearing and speaking (post-lingual) prior to implantation, the brain’s ability to match the new sounds it is hearing with the original sounds it knew, will be much more natural and, therefore, somewhat easier.   The sounds will not “sound” the same, of course, as you heard when you listened to the CI simulation above, but the brain’s ability to connect the new sound with meaning will be greater than for those who did not hear and speak naturally before implantation. 


Putting on the CI is not the same as putting on a pair of glasses to perfectly correct your vision.  It will take much time to re-train the brain to learn what each new sound represents. I have heard of some newly implanted recipients, in this post-lingual category, going throughout their homes flushing the toilet, turning various appliances on and off, and practicing bodily functions to be able to determine which new sound specifically represents the old natural sound. The same is true for speech following a CI surgery.  A recipient’s own voice, now heard through the CI, will sound different than before, as will all other voices.  The brain can adapt well, however, if it was already programmed to hear AND comprehend speech, naturally, before the CI surgery. For the vast majority of CI recipients who were hearing and speaking prior to implantation, the outcomes for a fully functioning life in the hearing world are much higher than for those who have never heard and spoken before. 



Resource:

Treating Hearing Loss with Cochlear Implants

2) Pre-Lingual CI Recipient, under the age of 36 months

For the young deaf/HOH child, 6 – 36 months of age, with a neurologically-healthy functioning brain, the CI can possibly become the hearing replacement or sound producer for acquiring language, more so than for those older who have surpassed this critical sound and language acquisition phase of life, up to 36 months. That is not to say all children implanted prior to 36 months of age will become fully functioning and communicate with ease in the hearing world, as research does NOT support those outcomes. There are innumerable variables involved with each unique deaf/HOH child and the many external resources (therapies and trainings to help the recipient produce listening and speaking skills) which will be needed for obtaining the maximum benefit.  It is important to understand that the way a hearing child naturally learns a language is by first hearing sounds and mimicking them repeatedly, practicing until it comes out correctly-spoken.  The developmental process of spoken language really begins in utero for the unborn child and continues for at least the next 36 months.


Resources:

Language Outcomes After Cochlear Implantation

Language Development Domain

3) Pre-lingual CI Recipient, age 3 (36 months) and older

For the older deaf/HOH children, implanted at age 3 (36 months) and older, outcomes granted by the CI vary significantly. Those deaf children who have not been exposed to spoken language because of their deafness, prior to 36 months, will struggle to master spoken language and good listening skills.  Spoken language takes longer to develop, even naturally, than visual language; hence the reason so many hearing parents now teach their hearing babies sign language, so they can begin communicating their wants and needs as early as 8 months of age. 

Resource:


Language Outcomes After Cochlear Implantation (58 references included)


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Note: The research outcomes for the above categories are not based on the “adopted” deaf/HOH child, but are based almost solely on the deaf/HOH child born into loving hearing families.  In addition, the required professional support services all CI recipients must receive for producing the best outcomes (listening and speaking skills) are local and readily available to these children and they and their families are fully utilizing them.

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When researching the CI prior to adopting the deaf child, three equally important things to remember for the deaf child you desire to adopt are shared below.  These three factors MUST be foremost in your mind as you sift through the research for the CI.



1) Language Acquisition – Rarely are the brains of the adopted deaf child in the prime age of language learning from 6 months to just under 36 months (3 years) when they are adopted.  In fact, most are over 3 or 4 yrs of age and some are as old as 10.
Yes, some deaf/HOH children are available for adoption, with no exposure to language at all even at the age of 10.  Keep in mind, the time span between 6 months and 36 months is the “full developmental process” for language learning.  There is nothing magical about simply being under 36 months when the deaf child receives the CI.  The vast majority of adopted deaf children are beyond the “optimal time”, according to their brains, to “master” language. This does not mean they cannot learn language, but it does mean the process will be laborious and take many years of training.

Resources:

Brain Development and the Mastery of Language in the Early Childhood Years

Speech and Language Developmental Milestones


AND

2) Neurologically Unhealthy Brain – All adopted deaf children will have experienced trauma.  The same is true for all adopted children, but remember the deaf child will also have additional trauma because of the lack of language and little to no communication for bonding with peers and/or caregivers.  In fact, deaf children tend to be targeted by their hearing peers and their hearing caregivers for additional bullying and abuse…physical and sexual.  Which means, even if you do find a deaf child under the age of 3 to adopt, the trauma they have experienced will greatly impact their brain’s ability to not only bond with you and others, but also acquire language, immediately, as it will not be a neurologically-healthy functioning brain. Not only will this neurologically unhealthy brain delay the ability of the deaf child to learn and master language, it will also mean the many years needed to develop spoken & understood language (communication) via the CI, will also delay the bonding between the child and their hearing, speaking family members.  Signed language can bridge those two gaps much more quickly.   Clear communication is vital to building trust and felt-safety for the adopted child and without that the deaf child’s traumatized brain will not be begin to heal and become healthy. 


Resources:

Understanding the Importance of Neurotransmitters

Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Brain Development

                                                                 
                                           AND

3) No matter what country the adopted deaf child comes from, the medical records will be sorely lacking in their diagnostic evaluations, especially concerning the child’s deafness. The extent of deafness of an adopted child can rarely be fully known until they are evaluated comprehensively here in the states. Hearing screening and testing is rare in other countries, especially of institutionalized children.  Deafness is not visible and it can be easily overlooked, especially in the child under the age of 3 or 4.  Older non-verbal children MIGHT be suspected of hearing loss, but rarely then are they even tested.  Some children labeled “non-verbal” could also have hearing loss.  I know many stories of families adopting a child and following their first physical here in the states their deafness is discovered. No one knew! I also know of several stories of families specifically adopting a deaf child and when they arrive home they find out their child’s deafness was a severe case of ear-wax buildup. You see many pictures of children wearing hearing aides and maybe even CI’s, in other countries, not until they are evaluated, here, do you know if any of them actually benefit the child…or even work for that matter.  Do not trust what is in any “waiting child’s medical file” as being 100% accurate or complete.  After hearing so many stories of inaccuracies–misinformation–relating to the medical files of adopted children you simply cannot trust what is listed there or what may not be listed there as factual. Adoption, truly is an act of faith! 

Review the 5th post in this series:

“Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?”

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As we all know visual language–mime, gestures and sign language–is often much more easily understood even by people from different cultures and different spoken languages.  The use of sign language and gestures with the deaf child will greatly increase their understanding and will begin to strengthen their bond with their family members, in a much more timely manner than the long-awaited outcomes of the CI.  In addition, the increased visual communication opens their brains to a much bigger world, creating a more healthy environment in which to grow their brains whose development has been stunted by trauma.  Using visual language to communicate with the adopted deaf child will also begin the process of bonding and connecting, much more quickly.  Much the same as the reasons for teaching hearing babies to sign before they can speak.

Test:  The video above has no spoken language.  Not one word.  See how much of it you can understand, visually. 

Review the 2nd post in this series:


What Is the Best & Quickest Way to Learn ASL?



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Parents MUST be fully informed of ALL the requirements and challenges surrounding the implantation of the CI for their deaf/HOH adopted child, from pre-surgery and for the rest of their lives.

As you gather information please pay close attention to the words that are used to describe the outcomes and results of the CI.  The words used are very general in their claims and never specific, never promising a deaf/HOH child will be able to “function normally, just as a naturally hearing person does, in the hearing world”.  Some questions you will want to ask:

  • I understand my child will hear sounds, but will he/she be able to understand what is heard clear enough so they can begin speaking clear enough to function “normally” in a hearing world? If so, how long with this process take?
  • Will my child need additional support(s), in addition to the CI, to reach their highest possible functioning level within the hearing world? If so, what are they?

  • What is the average number of years it takes for an older deaf/HOH child (over the age of 3), following implantation to begin to speak in full sentences accurately and being fully understood by others and with an age-appropriate level of comprehension? 
  •  How long will the CI last?  Will it need to be replaced? 
  • Will my insurance cover the CI surgery AND all the needed therapies and trainings that are required for optimum listening & speaking development? 
  • Could the fact my adopted deaf/HOH child’s brain has been traumatized by neglect and institutionalization sabotage the best possible outcomes provided by a CI?   

  •  Will you allow us to still use sign language with our deaf/HOH child after implantation(some programs will not)?

  • Am I willing and able to commit the time needed to ensure my implanted deaf/HOH adopted child receives every required external resource (listening and speaking skills therapies & trainings), IF they are available in my area, whereby granting them the best environment for developing the highest possible outcomes achievable for them, whatever that is? 
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Last, but certainly not least, is the question of the whole child. How will the CI affect the whole child cognitively, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? The CI requires years of training and therapies for communication (listening and speaking skills) to develop, how will that impact the adopted deaf child’s ability to connect and bond with hearing family members and beyond?   How will the CI affect them as they grow into adulthood?

I strongly recommend you interview at least 4 adult CI recipients that were implanted after the age of 3 and more specifically those who had no access to language (no hearing aides or speech training) prior to implantation, this will give the best comparison.  However, unless they were adopted, with traumatized brain development, the comparison will still not be equal. 

Always remember the adopted deafchild is unique in their history & trauma, in their personality, in their drive to achieve and/or please, in their ability to stay on task, in their ability to not only endure the countless hours needed for listening and speech trainings and therapies, but also learn from them. 

Signs for Hope believes it is the right of every deaf child to be given the opportunity to learn sign language as their first mode of communication. Having sign language as a base for communication, not only for bonding between parents and the adopted deaf child, in a timely manner, will also guarantee a continuous mode of communication should the CI not provide the desired and needed fully-functioning access to their “hearing” world years later. 
If you have additional questions and would like to contact me, Becky Lloyd, please do not hesitate to do so. I may not know the answers to your questions, but we can discover them together. 

I pray the above information has helped to give a much broader picture of the CI and the “adopted” deaf child. The decision to implant or not to implant is rarely an easy one, as some may mistakenly believe.  Instead, it is one that requires much time and patience to gain the full knowledge necessary to make wise decisions for each deaf child. 


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.~James 1:5-8


So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 5 of…

“Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind The Hearing Child?” 


               This is the 5th blog post in the series “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?”


The purpose of this series is to raise awareness and help educate all those involved in the process of the adoption of a deaf child; this includes their prospective parents and those representing the deaf children for adoption here in the US and in the deaf child’s birth country.  Adoption is a life-long journey, it is not just the process of bringing your son or daughter home.  Parents must be fully informed of the many ways adopting a deaf child will impact their lives, prior to bringing them home. This will help to ensure parents are well equipped and the necessary resources are available and in place for allowing the deaf child the greatest possibility to thrive and reach their greatest potential.  

The Uniqueness of Deafness blog post should be read before the following:

Part 1 – A General Overview of the Deaf Child


Part 2 – Learning ASL (American Sign Language)


Part 3 – The New “Member” of Your Family…the ASL Interpreter!


Part 4 – Myth: Your Home Will Be Quieter with a Deaf Child!


This post: “Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind the Hearing Child?”


If you have not already been told, or discovered it through your own research, most likely 100% of the children available for adoption, today, have experienced trauma either during pregnancy, during birth, and/or during their early months and years of life.  This alone is cause enough for them to be behind in their social and emotional development compared to their peers, born into loving families (http://www.comeunity.com/adoption/health/adoption-orphanage-development.html). 

In fact, Arthur Becker-Weidman’s study of 57 children who had experienced early maltreatment (trauma) revealed the developmental average age for this group was 4 years 4 months, but the average chronological age was 9 years 9 months.  That’s right, their developmental age was half their chronological age.  The above study does not not take into consideration the deaf child.

Let’s turn our attention to the biologically born deaf child. 


95+% of children who experience deafness to some degree have hearing parents.  That means that less than 5% of deaf children are raised by Deaf parents.  Read it again and let it sink in.  Remember, when I use “d” I am referring to the population who has some form of hearing loss and when I use “D” I am referring to the population that identifies themselves within the Deaf Culture.  When I use both “d/D” I am referring to all those with hearing loss and those embracing the Deaf Community as their culture.  A separate blog post, in this series, will be devoted to the Deaf Culture. 


Deaf parents begin communicating with their babies (remember the vast majority of their babies, greater than 95%, are hearing) from the time they are born, the same as biological hearing parents do with their babies.  The only difference…their mode of communication. Deaf parents use American Sign Language (ASL) and hearing parents use spoken English.  Yes, both use a variety of other body language and facial expressions to also communicate with their babies, too. By the way, I am not aware of any hearing adult children with Deaf parents who are are not skilled English speakers.

If you are not already aware teaching hearing babies sign language has become a common occurrence for many hearing families these days.  This tends to be very basic and usually only consists of teaching one sign for one word and ends around the time the child’s spoken vocabulary takes off at age two or three.  Research proves babies can learn to sign/gesture to express their needs much sooner than they can verbalize or speak their requests.  This reduces their frustrations, “giving them voice”, and stimulates brain function and development at a very early age. Having a voice or being able to communicate wants and needs by signing reduces frustrations for the hearing baby (and of course this is true for the deaf baby, as well) which means less crying and less temper tantrums providing improved communication with those who care for them.  Research also sites babies given the ability to communicate through sign early can increase their IQ by as much as 12 points.  So babies born to Deaf parents, hearing or deaf, are reaping the many benefits of, manual/visual (on the hands) communication from birth, via American Sign Language (ASL).


Now, let’s turn our attention to the deaf child waiting to be adopted.

It is possible the older deaf children (ages 7 or 8 and beyond), available for adoption, will have had the opportunity to learn their native sign language in their own country (ASL is not universal) prior to their coming home. Rarely before this age are they exposed to sign.  And for those deaf children who have been exposed to their native sign language for any amount of time, they should be placed in families that are already sign language fluent. 

However, 
it is also very possible the 10 year old and older deaf child, available for adoption, will have never been exposed to sign language of any kind prior to their adoption.  That’s right, no language (not even written) at the age of 10 and sometimes older for some. Of course, deaf children, who have been deprived of the ability to learn to communicate with anyone in their world will have the most trauma to overcome.  These deaf children should be placed in homes that are highly trained and equipped and sign-language fluent giving the deaf child the greatest opportunity to begin to bond as soon as mom and dad (and siblings) can begin to teach them sign language in the natural setting of “home”.  If there is no mode of communication for the deaf child and parents are not already sign language fluent the ability to begin the process of bonding will be delayed even longer causing additional trauma.  


I want to share a video clip with you of the Barnes Family adoption from 2012.  Larry and Dawn Barnes are Deaf and this video shows their very first meeting with their 8 year old adopted Chinese Deaf son, Tie. This was in April 2012 and Tie had started attending the deaf school in China in September of 2011.  Just for the record, not all Chinese deaf schools teach their students sign language, many of them are oral or speaking only schools.  This was the first time Tie was given the opportunity of learning Chinese Sign Language (CSL), at the age of seven.  After the first day, I asked Larry what he thought about Tie’s level of CSL.  He told me Tie was CSL fluent.  Keep in mind that was after only seven months of exposure to sign language at the age of seven years.  It is evident Tie was READY for learning his natural language of sign and did so in the sign language rich environment at his Chinese deaf school.  


In the video, notice how quickly Larry and Dawn can bridge the communication gap with Tie, in this very first meeting, even though CSL and ASL are vastly different.  There were three other hearing families in the same room meeting their hearing Chinese children.  Each had their own Chinese translator to facilitate communication.  The Barnes had no need for that.  Gestures play a huge role in communication when bridging the gap between two sign languages and they can also benefit hearing families in the beginning, as well. A phrase you will want to tell your self often, “Show, don’t tell!” The pictures Larry and Dawn are showing Tie are of his brothers and sisters back home.  After showing him their pictures and their name signs (this will be covered in the blog post on Deaf Culture), only once, Tie could copy their ASL sign names correctly, even though he has never seen ASL signs before.


Hopefully, this video will help to educate those placing older deaf children who have been exposed to their own native sign language prior to adoption the need for placing them in ASL-fluent families or families who are well on their way to fluency.  Read Part 2 in this series to see how long it can take for someone to become “fluent” in another language, their second language, including American Sign Language.  


For some reason it is rare for hearing parents to learn to sign with their deaf biological children.  In fact, less than 10% of hearing parents learn to sign with their deaf children in the US, still today.  This statistic comes from the deaf schools where hearing parents send their children once they have realized their deaf child will be using sign language as their natural mode of communication and accepting the Deaf Culture as their own.  Through the years I have been told over and over again, by the hearing parents of their now adult Deaf children, “I so wish I could sign with my son/daughter.  I have missed so much not being able to communicate with them better.”  Makes one wonder how their Deaf son or daughter has felt all their lives, doesn’t it?

Ideally, embracing both worlds and becoming bilingual in both English and ASL and bicultural, the hearing and the Deaf culture, will grant the deaf child and their hearing family members the greatest benefits of both.

The video below shows how hearing parents of deaf children can learn to communicate freely in ASL and provide that rich environment for their deaf children to thrive.

How does the lack of communication relate to the much delayed cognitive, social and emotional development of the deaf child born to and raised by hearing parents who do not use sign language? 

Language acquisition is vital to communication which is vital for the brain to function and develop normally and research shows there is an optimum time for the baby brain to naturally learn language.  These delays for the deaf child delay not only their cognitive development, but also behavioral,  and social and emotional development for them, as well. 

All of the above information is relating to deaf children in loving biological families, born here in the US. Now, try to grasp the fact the deaf son or daughter you are contemplating adopting has been institutionalized and deprived of language, (among many other traumatic things) more than likely, from birth.  

Again, the purpose of this blog post is not to educate parents (adoptive or biological) on how to improve their deaf child’s social and emotional development, but it is to make adoptive parents and those who represent deaf children for adoption aware of some of the additional challenges families will face when they adopt the deaf child.  These delays will be long term challenges and will often be frustrating for moms and dads, siblings, extended family members, educators, medical personnel, and everyone who interacts with the deaf child. 

Below are several resources to help increase your knowledge of the needs of the deaf child:

How Deaf Children Learn:  What Parents and Teachers Need to Know

Language Acquisition for Deaf Children:  Reducing the Harms of Zero Tolerance to the Use of Alternative Approaches

Social, Behavioral, and Emotional Issues related to Deaf/Hard of Hearing Student — Part 1

Social, Behavioral, and Emotional Issues Related to Deaf/Hard of Hearing Student – Part 2











So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 4 of…

Deaf Children Are Anything But Quiet!  

If you assume your home will be quiet and peaceful because you adopt a deaf son or daughter, you are mistaken!

Even though your deaf son or daughter may experience hearing loss, he/she will still probably have perfectly functioning vocal chords.  Do not mistakenly think having a deaf child in your home will ensure it to be a peaceful and quiet environment for you to enjoy.  On the contrary, in fact, the noise level caused by a deaf child could possibly elevate beyond anything your hearing child(ren) could produce and could be labeled “Dangerous Decibels” by OSHA.  This is not a joke!




Hearing parents of deaf children often share about their deaf children’s yelling/screaming and how loud they are, much louder than their hearing siblings.  Hearing children can hear themselves and tend to regulate, somewhat, what comes out of their mouths, however deaf children cannot hear the sounds they make, fully, nor have any idea of their intensity on a hearing person. 

In institutions and orphanages often the only way a deaf child gains any attention is by making some kind of annoying sound to alert their hearing caregivers of some need or want they have.  That sound is rarely soft and easy on the ears.  This is one time the deaf child is fully aware of the noise they are making.  Much different from an infant who gives up crying when no one responds the older deaf child learns their crying out can manipulate others who are hearing to satisfy their wishes and gain them attention, even if it results in negative attention and/or discipline.  


Many hearing parents talk of the ear pain they experience when their deaf child cries, especially while being held, and wonder if it is acceptable to wear ear plugs.  The cries of some Deaf adults are so extremely loud and some of the most intense expression of emotion I have ever heard. Not something I will soon forget. These “natural” uninhibited expressions reveal deep emotions that hearing people rarely expose.

If we think of all the many sounds our bodies produce, naturally, we will gain a better understanding of all the sounds deaf children are oblivious to and what parents will be responsible to teach their deaf children about.  Keep in mind these children are older and larger when adopted meaning the sounds of their bodily functions will tend to be louder, as well.  Be aware since these are sounds the children never hear it will take much longer to help them learn to curtail the noises without constant reminders.  And they will often use them to manipulate getting what they want and/or maintaining control in a given situation especially in public places. Public places, where hearing parent’s and sibling’s embarrassment is greater, are some of the most common times deaf children’s noises annoy family members the most.  


Chomping and smacking gum can be very annoying!
In addition, deaf children and some Deaf adults make sounds while working, playing, signing, eating and are never aware of them, unless a hearing parent or child or friend tells them.  These sounds can be grunting noises, clicks with their tongues while signing, popping knuckles, and so on.  Sounds made by clicking pens, tapping fingers on a table, stomping a foot–Deaf people feel the vibrations from this, but do not hear the sound–and the like are other actions hearing parents of deaf children sight as annoying.  Slamming doors and drawers (unintentionally, maybe, until a hearing parent brings attention to it), walking heavily or climbing stairs without carpet and even breathing heavily are other bothersome noises hearing parents mention on a regular basis.

Some believe it is inappropriate to alert Deaf people to the sounds they are making without knowing, especially if they do not ask.  The fact remains, dDeaf children and adults will always have hearing people (parents, children, classmates, friends, bosses, co-workers, spouses) they do life with on a daily basis.  Minimizing sounds that tend to bring negative attention from hearing people can only benefit the dDeaf as they learn to navigate well the hearing world they must live in. 

Check out Parts 1 – 3 of “So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?” on the SFH blog in May 2014.

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 3 of…

“No one told me…

an ASL Intruder Interpreter would become regularly attached to my family, when we adopted a deaf child, and sometimes in the most private of circumstances AND that sometimes I would have to seek them out, schedule them, and pay them for their services.”

This is a comment I hear from hearing parents when they are thrust into the world of deafness with their deaf child, born to them or adopted.

In general, an ASL Interpreter facilitates communication between those in the hearing world and those in the Deaf World, especially in settings of “consultation”. Consultative settings include, medical appointments and procedures of all kinds, school and educational meetings, legal meetings and the like, the most personal, of course. 

If your hearing family adopts a deaf child, even if dad and mom become fluent in ASL, an ASL Interpreter will most likely become a required by law (Americans with Disabilities Act)

facilitator of communication for your deaf child and the hearing person(s) they are involved in communication with, in many situations.  Do not misunderstand me, just because this is required by law does not mean the hearing person(s) meeting with your family and your deaf son or daughter will eagerly provide a qualified interpreter for them. Some will gladly provide this service while others will do everything possible to get out of providing this service.

It is possible you will be the one on the receiving end of an ASL Interpreter, someday, if your deaf son or daughter has the great opportunity to meet with Deaf individuals in the many settings listed above.  You will be thankful to have clear and accurate access to his or her conversations with your deaf child(ren).

You also need to know that not all ASL interpreters, even if they are RID Certified, state licensed, and/or “the best in the world”, are created equal.  In my opinion, until you see how an ASL interpreter performs you will not truly know their receptive skills (ability to understand ASL clearly and accurately speak it to others) and expressive skills (ability to sign clearly and accurately what is being spoken to the Deaf consumers preferences).  Just because they have a specific credential does not always mean they are highly skilled in the facilitation of spoken English into ASL and/or ASL to spoken English.  Sadly, you will also meet credentialed ASL interpreters, with much experience, who are unprofessional in their actions.

These experiences will help you to better identify with those in the Deaf World as they must endure this each and every time they have an appointment or meeting of any kind with someone in the hearing world. This is probably at least 90 – 95% of the time.

Not all ASL Interpreters are this “easy on the eyes”!
Family members of a deaf child will often become their interpreter for more casual settings. These settings could be for extended family members who do not know and do not learn ASL (this will be covered more in another blog post in this series), for hearing neighbors, for the hearing people at church, on the playground, for shopping and going out to eat, for birthday parties, for sports, etc. Pretty much every time communication is taking place, the need for interpreting for the deaf child will present itself.  

This must also be considered for some family vacations where entertainment of various kinds might be involved, as well as, any field trips your family takes where any kind of informative presentations are given.  If the family members decide to be their child’s ASL interpreter for these kinds of settings, mom and dad will find it beneficial to do some preparation in advance for any technical presentations that might require some additional learning of ASL vocabulary before the event takes place.  

If your family is involved in a church that does not already have a Deaf Ministry, it may prove to be very difficult to find a skilled interpreter for this setting. Finding, scheduling and often paying for an interpreter in the religious setting can be overwhelming for the parents of an adopted deaf child.  You may want to seek out a church in your area that has a Deaf Ministry or at least an interpreted service, if you can find one.  Interpreters for additional activities, beyond the worship service, will many times be limited for your deaf child.  It is not uncommon for deaf children to be embarrassed by being the only deaf person in a church service and especially if a family member becomes their interpreter. There are creative ways to avoid this additional attention being drawn to them, but this can often be an additional challenge for the family, parents and siblings, when adopting a deaf child.   This is a very important aspect in the life of a family and can be one of the most frustrating and heart breaking, especially if the family decides they feel they must change churches to meet the needs of their deaf son or daughter.
If you discover you live in a area with few Deaf people more than likely the pool of skillful ASL interpreters to pull from will probably be small.  It may be no ASL interpreter in your area matches the communication needs for your deaf son or daughter, hence the need to do your research prior to proceeding with a deaf adoption. 

ASL interpreters in the educational setting will be covered in a separate post in this series.

Sometimes, moms and dads wait until their adopted deaf child is older and their child’s own ASL skills have improved before they begin requesting an ASL interpreter for an appointment or meeting.  This will be something you will decide for your family, as long as those initiating the meeting will allow you the freedom to do so. 

Signing with your deaf child and being their interpreter are two vastly different things.  I have met many ASL students and others whose ASL can almost be considered native-like, however, when they interpret that fluency does not remain the same.  Interpreting is a much more challenging task than signing casually with others and requires much practice, intense brain concentration and continued life-long training.  In addition, mom and dad will have to make the decision of when to interpret and when not to interpret.  Some find it challenging to know when to be the parent and when to be the interpreter. 

 
This is a large encompassing topic and I will not take the time to cover it exhaustively, but if you move forward with the plan to adopt a deaf child you will want to know as much as possible about the ASL Interpreter and understand how much they will become a part of your family’s everyday life. One deaf adoptive mother admitted it has become a “love-hate” relationship for her.  She knows this is her deaf child’s right and is what is best for them, but she often feels the interpreter is an intruder in her family’s private and personal lives.  


Here are some additional links that should prove beneficial in helping you better understand this often overlooked aspect of adopting a deaf child:

The National Association of the Deaf
The above link is for all the NAD search results for: ADA Standards (Americans with Disabilities Act)

Gary, Plant, Mooty Law Firm
The above link is from a law firms website.

WHY SHOULD WE NOT USE A FAMILY MEMBER OR FRIEND TO INTERPRET?
The above is from the Deaf Interpreter Services in Texas website.

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How Great Thou Art in ASL by Pastor Ronaldo Feliciano

So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child? Part 2 of…

What is the Best and Quickest way to learn
American Sign Language (ASL)?

 
That is what families who have little to no experience with deafness and who are already in the process of adopting a deaf child ask me most often.  Actually, that is a pretty common question I get from many others, as well.

Obviously, the best practice for the adoption of a deaf child would be for the entire family to know ASL before starting the process to adopt.  This will provide an environment much more conducive to bonding with the deaf child more quickly, an ASL-rich environment.  This would also give the adopting family additional opportunities to set aside days and possibly even weeks where the entire hearing family only uses ASL to communicate with each other before the new deaf son or daughter comes home.  Yes, it will always be easier for your hearing family members to speak to each other and you will, but I urge you to include your deaf son or daughter in as much conversation (using ASL) as you possibly can to minimize their feeling ostracized more than they already will.  Ideally, your deaf son or daughter should be given access to any and all conversations that any hearing child or family member would have access to.  This is extremely challenging for an all hearing family who adopts a deaf child.  However, sad to say, this is a common experience even for biological deaf children who are raised in hearing homes. As adults the Deaf tell stories of hearing family members rarely including them in their conversations, IF they knew any sign language at all. Often they would see others laughing or crying while conversing in English. If they asked what was so funny or what was wrong, they were always told, “Oh, it was nothing. I’ll tell you later.”  But they never did. How can a deep meaningful parent-child relationship be developed in that kind of environment with that little communication?  However, if everyone is signing all the time it stands to reason the new deaf family member will learn much more quickly.  This will mimic the natural learning environment a hearing child is granted to learning how to speak English and hasten the deaf child’s ability to becoming a functioning part of the family. This will also enable, much more quickly, the adopted deaf child to be able to express their feelings and experiences with language (sign language) instead of with unacceptable behaviors, typical of a child who has come from “the hard place.”
Hanging out with Deaf people, multiple times weekly, is by far the BEST and fastest way to learn ASL and everything related to the Deaf World.  You should know if you are only spending minimal time conversing with the Deaf your ASL skills will only improve accordingly.  Immersion has always been the best and quickest way to learn a foreign language.Can you learn ASL other ways?  Yes, of course, but it will take much longer and you will still have to hang out with Deaf people for you to become comfortable communicating with them in sign.  The goal is proficiency in ASL, since this will be the mode of communication you will have with your deaf son or daughter for the rest of your lives.  Proficiency for many of us learning ASL as adults, as our second language, will take our entire lifetime.
Notice I am saying hanging out with Deaf people, and not just one Deaf person.  You will quickly find that each Deaf person is unique and their way of signing is also unique.  The only way I know how to describe it is the way they sign is uniquely related to how, where and when they learned to sign and their own unique personality.  Those who grew up in Deaf schools, for the most part, will be the most proficient in ASL.  Those who grew up mainstreamed in the public school system will have varying degrees of proficiency in ASL. Then there will be many who did not learn sign language, because they were not exposed to it, until they were in their twenties. Really a Deaf person’s signing is a part of who they are, their personality.  You will find those who are fairly easy to understand and then you will find others who are very hard to understand.  It depends on how clear they are in their signing and how large or small they sign, as well as, the size and shape of their fingers.  Then add the speed at which they sign. For some Deaf people, you will meet everything gets blurred together, as their signing speed is so quick, especially the fingerspelled words.  Learning ASL from interacting regularly with just one Deaf person will not be sufficient.

So how do you find Deaf people in your area?  Do a Google search for your area and add “deaf services”.  For example: “Asheville Deaf Services”.  Do another Google search for your area and add “deaf church”.  Example:  “Deaf Church Asheville”.  To be honest, Deaf Churches are rare and will mostly be found in much larger metropolitan areas. If you live in a small town you will probably have to broaden your search to include a larger city or maybe even your state to start out.  You should be able to make a few phone calls once you locate an organization in your state or area to determine if there is a concentration of Deaf people in your area.  


If you cannot locate the Deaf population in your area, let us know at Signs for Hope and we will help.  beckyblloyd@gmail.com 

If you live in an area that does not have a concentration of Deaf people you will want to rethink the adoption of a deaf child.  Raising a deaf child with minimal skill in ASL and WITHOUT the influence of native ASL signers and successful members of the Deaf community as role models will greatly limit the ability for your adopted son or daughter to thrive and reach their greatest potential. 

To help you better understand, this would be similar to your trying to raise your adopted child (who possibly knows no spoken language when they come home) to speak Spanish at the same time you are learning it, assuming you have never known Spanish before, then never giving them the opportunity to hear a native-Spanish speaker or associate with Hispanic people, even though you want your child’s spoken Spanish to be the best.  You should be able to imagine how much longer it would take for you and your adopted child to be able to communicate well enough to begin to bond using Spanish (not your native spoken English) and what precious time would be lost in that long process to attain that level of language needed for comprehending what each other are saying. And the limitations caused by never allowing interaction with those whom your child most identify with and will eventually become associated with.   

 

Other ways to supplement your new involvement with your local Deaf community is by taking ASL classes, preferably with a Deaf or native-signer instructor.  You need to be aware that all ASL classes are not equal.  ASL is a true language with it’s own syntax, morphology and structure. There are sign-systems based on English including SEE (Seeing Essential English or Signed Exact English), PSE (Pidgin Signed English), and MCE (Manually Coded English), however they are not a true language.  Why do I make these distinctions?  You will want to focus your efforts on the learning of ASL first and foremost.  If you do not and decide to focus on any of the sign systems mentioned, your ability to switch to ASL later on will be much more challenging.  I have watched numerous students over 8 years time struggle to gain skill in ASL after having learned the others previously. It is not easy and some are unable to make the transition well.  However, once you have learned ASL it is much easier to learn a sign-system, if desired, and then be able to switch back and forth as you wish.

Check in your community for a state Deaf school.  Check local community colleges and universities.  ASL classes are sometimes available at these educational institutions.  Having other students to practice with, in a live classroom setting is beneficial, more so than ASL classes on-line.
 
Gallaudet University offers on-line ASL courses if you want to supplement your learning ASL that way, as well.

Finding a Deaf person to work with you in your home, as a mentor/tutor, can also be beneficial for improving your ASL skills.  Once you are connected in the Deaf community begin asking about the possibility of someone becoming a tutor for you and your family.  Make sure they understand you want to be challenged by learning ASL, not something they think would be simpler for you to understand and learn.


As you begin learning ASL, practice daily with each other and ask God to help you. He is the One who has created all languages, so who better to ask for help?


Remember:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13


But this will require commitment, time and perseverance on your part and your entire family’s part.

This applies to learning ASL and to the life-long journey of deaf adoption IF God has called you to it!




LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!

If you don’t already know this…adoption is HARD!  Adoption is PAINFUL!  Adoption is full of LOSS and SUFFERING!  But how could it be anything less?  Our adoption into God’s family was HARD!  Our adoption, into God’s family, was PAINFUL!  Our adoption, into God’s family, was full of LOSS and SUFFERING! 
And our adoption, into God’s family, was PLANNED BY GOD!  

WHAT? 

You mean, God “PLANNED” our adoption into His family so it would include PAIN and SUFFERING? 

Of course He did!  God, being the author of salvation, could have designed the way of salvation to be obtained any way He wanted and certainly that plan could have been without any pain and suffering.  But He didn’t. God planned for Jesus, His only Son, to become almost overwhelmed with having to embrace “the cup” God had planned for Him.  So much so, He confessed to His disciples in the garden, “My soul is overwhelmed with the sorrow to the point of death.”  Even His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground as He deeply contemplated the path God had planned for Him. 

God planned for Jesus to be beaten until He almost died.  He planned for Jesus to be crucified on a cross, the most torturous way for Him to die.  But Jesus’ suffering for us went so much deeper than the physical pain He endured, that you and I most often are repulsed by and reduced to tears by.  Jesus was about to become “sin for us”!  SIN for YOU and for ME!  Jesus, who was without SIN!  And His Father hates sin!  And not just sin for you and me, but sin for all and for all time.  I cannot even begin to imagine, with my human-mind, what that was like for Jesus, our Creator God clothed in human flesh, or what it really entailed. Nor do I have a clue about what truly happened between God the Father and God the Son at that moment in time.

When Jesus cried out, “My God!  My God!  Why have You forsaken Me?”, we have no idea all the implications which accompanied His exclamation.  We just cannot comprehend it because…we are not God.   But once again, we are trying to make sense of the Creator God–creator of all we can see and all we cannot see–and His plans with our finite limited human minds.  Jesus, the Son of God, fully man and fully God proclaimed to the world that the One He was One with had forsaken Him.  What did God feel in the midst of all of this?  But, what would cause Jesus to shout such a question to His Father that would be recorded and shared forevermore?  Was it simply the result of the physical pain He was having to endure?  It was not.  Was it a fulfillment of prophecy?  Yes, but it was more. This is the same Jesus that took His own life, “gave up His spirit”, when He had completed the Father’s will on that cross.  This plan of God’s, this plan of salvation for you and for me, this was how God wanted to prove to us His love for us.  Through so much pain and suffering?!?  YES!  Strange, isn’t it?  Ironic, isn’t it?  That an ALL-LOVING God would use the very thing you and I think HIS LOVE could never encompass–pain and suffering–to draw us into relationship with Him.  And yet, that IS the very way God chose to prove His love to you and to me then and that IS the very way God chooses to continue to prove His love to you and to me, everyday…through our pain and suffering!  

Jesus suffered greatly on that cross as He died physically, but His suffering emotionally and spiritually is beyond anything you and I can ever comprehend.  Isn’t that really where all our challenges, here on this earth, are birthed…emotionally and spiritually from within each of us?  Oh the depths our God was willing to go to prove His love for us, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well.  And so He could identify with us in our pain and suffering.  Have you embraced that kind of God-love, yet?  If you haven’t, it is freely given to all who are willing to do so.
Now the act of earthly adoption, or the “bringing home” a child to connect with and become part of an earthly family could be equated to God’s Holy Spirit’s convicting us and leading us to connect with God and become a part of His family, to bring us “home”.  In the adoption world the phrase “adoption is a life-long journey” can easily be likened to this life-long journey you and I share in the family of God as adopted siblings with God as our Father.  Once we have been connected to God through His Son, Jesus Christ, we begin that life-long journey, yes, with Him, but also with each other here on this earth.  Can you and I imagine how our Father feels when He see us treating each other the way we do? Can we? I suspect it is often how adoptive parents (and biological parents, as well) feel about their children and their behavior toward their siblings and then their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I am not gonna list for you the many ways we mistreat each other, because it would never encompass all and it would be too convicting to do so.  Ask His Spirit to show you how you harm each other, brothers and sisters, with words and actions, and lack thereof.  This is a prayer God will answer faithfully, I know.  And I am not gonna list for you every way you and I break our Father’s heart when we refuse to accept His best for us without a fight.  Just ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you the error of your ways…trust me, He will! 

You and I both know how hard and how painful this journey with each other can be sometimes.  Sadly, I am reminded of two infamous statements ascribed to you and to me.  “Christians shoot their wounded” and “If it weren’t for Christians, I would be a Christian” (Gandhi). 

Strange…or is it…the vast majority of the scriptures are focused on how we are to treat one another…as brothers and sisters?  Ultimately, God knew that would be our greatest challenge on this planet.   Loving one another.  However, that is exactly what Jesus told us in John would be the path all others would know Who’s we are, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  We DO so many things to “show” others we are disciples of Christ.  So many things.  If we stopped doing and simply began loving one another, everyone will know we are His disciples.  What better evangelistic tool is there, than loving one another, Brothers and Sisters?

Some of us are so focused on showing the love of Christ to those who do not know Him, when in fact if we instead showed the love of Christ to each other, as God prescribes in numerous ways, those who are lost will run to be included in that kind of God-love.

Love is not a feeling!  LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!  I dare you to read 1 Corinthians 13 and show me where love is a feeling!  LOVE IS A COMMAND FROM GOD!  LOVE IS A CHOICE!  TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE…IS OUR CHOICE!

If we cannot love our Brothers and Sisters, can we truly love those who are not?

Loving each other, especially in times of pain and suffering, impacts this world far greater than so many things we do to try and “earn” our discipleship diploma.  I am talking about the challenges you and I face when we are confronted with getting along with one another as God so desires and constrains us to do, along with those hard and painful things, emotionally and physically, God allows to grow us in a stronger and deeper relationship with Him.  In those places and times He leads us where we have no choice but to either depend on Him more fully or succumb to utter desperation, helpless and hopeless, without Him and without those brothers and sisters He has strategically placed around us for support.  And with the by-product to prove to the world we are His disciples.

I search for and crave reading the pain-filled stories of my brothers and sisters as they do not just endure their pain and suffering, but actually thrive–to grow vigorously, to flourish–in the midst of it.  How can they possibly do this?  Humanly, they cannot.  It is the supernatural work of God and His Holy Spirit at work within them and it is the supernatural work of God and His Holy Spirit working in their brothers and sisters that walk the pain-filled road with them.  If you have not yet tasted the supernatural strength that comes through those who bear your burdens with you, you have not yet experienced all that God has planned for you in the midst of pain and suffering.  
Why do I obsess over understanding how our all-loving God and pain and suffering can be reconciled? 

I so desire to embrace those scriptures that tell us:  

“Consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds”.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Without pain and suffering we would only know God on a very superficial level.  True intimacy with Him could never be attained apart from you and me experiencing pain and suffering. Of course, God designed His plan this way!  He so desires for you and me to know and experience Him intimately.  Then we can share what we have learned in that intimacy with Him with our Brothers and Sisters.  

Why do I obsess over understanding how our all-loving God and pain and suffering can be reconciled? 

Because I know those brothers and sisters who feel God’s promises to them have been broken because of their pain and suffering or the pain and suffering of those they love and are now living in disbelief and even denial of His great love.  God forbid!  Because I so desire for me and my brothers and sisters not to miss ALL God has planned for us in the midst of pain and suffering.  Because I want God’s truth, all of it, to be the motivation for your life and for my life.  Because God’s promise to us, right here and right now…is a life of abundance.  That does not mean an abundance of material things, but an abundance emotionally and spiritually welling up from within.  

If you and I cannot wholeheartedly accept this kind of God-love, in the midst of pain and suffering–ours and others–and allow it to consume every moment of our lives, we will never experience that abundant life He has promised to each of us, right here and right now.  When will we realize it is our living in that “abundant life” that becomes the avenue by which God uses to draw us and others into a more intimate and more dependent relationship with Him?

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“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” ~Hebrew 4:15


What Do You Already Have? Give it to God and Let Him Multiply It!

REAP Ministries/Lifeline Children’s Services Camp, Bentol, Liberia February 2014
As I joined a group of older Liberian orphans or those who had been abandoned, at camp two weeks ago, I was asked to share a devotion with them. 

Immediately my thoughts began to race, “What would I say?  How could I identify with this group?” Their African culture, their heart-wrenching life experiences of grief and loss, their on-going need for even the basics was something this obsessively spoiled American could not in the least bit identify with.  Thankfully, the Lord quickly led my thoughts to a question He has asked me before and it is the same question He asked His disciples, “What do you have?”

The feeding of the 5,000 men (and of course there had to be women and children in this group, as well) is recorded in each of the gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke9:10-17; John 6:1-14).  It is clear Jesus already had a plan for feeding this throng of people following Him, but He wanted His disciples to learn a new perspective when faced with great need and especially when the monetary resources were not enough to satisfy it. 


Now Jesus may not have posed this exact question to His disciples, “What do you already have?”, but the scriptures are clear He was asking them to take care of these people’s specific need with what they already had available to them. How often do you and I address a great need with, “Hmmm, what do we already have?” instead of, “How much is this going to cost?”

That became the topic for my devotion to those 60+ seated in front of me, that morning, who have next to nothing compared to the material things I possess. I helped them begin to list the things they already had; 1) they were breathing and they were alive 2) currently they were eating three meals each day 3) they were learning a trade 4) while they may not have parents to love and care for them, they had those who did love them and those who could identify with them 5) they were strong and healthy 6) they could see 7) they were receiving an education 8) they had at least the clothes on their backs 8) they had a place to lay their heads at night (more than their Savior had) 9) their God loves them and knows them each by name.  And the list could have gone on and on. 

Interestingly enough, the Christian’s first thought of meeting a need is almost instantly countered on “How much will it cost?” or “We don’t have enough money to do that?”  If you read each of these stories in the gospels, that was exactly how the disciples approached, what seemed to be an impossible situation, when Jesus said, “You feed them!”

Now, Jesus could easily have conjured up some other miraculous way of feeding this crowd.  He could have asked His Father to cause low-flying quail to migrate to this group or have manna drop from heaven, as He had done in the Old Testament.  Or He could have turned the stones lying all around where these 5,000+ people were now standing into bread and hit one of them with a staff to produce enough water for each to drink their fill.  Obviously, this is not what Jesus had in mind for this particular occasion.

I thought I remembered writing about His posing this question to me many years ago, “What do you have in your hand?” in another blog post, but I could not quickly find it.  He used Jill Briscoe’s presentation at an Asheville Women’s Prayer Breakfast, when I was in my late 20’s, to begin building a strong foundation for this perspective.  I believe this is one of the ways He has been equipping me for ‘such a time as this’ all my life and He continues to broaden my understanding and deepen my accountability for this truth. 

If we look closely at the account in John, Jesus specifically speaks to Phillip about the feeding of the 5,000.  “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”, Jesus asked

him. Of course, there was no one place nearby that could support the feeding of that many without multiple days spent in prior preparations.  Phillip’s reply, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  There it is, “We don’t have enough money to do…!”  I wonder what did Jesus think about Phillip’s reply?  The scriptures do not share His thoughts with us, but…????  


Is there anything that is too hard for our God to do, even if there aren’t enough funds to do it???  So, what should our perspective or approach be to a situation that seems insurmountable because there aren’t enough funds to meet the need?

Next we see where another disciple, Andrew, who had apparently been searching for what they did have comes forward with 5 small barley loaves and two fish.    While Andrew is doubtful this will be enough, at least he brings what he has, or rather what someone else had, to Jesus.  We are not told if the owner of this food was a willing donor or not, but we know Andrew had at least begun to look for what others might have available. 


Jesus, without hesitation, tells the disciples to have the people sit down. He does not look down on what Andrew has brought him, nor does He indignantly proclaim, “Is that all you could find?”  He simply takes what Andrew gives Him.  It is important to note, in all the accounts, the next thing Jesus does is gives thanks to God for what He was given.  Jesus was fully aware that everything we have is from God.

Many times you and I overlook one of the most important examples Jesus gave us while He was here on the earth…thankfulness! And more specifically, thankfulness for what He has already given us!  That is not just salvation, but that is everything we have! Ann Voskamp’s challenge to annually list “1,000 Gifts” has created a huge following by simply asking others to join her daily in the practice of writing down the ways God is blessing, giving us…gifts


Have you ever taken just 10 minutes and devoted that time to reflecting on the infinite ways God has blessed your life and the lives of those you love?  For me, as soon as I stop for a moment to think about ALL that I have received, at the hands of my God, my mind becomes flooded with the vastness of blessings He lavishes on me every single day.  If we took the time, I believe you and I could write for days and not run dry of all the things God has so graciously given to us.  And the majority are things we have never thought to ask Him for.  By the way, yours and my list should include those things we would label “good and bad”, since God tells us to “Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, when you fall into trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-8).

Back to the devotion on that Monday morning two weeks ago. As I shared this story of thankfulness with my young audience I told them, “American’s are not who you should ask for help, but instead you should be thankful for what you already have and ask God to help you. He is the only One who can provide for your every need and He has already promised to do so. Your job or responsibility is to simply be thankful for what He has given you, give it all back to Him, and to be obedient to obey all He commands.”  I did spend a short time discussing the difference between a need and a want, to help them make that distinction.  For example, they do not need their cell phones (I think every Liberian has one) but they do need to eat regularly.

There were some additional thoughts I briefly shared that morning, as well.  One was the fact that Jesus Himself (from the John account) broke the bread and fish and distributed it among the people as they sat down on the grass.  From the scriptures, it seems Jesus distributed the bread first and then the fish.  Can you imagine how long it must have taken for Jesus to distribute bread and fish to each of them? Obviously, doing some things in the most timely manner is not always God’s perfect timing.  That brings the question; are you and I eager to accomplish a task, but forget about the relationships God wants to forge in the midst of that task?  I wonder did those farthest from Him think there would not be enough food to go around?  Wonder…what DID they think?  They had not come expecting to eat, but they had come for many other reasons.  Did they ever dream Jesus would literally serve them, personally?  That He was willing to come near to them right where they were?  To look at each of them face-to-face? He does the very same with each of us!

Lastly, the miracle was completed when all ate to their fill, not just enough food, more than enough and with leftovers.  Jesus taught we should never waste and so He commanded the disciples to gather the leftovers…12 baskets full.  We don’t know how large the baskets were, but it is interesting to note there were 12 baskets.  I believe this was an additional perspective Jesus wanted the 12 disciples to learn.  God not only could provide, and provide abundantly, for all those with needs and through what they already had, but now He was providing abundantly for each disciple personally to have what was needed for their next meal. We rarely think about how God daily provided food for Jesus and His 12 disciples or where they slept at night.  In this story, Jesus is providing for the here and now and we can trust He will continue providing beyond, for tomorrow.  I believe Jesus was creating a faith-building atmosphere for His disciples as they did life together day and night and one we can learn a thing or two from. 

As the camp came to a close on Tuesday afternoon, I was asked once again to share my thoughts about camp with the campers.  I told them I had enjoyed my time with the Deaf campers, the reason I was there, but also I enjoyed being with those who were hearing.  I was proud of how each of them had worked during the camp and I was excited to see how God would use them in the future. I told them I believed those sitting in front of me that day were the future of Liberia. The question I left with them, “What KIND of future will you bring to Liberia?” 

Christ, Career, Character, Capacity, Competence!

One of Joseph’s favorite verses when he was younger, which I wish I had thought to share with this group, but did not:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believer’s in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  1 Timothy 4:12

Next time!


JOIN SIGNS FOR HOPE IN LIBERIA!

Signs for Hope
is traveling back to Liberia, West Africa

February 28 – March 10, 2014! 

JOIN WITH US!
There is still time for you to join the SFH team and travel with us, IF you have a current passport, but I need to hear from you ASAP!
beckyblloyd@gmail.com

Or join with us by praying for the SFH team as we prepare and go!
 
Or you can join with us by giving donations to help us with our travel expenses (approximately $3,000 per person)!  Your donations to SFH are tax deductible! GIVE NOW!

Or join with us by helping us gather supplies for the deaf children! 

Click here to sign-up for specific supplies.


What are we doing while we are in Liberia, West Africa?

We are loving on the deaf orphans/children who live at The Oscar & Viola Stewart School for the Deaf.  And led by Dr. Steve Farmer, our team will be in the classrooms of several deaf schools, observing and evaluating the Christian Education of these children.  Our desire is to better understand what their teachers are already doing and then come alongside them to help empower them to improve what they are doing for the future. 

Who makes up this first 2014 SFH Team traveling to Liberia, so far?


Steve & Heather Farmer, Knoxville, TN

 

 Vandora Henderson, Asheville, NC 

                                                    
Blaire Murray, Charlotte, NC


Sonya Swink, Brighton, CO

Sarah Houge, Minneapolis, MN

 Edward Cheah, Washington, DC
  (Liberian born and raised)










Becky Lloyd, Asheville, NC

2013 Might Be Ending, But HOPE Keeps on Giving!

             

     2013 year-end


                         GIVING!

Signs for Hope

exists to share the Hope of Christ

by facilitating care for Deaf/HOH orphans

throughout the world


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Click the “DONATE”  button on this blog or visit the Signs for Hope website.

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His adoption of ALL deaf children

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Religion that God our Father accepts 

as pure and faultless is this:

to look after orphans and widows in their distress

and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


                                            James 1:27

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PO Box 460

Fairview, NC  28730

They Will Know We Are Christians, How? Part 2

They Will Know We Are Christians, How?  Read Part 1

As soon as I decided to follow my Lord, just days before my 15th birthday in 1974, I asked my brother and his wife if I could begin attending church with them.  You see, my brother had become a Christ-follower, too, about a year before.

My family was a little different from most, back in the 60’s and 70’s.  My parents had married in late 1939, following a blind date a few months prior, and my brother was born in late 1940, which made him almost 18 years older than my older sister who was born 14 months before me; I was born March 31, 1959.  As our brother was going off to college, our mother was starting the process of raising two daughters, another family, all over again.  My mom always told us my sister was a huge surprise for them, never thought they could have another child (or so the doctor told them) but they did not want another “only child”, so they “planned” for me.  I am sure God knew all this, long before (Ephesians 1). 
When my sister and I were toddlers our family traveled to the beach, near where our brother was attending college in Florida.  He and his girlfriend (she eventually became his first wife) joined us in a day at the beach.  A passerby commented to my mother, “What beautiful granddaughter’s you have!” From that time on, my mom began, diligently, dying her hair–to cover the gray we had caused–as she did not want any others to mistakenly think she was our grandmother and not our mother.
My brother had always favored me over my sister, or at least I was convinced of this,  and I believe it was because my sister was favored over me by so many other family members.  Or it could have been that she disrupted his senior year of high school so much, with her incessant crying, he wanted nothing to do with her.  Ha! 

I will never forget having pillow fights with my brother, when he would come home from college or come for a visit after he was married.  We also played “Gotcha Last”! I loved it, even when I peed in my pants from laughing so hard!  That bond continued as we grew older and was one of the strongest influences for my miraculous life-change that took place at the age of 14.

I will never forget the day I was riding in the car with my brother, when he point blank asked me if I was using drugs.  Without hesitation, I assured him I was not.  Liar, liar, pants on fire.  He told me he loved me and shared a brief story of how he recently started following Christ and how he did not want me to waste my life, as he had done.  Remember, he was 18 years my senior.  He wanted me to become a follower of Christ, too.  That was one of those times where a desire deep, deep down inside–the Holy Spirit at work (John 6:44)–was stirring and began to grow and prepare me for that decision that, ultimately, would change my life forever. For now, though, I was still enjoying the pleasure of my sin, for a season (Hebrews 11:25, KJV). 

My greatest regrets of rebellion against my God were the lives I led astray.  My boyfriend, at the time, and I, had lured so many others down the road of destruction which included alcohol, sex and drugs.  He was a junior and I was a freshman when we started “dating”.  We didn’t hang-out in those days, we called it what it was…dating.  Oh, and by the way, I was unfaithful to him with others.
As I said before, I so wanted to begin attending church with my brother and his family and my mom and dad allowed that, without hesitation, for a short time.  I will always remember the details of my going forward to become a member of their church by way of believer’s baptism. It was an outward display of my inward heart change to, from now on, follow Christ.  It was just the week or two before when I had bent my knee on my bedroom floor to ask for forgiveness of my sin and to surrender my life to Christ.  So the picture, which was promptly displayed on the “New Member Board”, at the church, was one of me in one of my “approved mini-skirts” (see Part 1).  Note: I thought I still had the picture, but I have been unable to find it to share with you.

Eventually, my parents became jealous over the time I spent with my brother and his family and forced me to attend their church with them.  Their rationalization was, “If I was a Christian, then I could worship Christ at any church.” I won’t say I didn’t learn anything while attending my parents church, but it was obvious the teaching of the scriptures, verse by verse, at my brother’s church was so much more rich and I would devour every word.  My parents’ restrictions were cause for me to move out, secretly, soon after I turned 18. I had found a job at a local bank, as a teller, and moved into government housing with an older single woman who was a member at my brother’s church. Eighteen and on my own!

When my parents found out I had moved out while they were away for the weekend, I begged my dad to not take my car.  Really it was his, and I was SO surprised when he let me keep it. That was my only transportation to and from work and to and from church and had he taken it, which he threatened, I would have no way to support myself and continue attending the church I preferred. 

I had become a sponge for hearing the Word of God.  I LOVED going to my brother’s church, now my church, on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights.  Discussion with my brother and sister-in-law also fed my hungry soul.  That deep inner feeling of knowing, without a doubt, my sins had been forgiven gave me a zeal to invite my girlfriends to go to church with me. A few of them made commitments to follow Christ, too, at least for a time.

I really cannot explain in words how one day I was seeking only to satisfy myself and my desires and then suddenly I have this innate desire for the welfare of those around me, especially relating to their experiencing the unexplainable peace I now had. 

They will know we are Christians, how?


Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. ~John 13:14

They Will Know We Are Christians, How?

Hmmm! How do I start this blog post?  

I should go ahead and warn you, this will probably be one of those…Part 1 of some number.  LOL! 

Additional warning:  It may take several posts before you understand why I am titling these as such.  Hopefully, it will make sense, eventually.

As a young, new believer, at the age of almost 14, my life did a 180 after I got on my knees in my bedroom to surrender it all to Him, whatever that meant, in Feb/March of 1974.  No, I don’t remember the date, exactly, but He does.  But the life-change is unmistakable!

He had been pursuing me for a while and I just kept telling Him, “Not now!” I was having too much fun!  “Wait until I get married.”  So thankful His pursuit was relentless! 

Back then…I could never have imagined the change that would overtake me in the next few weeks, months and years to come following my surrender of all to Him. 

I was a “good” girl.  Went to church regularly.  Made good enough grades.  Didn’t have too many arguments with my parents.  Never let adults hear me cuss.  Never used God’s Name in Vain, NEVER!  And I was masterfully skilled at deceiving others.
At this young age, I already “loved” wine and beer.  Apparently, I came by this naturally as both my mother and brother qualified as alcoholics.  My brother and his wife would let me sneak sips of their mufti-flavored Boone’s Farm Wine (all were yummy!) and I would announce to my parents I would be washing my hair in beer to make my hair clean and shiny, with every intention of drinking the beer instead.  Of course, I would pour a small amount on my hair so my parents could smell it.  So many have told me, through the years, how they hate the smell of beer…not me, I loved it.

From that time forward, even though my study of the bible revealed drinking, within moderation as long as you were sober-minded, was not a sin, I gave it up completely.  This was one of those specifics, from my rebellious past, that I felt I wanted to sacrifice for the blood that Christ had shed for me.  No, it wasn’t my drinking the wine and beer that was my sin, but it was the attitude in which I drank it.  First, it was against the law, second it was against my parents, therefore it was against my God.

Maybe you are wondering how hard it has been for me to refrain from doing something I loved so much?  It truly has NOT been a sacrifice for me, at all.  By God’s grace, only once, in the past 38 years, was I tempted to “sneak” a glass of wine and that was about 6 years ago.  My mind said, “No one will know” but, my heart said, “He will.”  Again, drinking the wine would not have been the sin, but my motive, my attitude…was sin!  Temptation for self-indulgence…averted.  Now, if I could avert the temptation to eat unhealthily, as easily, that would be awesome!

Not everything about my former life changed instantly, but some things did.  First, were those short mini-skirts I would wear, dropping my shoulders as much as I could to make sure they passed my parents test of “long-enough”, as long as I could touch the hem with my fingertips.  Funny, how I now wanted to cover up the very things I wanted to flaunt before knowing Him, and at the age of 13. 

Of course, when my attire changed my friends began to ask me why I was dressing so differently.  It wasn’t just my clothes that had changed, but everything about me was changing.  





For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  2 Corinthians 5:14-17




CHRISTMAS HOPE FOR DEAF ORPHANS!

And the WINNER IS…

M. Bradler, SC 

Congratulations!!

Thanks to all who help give Hope to Deaf orphans around the world!

Merry Christmas!!

DEAF CHILDREN NEED HOPE!

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SIGNS FOR HOPE

“MATTHEW 25:40”


‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


100% of the proceeds go to share the 
HOPE OF CHRIST

as we facilitate care for deaf/HOH
orphans throughout the world.
YOU COULD WIN A

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Is It God’s Face or God’s Hand That We Seek?

Often I go back and re-read the PrayerLetters I send out to those who have expressed an interest in following God’s leading Signs for Hope, step by step.  In some ways, these PrayerLetters have become my journal, as such.  It blows my mind to be reminded of the things God has done, last year, or even just a couple of months ago and even yesterday.  This ability to go back and see, again, what God is doing gives me encouragement to persevere, no matter my circumstances or the circumstances surrounding those God has brought into my world because of His call.  Not only does God continue to do some miraculous things, His Holy Spirit also invades my writings of what I am learning in the midst of the miraculous.  The section of the PrayerLetter labeled “From My Heart to Yours…” has sort of evolved, over time.  Most often, it is how God is refining me as He leads me on this path.  As I read again, those words I share with you from my heart, I am convicted, again, to keep my focus on Him and Him alone.  I have decided to share some of those heart-stories here on the blog.  Today’s post was originally shared in the June/July 2012 PrayerLetter, after a 27-day trip to Africa.  There have been a few revisions and additions. 

From My Heart to Yours…

As always, I truly felt your prayers the entire time I was in Africa. I know that without your partnership with me in this ministry to Deaf orphans, I will never be able to accomplish what He desires. He alone will be able to thank you for those prayers you prayed.

The experiences you and I have had over the past 3 months have all been filtered by our heavenly Father. Some of those experiences have been bittersweet and some…down right frustrating, and often painful. Some have been outright joyous occasions when we were so filled with happiness we thought we might burst. What I do not want to miss and what I do not want you to miss is this… everything, and I do mean everything, He brings us to and through is preparing us for the future. 


His greatest desire for us is conforming us to the image of His Son! Not because it is painful, mind you, but because it is for our good and for His Kingdom’s good. This is a perspective I find myself being challenged in time and time again. Will I accept ‘everything’ as His best for me or will I not? It really boils down to a question of FAITH! 

Another question I have been asking others for some time now, is, “What is the difference between seeking God’s face and seeking God’s hand?”  Many of my questions come from translating hymns and worship songs into ASL.  Over a 9-year period (2001-2010) I probably translated more than 500 worship songs, as I was signing them weekly for our interpreted services.  Desiring to know and conceptually convey accurately the meaning behind the writer’s words were always of great concern to me.

From my perspective, His hand, in scripture, often represents His power to give or take away earthly things.  But His face represents His love for you and for me and His presence with us, which is beyond anything my mind can comprehend.

Will I accept everything He allows to come my way as coming from His face and not His hand or will I not? 


You see, if it is His face that I seek and not His hand then my perspective becomes an eternal one, but if it is His hand that I seek then it is one of a temporary/earthly perspective. Seeking His face, it is His eyes of love, approval, and encouragement to persevere that I gain.

That supernatural transformation from our hearts that ‘are desperately wicked’ to His all-consuming perfected righteousness cannot be an easy one. Brothers and sisters, it is circumcision of the heart!

When we place false expectations and assumptions on what that transformation requires we will be left feeling betrayed. But when we embrace what we know to be true from scripture and recognize the fact that “all things [do] work together for good”, then we can take a deep breath or two and resolve as Job did, “The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Will you and I ever be able embrace what James instructs?

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I am striving to seek God’s face, daily…will you join me? 

I am adding this part as I believe it to be so timely!

   

I want to share with you a blog that is telling the God-story of a young woman, as she and her family are living it.  She was recently paralyzed from the armpits down. We are often touched by such a story many years later as it often takes much time to reach the point of praising God for something as life-altering as this.  Kaitlin Wanberg, and her husband, John, were married June 1 and on Sept 1 she was injured in a dirt-bike accident in the mountains of Colorado.  The families of these two and they themselves are walking this road laid out for them with a grace that only comes from an intimate relationship with their Lord.  I have joined their blog so I will not miss what God wants to teach me through them.  You might want to do the same.  These are some of Joseph’s friends made during his Kanakuk/Kivu Camp summers.

Kaitlin shared her debut blog post last Thursday.



Are You Blessed?

Matthew 5, 6, & 7.  This is a scripture passage I have been contemplating and meditating on, for several months now.  It’s one of those scriptures that keeps coming up in Bible studies, on the radio, is shared in conversations and then, randomly, His Spirit brings it to mind.  And Matthew is also this year’s focus for Bible Study Fellowship. 

This portion of the Bible is most notably known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  The first 12 verses of chapter 5 are referred to as the Beatitudes.  
Jesus said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I wanted a deeper understanding of the word beatitude/blessed, so I did some research.  The limitations of the English language will not allow for an accurate translation of the Greek word makarios or ‘blessed’ which means so much more than our English fortunate or happyMakarios has a much deeper meaning and one that is related to the condition of the soul and not based on our outward circumstances or conditions.  It is more deeply related to an inner joy and peace that only comes from a right relationship to God. 

I wonder, today, when we use the word “blessed” or “blessings” when speaking or writing to others, do we fully intend the deeper meaning or are we thinking more superficially and thinking more about physical blessings?

Apparently, the attitudes and actions Jesus describes as blessed or makarios (poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness), are some, if not all, what we as God’s children should be experiencing and emulating, especially if we want to experience the benefit of the blessings each brings.  Jesus does not mention asking for any of these things to be removed from our lives, which could be causing these attitudes and actions.  Nor does He promise He will remove them, but rather states when we experience them…we ARE blessed and exactly how we ARE blessed or makarios by each one.  Let me list for us the benefits/blessings/makarios Jesus mentions:

Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven

You will be comforted

You will inherit the earth

You will be filled


You will be shown mercy

You will see God


You will be called children of God

Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven

The above is how Jesus defines makarios, blessed!

I purposefully left the last one, verses 11 & 12, off the list above.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Once again, our Lord’s perspective on markarios of the Christian’s life seems to be in direct opposition to what most of us think it should be.  People insulting us and then saying all kinds of evil against us BECAUSE OF HIM, we should rejoice and be glad? 

He did not say we should feel offended.  He did not say we should become indignant.  He did not say we should demand our rights.  He did not say He would come to our aid and remove the evil and injustice being done to us.  He also did not say we should become prideful because of any of these things. 

What DID He say? 

“REJOICE AND BE GLAD!  BECAUSE YOU ARE MARKARIOS!” 

Persecution! Should We Be Outraged? Or…Should We Shout Praises To God?

The outrage–righteous indignation–some Christians voice against the persecution of those who faithfully follow Jesus, appears to be an accurate response, from our human perspective.  But, have you ever pondered God’s perspective on Christ-followers who are persecuted or even martyred for their faith?
I did some research on the word, martyr.  In the original Greek the word was martus and it means “witness” or “one who saw”.  It was later, when the word witness or martus became synonymous with our word “martyr”.  Today, Webster defines the word martyr as “a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion.” I suspect the persecution and murder of numerous Christ-followers and other religious fanatics helped to shape the now meaning of our word, martyr

In New Testament times, when someone became a follower of Jesus Christ they KNEW they would be persecuted for their faith and the possibility they would be forced to choose between life and death was very real.  Jesus Christ, Himself, was the first martyr, in the New Testament.  Stephen followed close behind.  Persecution was a part of the everyday Christian life, back then!  When you made the decision to follow Jesus you accepted the fact you would suffer for it, it was the norm, not the exception.

John 15:8 – If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first.”

Matthew 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:43-45 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Wow!  According to Jesus, we are to expect to be persecuted, we are blessed because of it, and we are to pray for our persecutors.  He does not teach us to pray against persecution nor does He teach us to try to prevent it.  Is this an oxymoron from what we thought should be a right response to persecution?

As I look back, when I was saved or became a follower of Christ, thirty-nine years ago– March of 1974 to be exact –the thought never occurred to me that I could be put to death or martyred for placing my faith in what Jesus had done for me by dying on the cross.  At that time, in America, it was popular to become a Christ-follower, during The Jesus Movement, and many willingly surrendered to His call during that time. 

When Rachel was old enough, two or three years old (she is now 28), Charles and I began to have devotions and prayer with her every night before bed. A few years later, when Joseph was about one, he joined us.  We tried to keep them, age-appropriate for topic and time.  In the beginning, it was not easy and they were easily distracted and did not always pay full attention, but we persevered and often had some great times of sharing and praying together, just before bedtime.

We would also pray nightly for missionaries on their birthday. We had an inflatable globe that Rachel and Joseph would take turns locating the country where each missionary was serving.  Oddly enough, it was during that time when the FMB (Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and since 1997 the International Mission Board or IMB) began assigning aliases to their missionaries who were serving in especially dangerous places, for their protection.  And the names of the countries where they were serving were no longer shared, as well. 

We used a variety of devotional books and resources through the years, but when the kids were older one of the most impacting resources we used for our family devotion times were the “Jesus Freaks” books, compiled by the Christian music group “dc Talk”.  You can still purchase these books, today, and I carried one of them to Liberia with me, two years ago, to give to our 19-yr old, then Heart Adopted deaf son, Amara, a Muslim.

 
There were more than a few stories, of those who experienced a martyr’s death, whose captor’s and executioners became followers of Christ after watching their victims refuse to renounce the name of Christ…no matter what they were forced to endure. Were these brothers and sisters “super Christians” and not afraid of suffering?  Not necessarily, but through their fear and their pain they remained resolute to never recount the name of Christ.  So, their physical death, full of pain and suffering, meant eternal life for others. Sound familiar?  Often the stories of these martyrs were told by their captors who were so impacted by these believers, willing to die for their beloved Lord, they, in turn, became Christ-followers as did others they shared their new found faith with!  Persecution meant…the gospel spread!
There are numerous stories from the Bible and other historical writings of those who died because of their faith in Christ and relentless following of their Savior and their Lord.  Paul’s list of persecutions and perils he experienced, during his earthly life and while imprisoned for the sake of Christ is extensive, and are recorded in 2 Corinthians 2:11.  For a list of what the other apostles, themselves, endured and how they died check these links:


“On that day [the day of Stephen’s stoning] a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Acts 8:1

Another event which forced believer’s to scatter from Rome, in the AD 60’s, was Nero’s deliberate, burning of a significant amount of that great city.  Peter’s two books are written specifically to those who had been scattered making it possible for the gospel to spread even further.  Read “Walk Through the Life of Peter:  Growing Bold Faith” for greater insight into this event, when “Christian-killing became an acceptable and popular indulgence.”

As Christians, we must not form opinions about events in this world without applying the truth of scripture.  If we are careful to do so, our “Christian world view” will become vastly different from what we think is right…based on scripture and not based on our own opinions and this world.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

Oh, To Be Like…Joseph!

As I was listening to Chip Ingram this week, I was reminded that one of the most important things we can do, if not THE most important, as Christians, is to never be in a hurry.  We have been studying the book of Genesis this year in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), and I have been struck time and time again by the actions of God’s children who want to “help” God’s plan along, by “hurrying”, only to cause much greater harm than good, in the end. 

Oh, to be like Joseph! 
(Genesis 37-50)



There is no record of Joseph questioning God about anything that unjustly or unfairly happened to him.  As a young boy, God gave Joseph dreams where his brothers and family bowed to him, but the fulfillment of his dreams would not be experienced until he was in his 30’s.  And it was not until Joseph experienced a life of humility and obedience that this came to pass.  I wonder, what if, Joseph had demanded that his brothers and family bow to him before God’s perfect time was accomplished?  Suppose Joseph had “hurried” God’s plan instead of waiting patiently for it to come to pass?  We will never know, since Joseph did neither and allowed God’s perfect plan to unfold in His perfect timing.  

 
Joseph’s brothers were planning to kill “the dreamer”, but brother Reuben intervenes and, instead, they sell Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt.  Sold into slavery, by his brothers, at the age of 17, Joseph became a slave in Potiphar’s house and then a prisoner, falsely accused, when “the LORD was with him and gave him success in whatever he did.” We would say Joseph had every right to demand justice, but obviously God had other plans.

Could it be that God’s greatest plans for our lives are IN the suffering or what is produced in and through us by the suffering?

I doubt many of us will experience slavery and imprisonment, in our lifetime, but slavery and prison could be equated with financial hardships, chronic health issues, dysfunctional families, 24/7 pain, job-related injustices, prodigal children, the “untimely” death of a child, mental illness, and the list goes on. 


Obviously, Joseph never took anything that happened to him, personally, and was an incredible witness for God in these places of disdain.  His goal was to benefit others, no matter their status in life.  Self was not his focus, but rather the lives of…others.

Let’s just suppose a few things.  Let’s suppose, Joseph was filled with “righteous indignation” for his brothers’ hatred and unjust treatment of him.  Certainly, God had already revealed through his dreams they would bow to him, why not now? Let’s suppose, Joseph began to doubt God’s plan and he chose to embrace a “victim” mentality and became a complainer.  Let’s suppose, Joseph, rightly, defended himself when Potiphar’s wife accused him of trying to rape her.  Let’s just suppose, Joseph was a whiner, while in prison, instead of one who tended the needs of the other prisoners.  Let’s just suppose, Joseph took credit for his ability to interpret dreams.  What do you suppose would have been the outcome of all of the above…in relation to Joseph and in relation to those Joseph’s life touched? 

Allow me to point out that the “success in whatever he did” was directly related to causing pagans, those who did not know/follow Joseph’s God, to recognize the One True God!  The Pharaoh proclaimed, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in who is the spirit of God?”  Joseph was careful to give God alone the glory for the things he accomplished, including his interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams.  Joseph appears to have no pride.  Some label Joseph a “tattler” and a “boaster”, when he was young, but his actions in Egypt, as a slave and prisoner, were those of a wise and humble man and God blessed him for it.  Joseph not only surrendered to the WHATEVER God planned, but he embraced it fully.

As the story of Joseph unfolds, God orchestrates events, unjust as they may seem to us, so the Pharaoh ultimately puts Joseph in charge, second-in-command, over all of Egypt, “lord of his entire household and ruler of all of Egypt”.  Joseph’s resume’ stated he had just been released from prison and he was a foreigner in the land.  But…God!  Only Pharaoh was to be considered above Joseph.  This is in the land of Egypt, not the land of Israel.  God continued to be with Joseph in this new position of Egyptian authority, as I am sure Joseph continued to point others to Him, in a way that was attractive and appealing with wisdom and discernment.

The climax of Joseph’s story comes when his brothers come seeking food from him, during a time of severe famine.  The same brothers who plotted for his demise, those who hated Joseph were begging him for food so their family could survive.  This was the fulfillment of the dreams Joseph had as a young lad.  When they realized Joseph was their brother, whom they had sold into slavery so many years before, they were petrified.  Joseph explained, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  So, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”  


So, Joseph is completely assured that all that has happened to him was directly from God.

Wow!  Most of us would be in awe of this high-level of “forgiveness”, but let me remind you, the scriptures never mention Joseph “forgave” his brothers.  Apparently, Joseph had no reason to forgive them, since he saw their actions as being part of God’s divine plan, not actions against him.  Interesting, to say the least, huh?  Remember, our “battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 
 

Oh, to have that level of “faith” and the ability to live above our circumstances, like Joseph.  Not to take anything that happens to us…personally.  But rather, recognizing it, all of it, as being from the hand of God and for a greater purpose than we can comprehend.  I know we want God to remain the “God of love” who, of course, would never want us to experience and suffer “bad things”.  Sarcasm intended.  But He IS the “God of love” since He loves us too much not to allow us to experience those “bad things” He knows is necessary for our own good, our own spiritual growth.  God teaches us, clearly, through His Word, if we simply will believe and embrace it:  “We know ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”(Rom 8:28).  By the way, those things we tend to label “bad”, in God’s perspective are not bad.  We are the ones who “label” our circumstances as either good or bad.  God simply calls them “all things”. God’s greatest desire is for each of us to become like His Son, Jesus (Rom 8:29).  He knows just what each of us needs to provide the best possible circumstances to promote that kind of spiritual growth in us.
How is it that Christians grow in their faith and become like Christ? “…Though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:67).  God desires for us ” to rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). Then James has the audacity to tell us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  And why should we do such a thing?  James continues,  “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). 
Suppose we looked at every situation as being “sent by God” with a greater purpose than our own self preservation?  Suppose we saw the world through the eyes of Joseph; all this happened to me “to save lives”?  How would we be different if we had this perspective?  What could lower our stress-levels more? How would our world look different, IF we had the same attitude as Joseph and never tried to manipulate something to happen sooner than God’s perfect timing for it? 
So often, I have asked God to remove my circumstances when I should be praising Him for them.  He, alone, knows what is best for me and for my spiritual growth.  He, alone, knows the full scope of what my circumstances mean for others…possibly “to save lives.”

The ultimate Joseph attitude?

Reassuring his brothers after their father died, Joseph said,

“What you meant for evil, God meant for good, to accomplish what is now being done the saving of many lives.” 


“Why Not Me?”

Typically, Christians–and others–tend to ask the all-consuming question, “Why me?”, when their circumstances become more difficult than what they think they should be.  We have been told, for years, it is perfectly fine to ask God, “Why me?”.  Was there a time, in history, where asking God, “Why me?” was taboo?  I do not believe any question we might ask God is ever off-limits.  He already knows our thoughts so asking Him is no different from thinking it. 


You have searched me, Lord and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Psalm 139:1-6 

The words David chose to describe our LORD’s relationship to him and to us–knows, perceives, discerns these things about us, you are familiar with all my wayscan be so reassuring and intimate.  On the other hand, for some, this might be unnerving if they are not living in a right relationship with their LORD.  But for me, this is comforting, as I realize that God knows all these things about me and yetHe still loves me!  That’s unconditional love, 1 Corinthians 13 love, agape love! God is all-knowing and He not only knows our thoughts, our ways, our words, before we think, say or do them, but He knows–intimately–our frustrations, disappointments, and even our pain.


 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,
Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,
but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
 
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and
find grace to help us in our time of need. 
Hebrews 4:14-16


Honestly, in my opinion, “Why Me?” reveals a self-focused, self-absorbed, self-righteous attitude, or a victim mentality, if you willThis is where the vast majority of us live, every day.  Some how we have been convinced that we have certain rights and we deserve a certain level of comfort and a life of ease.  Yes, our Declaration of Independence states we do have certain rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are more focused on the physical This focus on our physical pleasure, robs us of our ability to live abundant lives, spiritually-rich, full lives, which God has promised.  God’s view of our rights tend to be more spiritually focused and based, instead of physically and/or temporal. But do not be deceived, the spiritual influences the physical, as well.

Abundant life, right now; we don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven.  Abundant life, in the midst of the difficult circumstances. Abundant life, full and overflowing, in the midst of pain and suffering.  Hard to grasp…huh?

 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10


It is not an accident that God chose to contrast the “thief”, Satan, and what he does, with Himself and what He does.  Steal, kill, destroy vs. life, more abundantly!  Again, this abundant life, is for the here and now…not just the sweet by-and-by.

 What does God really say about our rightsto a life of comfort and ease?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20a
You should know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who is in you. You have received the Holy Spirit from God. So you do not belong to yourselves, because you were bought by God for a price.

Luke 9:24
Those who want to save their lives will give up true life. But those who give up their lives for me will have true life.”

Matthew 5:11 
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”


He tells us on multiple occasions, we will suffer in this life.  Why, then, are we so quick to demand “our rights” to a life of ease, as a believer?
I want to change my mindset from one of a victim to one of a victor! 

“Why Not Me?” reveals a life that recognizes this is no longer my life, but it is His…24/7/365 or 366! It is completely surrendered to my LORD…even when it hurts.  This attitude is an empowering attitude and grants the believer the ability to bask in the knowledge that our God loves us, and that His love for us will not take us where His strength cannot keep us.  

The Bible is vividly clear on this teaching, so why do we so often allow the Enemy to deceive us into thinking the exact opposite?   

This was the same strategy Satan used in the garden of Eden with Eve and it is the same strategy he uses on you and me, today, IF we let him.

 
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:1-4

First comes the Deceiver’s strategy…and God tells us straight out,”he is more crafty than any of the wild animals”…to plant doubt about what God really said (Genesis 2:6,7). “Did God really say?” Then Satan misquotes what God said by including all the trees in the garden as being off limits for food.  This caused Eve to add to what she knew God had said, originally, “you must not touch it”.  God never told them ‘not to touch’ the tree, only not to eat of it.  Satan’s response, “You will not certainly die” to Eve’s addition planted another seed of doubt in Eve’s mind and gave him the foothold he needed for the planting of the victim-seed; the only reason God told you this is to prevent you from being like Him, knowing good and evil.  God is withholding this knowledge from you, which is your right to know.  You are…a victim!

A ‘Why not me?’ mindset grants the believer a different perspective on their current circumstances.  Instead of feeling like God is against them or Satan is working overtime, it gives a freedom to develop God’s perspective on their circumstances.  When we can grasp that all of life’s circumstances are truly His grace, then we view our circumstances as opportunities to draw closer to our Heavenly Father, trusting Him more and more.  This is part of the process whereby we are growing into His likeness. 

Jesus never succumbed to a victim mentality.  Oh, He struggled with the temporal physical (death on the cross) and the emotional (separation from God when He became sin for us) sufferings of His life, but He never demanded His rights and He certainly could have, especially, since He was and is equal with God. 

However, if we do not know the promises God has made us, we cannot quote them back to Satan accurately when he tries to plant those seeds of doubt.  You can be assured he will do his best to secure a stronghold in our lives by causing doubts and by trying to make us believe we are a victim and not a victor.   By ‘renewing our minds’, as Paul exhorts us to do in Romans 12:2, we can develop a mindset that is the same as Christ’s himself.  

Asking “Why not me?”, when life’s circumstances become challenging, will help us be ready to receive all God has planned for us, even in the hard times. 



For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments 
and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.  2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

 




How It All Started!

I am republishing this post from New Year’s Eve 2011, “How It All Started”, new name since the original one is no longer accepted by Blogger, go figure, in anticipation of the 5-year anniversary of God’s call on March 18, 2008.  This was the original blog post and I am sure you wish all my blog posts were this short-and-sweet!  

Well, as you can see I am a terrible blogger. I could promise that 2012 will be different…but since my life continues to be so full without blogging, I doubt that promise would have much impact on my changing my ways in the new year. As many people have told me over the past three years, “You should be writing all of this down!”, I have wondered if blogging could become my journal of sorts for some of the things God has been teaching me on this new adventure He has called me to. Sometimes I call this new adventure a roller coaster ride where I find myself hanging on for dear life.

I have never journal-ed, so it would certainly be a challenge for me to begin now (at almost 53 years of age) and no doubt a challenge for your eyes and mind, should you decide to follow my blog posts. But since I find myself alone in the pre-dawn at my mother-in-laws on this last day of 2011, I will at least post a final blog for this eventful year.  

I think for this post I will take you back prior to March 18, 2008. The four year anniversary of that life-changing moment will be here soon. That is the day God broke into my world and said to me, “I want you to coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world.” Nothing has caused me more shock than His words created that morning. Shock that I heard His voice and shock of what He was telling me to do. I was driving to class at Gardner-Webb University (GWU) in Boiling Springs, NC that morning, just as I had done for the past 5+ years. I had been making that trek from Asheville to the GWU campus since the fall of 2003. It is a 70 mile trip…one way.

Following the Lord’s leading, I returned to college at the age of 41 in the fall of 2000. My husband, Charles, was in full support (emotionally and financially) of me doing so. Since our youngest, Joseph, was still in middle school, I chose not to be a full-time student, which meant my two year associate’s degree in American Sign Language Interpreting became a three year degree. I do not want to mislead you, I was not one of His “instantly” obedient children in this…returning to college. I had refused to follow His nudging me to go back to school for two years stating that I was too busy doing what He had already asked me to do. Don’t misunderstand me, I was fully following the Lord on a day-to-day basis; asking Him to lead me each day, to work through me, to be honored by my life. And I was exactly where I believe He had placed me…wife, mom, Bible Study Fellowship discussion leader, Asheville Christian Academy (ACA) Land Search Committee member , Mission’s Committee member at my church, etc. You get the idea. Anyway–after two years, amazingly, two of the most time consuming duties came to an end. God did not remove them, mind you, but in the spring of 2000 I completed the 7-year BSF program and ACA purchased land. In late fall of 1999, through my BSF study questions, God made it evident…one more time…that He wanted me to go back to school and become a “certified” interpreter. Little did I know what that really meant or what it would lead to next.

Well, as the sun comes up this morning this household is waking up to New Year’s Eve. Only God knows the plans He has for each of us in the year 2012. We will see when I get back to this continuing saga….so stay tuned!This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:10-13

Adoption & Orphan Care! It Is Not One or The Other, But Both!

“Coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world!”  What DID He mean?

Part 2 of…

After God called me to “coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world”, in March 2008, He made sure I was exposed to the larger world of orphan care and not just adoption.  It is much harder to miss the atrocities of abuse, violence, oppression, and exploitation that takes place in the orphan crisis arena, then it is in the adoption arena.  However, the similarities are all too often similar.

Signs for Hope board members, the Penlands, adopt 2 deaf children from China!
November 2012

In a very short time, 4 years, I have watched the world of orphan care and adoption evolve. That evolution includes the “how”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “why” of doing it.  Our doing has rarely matched what really is truly needed nor answered the greatest need of long-term life change and self-sufficiency…empowerment!

The most impressive orphan empowerment program, which I have seen with my own eyes, is the model God gave a Rwandan woman, named Epiphanie.  ZOE Ministry supports this model in multiple African countries and I am in awe of how this program is empowering thousands of orphans for self-sufficiency in under three years! Phenomenal!

Epiphanie with one of the many ZOE orphan groups in Rwanda!


Enabling those in poverty, by the Christian world, is one of the reasons I was so ready for the book, “When Helping Hurts“, when Joseph recommended it to me Christmas break of 2009.  I was so disillusioned by how little life-change there was when someone “helped” another in need.  I watched this viscous cycle in the local community surrounding my church and in the local Deaf community, for years.  This was easy to see in multiple poverty-stricken countries around the world, as well.  Most often our helping does nothing more than make us feel good and perpetuate a mind-set of poverty and continued low or no self-worth.  A hand-out is rarely a hand-up! Trying to break that cycle is not easily defined and not a quick-fix, nor is it for the faint of heart.

This is one way God prepared me for recognizing that Signs for Hope was not only to be involved in the traditional adoption of deaf orphans, but some how helping care for and empowering the thousands of deaf orphans and children that will never be adopted or cared for by others.  The numbers of deaf orphans/children suffering greatly in this world are staggering and while SFH cannot help them all, we can begin helping one-by-one, starting with the deaf children/orphans in Liberia, West Africa.

God would not allow me to overlook this much larger population of deaf children in need, those that will never be adopted.  Signs for Hope calls this part of our ministry Heart Adoption (monthly sponsorship).  The monies are spread throughout ALL the children.  However the personal relationship you develop with your monthly sponsored, Heart Adopted, child through daily prayer and your sending small hand-carried packets a couple of times during the year is life-changing, for them and for you.

While most large monthly sponsorship organizations are focusing on children, still in a family, and mostly at risk of not being able to receive an ongoing formal education (or Christian education), the SFH Heart Adoption program is providing the basic needs of life; food (two meals per day), shelter, fuel for cooking, and funds for basic medical needs.  Sometimes funds from the Heart Adoption ministry also go to pay teacher stipends at the Deaf school.  But, for the most part, daily survival is still top priority in Liberia.  Email me for a list of over 25 deaf children who still need sponsors in Liberia.

Heart Adoption…somebody loves me!

At the Oscar & Viola Stewart School for the Deaf, located just outside the capital city of Monrovia, most of the deaf children have some family, but the communication gap added to the stigma of their not being able to speak (or hear) is too much for family members to overcome.  Deaf children are considered a punishment or curse by God and many are discarded as refuse or exploited for personal pleasure and/or gain.

Yes, there is some education, for these deaf children, mainly because developing African nations, as do all others, place education in such high priority.  I am learning more and more that orphans and more specifically deaf orphans/children are in much greater need of learning a trade or a skill than they are of spelling, history and English.  And their need for training in agriculture and basic business management is more vital, than say, Recitation.  Giving them language, sign/manual language, is paramount even before the above can be implemented.  Deaf children as old as 15 come to the Deaf school and still have no language, no way of communicating.  Try to imagine this…if you can.

While the above realizations are beneficial, trying to tailor them to the deaf children will be more challenging given the vast language barrier between them and the majority hearing world which most often exploits them for their own profit.  This barrier will not just magically go away, but it will be a life-long challenge. 

Deaf children are the least of the least, around the world.  Evil people can take disgraceful advantage of them without any fear their evil deeds will ever be told.  The percentage of abuse, of many kinds,  toward deaf children is far greater that that of hearing children, in America, and around the world.  I will expound on this in-justice in a future post.

While some orphan care organizations are helping implement, encourage, and educate indigenous foster families (within their own countries) to rise up and care for their own orphans or children that have been abandoned, around the world, the fact remains that rarely are there foster families willing to foster deaf children.  Again, the communication gap and stigma between hearing and deaf is much too great.  And many times the deaf children are never granted the opportunity to even learn a sign language and are forced to live lives of utter frustration trying desperately to communicate what is stuck inside.

Fact:  In America, today, it is estimated that only 10% of hearing parents learn to sign with their deaf children.  That is in the year 2013…here…in America.  Let that sink in for a moment.

What is the answer for all these deaf children who are precious in His sight?  I don’t know, yet, but He does.

Raising awareness that deaf people are equal to their hearing peers, in developing countries, in their villages and their governments, is one place to start.  In fact, God is opening this door for Signs for Hope during our February 2013 Mission Trip to Liberia (February 12th – March 1st).  A team of hearing, Deaf, ASL signers and ASL interpreters will be sharing this truth, as well as, the gospel in sign during the ACFI (African Christians Fellowship International) annual conference. 

Over the past 4 years, God also made sure our son, Joseph, shared the ugly truths surrounding orphans and child-trafficking through recommending books, movies, and the like to help give me a more realistic perspective.  Slum Dog Millionaire (R), just happened to come out in 2008.  Joseph repeatedly told me I had to see it, even though he knew the initial impact it would have on me.  Blood Diamond was another movie Joseph said I should see, warning me of the horrific atrocities it portrayed. The book “Half the Sky”, released in June 2009 was another.  These, and others, are how God is preparing me for His work, “Coordinating the adoption of Deaf orphans in the world!”
Shell Casings lining the streets during Liberia’s civil wars!
While preparing for my trip to Liberia in 2010, I came across some “documentaries” about the civil wars in Liberia on Youtube.  These were filled with the mind-scarring atrocities and evil that took place in Liberia during their civil wars and after. Pictures and stories I will never forget, though I wish I could. Others recommended Kay Warren’s book, “Dangerous Surrender” (thanks Beth Carr).  Reading her book was like reading about my own life as it was unfolding; God’s opening my blinded eyes to see a hurting and suffering world of humanity all around me and wondering where do I fit in His plan for impacting these precious human souls God loves, had died for and now lives for.  
Maybe this will give you better insight into why this ministry, Signs for Hope, is not only involved in the adoption of deaf children into a loving family, but equally involved with the caring for deaf children who will probably never be adopted.  The word “adoption”, for me and Signs for Hope, has grown to have multiple meanings:  1)  Traditional adoption of a deaf child into a family  2)  Heart adoption (monthly sponsorship) of a deaf child that will probably never be adopted traditionally 3) The most important adoption of all for each of us…His adoption into His, one and only, forever family. 
****Our Deaf pastor and his wife, Phillip and Elaine Easterling, as well as one of our ASL interpreters, Heather Farmer, are still raising their funds for the Liberia trip.  You can partner with them for this trip by clicking on the donate button on this blog.  If you prefer mailing a check, please make it to Signs for Hope and mail to PO Box 460, Fairview, NC  28730.  Your gifts are tax deductible.
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Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we don’t know what to do. God who weighs our hearts, and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act.  Proverbs 24:12


For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 
Romans 8:14-17


For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 
Ephesians 1:4-6

Adoption Approved…Mine & Yours!

Adoptive parents, are some of my biggest heroes!

I am so humbled by what they sacrifice because of their obedience to follow Christ, no matter what, often not knowing the full ramifications of those sacrifices until much later, after the adoption is approved, when those new daughters/sons, sisters/brothers are brought home.  The adoption process, alone, with its mountains of paperwork, delays, frustrations, and on and on (an emotional roller-coaster for most) is only Chapter One in a multi-inch-thick novel entitled, “Adoption:  The Lifelong Journey!”.  

This is the Luebke Family!  Some of my hero’s! 
Read about their adoption journey. www.whenyouriseup.blogspot.com
I know that obedience is far greater than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), but this is not choosing one over the other.  This is choosing obedience which, in turn, causes sacrifice at great cost, sometimes.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, because I know God desires to redeem those sacrifices for His good, for developing character, a much deeper dependence on Him and ultimately for becoming like Christ. But I am saying this is a challenge adoptive parents are not fully prepared for, especially when it suddenly impacts their precious biological children so drastically.  Realistically, how can they be, fully prepared that is, when suddenly they see their precious little ones’ sweet, endearing, personalities change right before their very eyes.  You guessed it, rarely is that change a positive one.  Sometimes, behavior changes are not those observed as aggression toward a particular family member, but instead a withdrawal into themselves.  Each child is as different and unique as their coping mechanisms are.  However, if you probe deeper, I am sure most parents would reluctantly say they have seen glimpses of this behavior leaking out previously, but certainly not to this extent. 
Sin…it knows no boundaries, this side of Heaven.  We are all more keenly aware of that fact as it reared it’s ugly head in CT, yesterday.  All babies are born into sin, except Jesus, of course.  We do not have to teach them to do wrong, but we do have to teach, train, coax, and sometimes bribe them to do right.  Adoption will certainly bring out the sin in all of us. The reason?  I believe it is, partly, because it is such a clear picture of God the Father’s adoption of each of us through the blood of Jesus, His Son (Ephesians 1:4-5).  Redemption has always been…from the ugly! The question is, what will we do with that ugliness each time it re-appears?

I am speaking more specifically about the effect adoption has on the biological children/siblings (especially younger ones) in families and then, in turn, the mental, emotional and even spiritual anguish that has on the parents as they watch what they knew and cherished before as “their family” be completely turned upside-down and disintegrate into oblivion, never  to return to what it was previously.  Not surprising is the parents sudden doubt about their decision to adopt, one they KNEW, ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt’, to be from God before it caused such trauma for their bio sons or daughters.

Much like any other obedience we offer Christ, the consequences (good and bad)–and yes, I am speaking of the consequences of our obedience–often are not fully realized until after the following through of the obedience.  I think we should look deeper and longer at that word obedience, especially as it relates to adoption.  Obedience is an ongoing action, not a one-time deal and it’s done.  This is much the same as we should define the word faith.  Both words represent a continual action or ongoing process that is required. 

I realized all this before, but this week it has made a much deeper impact on me.  Sacrifices, due to obedience, are not only personal for mom and dad, but involves sacrifices that the vast majority of biological children are forced to make when God calls the family to adopt.  Forced in the fact they are not given an option, but instead told, “We are adopting!” Basically the same thing that happens when mom becomes pregnant with the next child. “Guess what, Johnny!  You are going to be a big brother!”

However, birthing or adopting an infant into a family with older siblings is much different than adopting a toddler or older child. It is now Game-Day and each competes, with great skill mind you, for lap-time, nap-time, snack-time, play-time, bath-time, potty-time, mommy-time, daddy-time, and even night-time. 

I am convinced adoptive parents, especially those with young biological children, should receive grief counseling in their pre-adoptive training required hours.  The death of their pre-adoption family unit is one that will surely be grieved, but must be done guilt-free.  
I recommend both of these books for those
experiencing grief of many kinds.
God is not surprised by the changes and challenges adoption will cause these precious biological children and their parents.  In fact, He delights in using them.  He intimately knows each one of us and each one of those biological siblings.  He knows what we need in order to develop in us the Christ-like characteristics He so desires us to share with others.  And He knows what each biological child needs to help them attain their full spiritual maturity so they can successfully accomplish all those works He has prepared in advance for them to do, in the future (Ephesians 2:10).  The other half of that equation, though…what will be Johnny’s response?  How can mom and dad help Johnny’s response be one which benefits him and the family as a whole, in the end? 
This is also true for families with only biological children/siblings.  God designs families, through birth and adoption, through loss and grief, through every circumstance and situation He allows.  His design is for every family member to reach their fullest and greatest potential while holding tightly to His outstretched hand and eyes firmly fixed on Him.
I do know families, where adoption and/or fostering have scarred family members for life and they still do not see any good that has come from their obedience to follow God’s leading them to adopt and/or foster children from the hard places.  In the past, resources for families like these have been almost non-existent, but not today!  Today, research and resources are multiplying and families are sharing these new found new-life-breathing tools with those they come in contact with them via the information highways.  Thank God!
One thing to note, attachment issues are not only for those adopted and fostered children you bring home, but they can also affect bio-child to parent relationships and the mom or dad to adoptive-child relationships and bio-sibling to adopted-sibling relationships.  Therapy and counseling for these attachment issues, also common in adoptive families, is now available in most areas of the country.
We find ourselves in the midst of a season where we are granted the opportunity to focus, once again, on just how much one single life can impact, not only their one family, but the entire world and even turn it upside-down.
Born to Die!

The birth of Jesus Christ! No one life, death and resurrection has impacted the masses, as His!  Jesus Christ…our very own adoption approval, by God Himself, for Him, God-Almighty, to become our Father, our Abba, our Daddy!  

ADOPTION APPROVED! 

But wait!  This is only Chapter One in a multi-inch-thick, never-ending, novel entitled, “His Adoption:  The Eternal Journey!”  

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ,
in accordance with his pleasure and will—
to the praise of his glorious grace,
which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,
in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
that he lavished on us.
With all wisdom and understanding,
he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  
to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things 
in heaven and on earth under Christ.  
Ephesians 1:3-10

Orphan Care & Adoption! It Is Not One Or The Other, But Both!

This is part 1 of, at least, 2.

“Coordinate the adoption of deaf orphans in the world!”  What did He really mean?

In the beginning, one thing I questioned God about, more than once, was why would He choose me for this task when I did not have a positive view of adoption and/or foster care?  Charles and I never adopted and never fostered children.  We did not ever feel God leading us in that direction.  But we did have multiple friends, through the years, who experienced heart wrenching situations because they adopted or provided foster-parenting.  These situations were not just cause for temporary heart-ache that came and went, but they were and are life-altering ones that will never be forgotten and have forever impacted our friends lives.

Now I know. He knew that I would not sugar-coat this thing called adoption to the families that He sent my way; I had seen both sides of adoption.  He knew it would take my seeing families ripped apart, with my own eyes.  These were my friends, the parents, who had simply opened their all-consuming loving hearts to those who had known no love, assuming they would be overjoyed to have someone finally love them–when in reality, they could not be.

For many years, the adoption world was filled with stories of only ‘happily ever after endings’.  For the most part you only heard the negative ones if your life some how personally touched those that were secretly dying inside and trying desperately to maintain some semblance of sanity because of the noble act of adoption and/or fostering.  Resources for these families in desperate need were non-existent and they were forced to deal privately with the guilt of their failure, falsely believing the lie that their love for their adopted/fostered child(ren) was just not strong enough.

Today, multiple resources are now available for these families and the self-quilt is beginning to be balanced with the knowledge of how great neglect and lack of nurture affect children adopted and fostered from the hard places.  This does not take into account for those who have been abused in others ways, especially sexually.  In addition, the Internet, blogs, and Facebook have opened up the truths on the other end of the spectrum of adoption, children who have been so scarred by their past that they cannot receive their adoptive/foster parents love and the reality of human-trafficking of children as it really does relate to adoption is made more easily accessible.

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Resources:

Tapestry Ministry of Irving Bible Church

Empowered to Connect

How Do Christians Fit Christ In Christmas?

Re-posting this blog post from last year and adding the sentiments of Rachel and Joseph, now ages 25 and 29 respectively.  Both are thankful we did not do “Santa Claus” and our Christmas gift giving was and is minimal.  Christmas is not about giving or getting gifts, but about giving of ourselves to each other.

The only difference between the majority of American Christians and the rest of the population–in their Christmas traditions–is their addition of celebrating the birthday of Jesus, for a few moments on Christmas Day and attending their churches’ special Christmas concerts or dramas. 

After Charles and I were married, before children came along, we decided we would NOT include Santa Claus as one of our Lloyd Family Christmas traditions.  My well-to-do family had lavished my sister and I with extravagant Christmases lauding Santa as the most incredible gift-giver of all.  Santa easily took the place of God, in our lives, growing up.  My parents were avid church-goers and God was a part of our lives, albeit a very small part, as relating to Christmas and throughout the year.  Charles’ family, on the other hand, were nominal in their focus on Santa and kept Christ the center of their Christmas traditions.  
When Rachel and Joseph grew older our decision did bring with it some challenges as we had to train our children not to reveal the “precious secret” to their classmates at school or to their cousins. We simply told them each family made decisions for how they would celebrate Christmas and explained why we had decided not to ‘follow the crowd’ on this one.  This was not the only decision we made where we had to explain why we did something this way while other families, yes Christian, did it that way.
I never will forget the time Joseph asked me why our family was different from other Christian families.  It was the last day of school, just before Christmas break, when he was 13.  His question caught me off guard.  I did ask him for clarification, but his was a simple answer and I no longer remember it.  I proceeded to explain to he and Rachel–she was in the car with us–that their daddy and I tried to make decisions based on the love Jesus Christ has shown us.  “We are so very thankful for His sacrificing His life for us, that we want to show Him our appreciation by living lives that we believe are pleasing to Him.  While that is our goal, we still make mistakes…but, ultimately that is our motive for the decisions we make.”  I have no idea if this was a sufficient answer for him or not, but I have never had him ask that question again. 
After becoming a follower of Christ, at the age of 14, my perspective on my family’s money and their lifestyle began to change and my innate desire to get more and more began to wane, as Christ became my central focus.  I wish I could say that I always made wise financial decisions, over the years, but that just is not true.  However, things, for me, have lost their priority and the quest for deeper relationships has taken over.  Yes, on occasion, I do regress to allowing my “want-er” to kick-in, but it isn’t long until the Holy Spirit reminds me of my much needed refocusing and a clear realization that,  “I really don’t need ____ and it would probably do nothing more than collect dust or get stained”.
Please do not misunderstand me and think we did not give gifts at Christmas, because we did and we do.  But, to keep from succumbing to the added pressures of shopping only during the Christmas season, I bought our children’s “Christmas” all throughout the year.  Typically, I would be finished with my Christmas shopping by October every year, taking advantage of sales all year long instead of having to fight the temptation to impulse-buy amidst the BLING of Christmas from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Now the Christmas BLING starts just after Halloween (this year, 2013, it started with back to school sales).  I would often buy Rachel and Joseph things they needed, like socks, underwear, shoes, and place those under the tree, in addition to a few toys and books.  Since Charles and I never felt the need (oh, we felt it, but resisted) to have the newest and best, when it became available, our children never expected to receive the newest and best at Christmas or any other time of the year. 
I wish I could tell you that our family has done some incredible self-less acts of kindness during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, through the years, but we really have not.  I hear incredible stories of how families give-up their Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to serve those less fortunate, but we have never done that…not yet, anyway.   
As I listened to Christian radio this week, during their prayer time, I was struck by a prayer request that was shared.  “Please pray for our family as my husband has been laid-off and we do not want our children to suffer without Christmas presents this year.”  Why is it Christian parents feel so much pressure and place so much value on the presents?  I have copied part of an article and a chart below **** forecasting what the average family will spend on Christmas gifts this year. Keep in mind this does not include money spent on decorations or for food. 

I know these are cliche’, but when has there ever been a more appropriate time in our lives to be more concerned about His presence and not the presents?  Are we just “fitting” Christ in our Christmas traditions or is He, truly, our reason for the season?

It is not too late to change your focus…mom and dad, grandmom and granddad.  One friend has already informed me, this year, their family is making a change–to break the American tradition from getting to giving.  Their children are older, high-school-age and under, but they all agree it is time for a change. 
Let me encourage you to not make drastic changes, but instead deliberate changes.  Change is best received when it is wrapped in a process.  And remember God is always focused on the process.  The process of getting us from here, right now, to that ultimate goal of becoming more like Christ to the world around us.  He is in our every moment, every day and He wants us to take notice of that fact.
Christ is our ultimate example for how we should give.   His everyday life was given for others and through His death He has given us life, abundant life!  Not just salvation and eternal life, life abundant…for today!  We do not give to earn His love or approval, but we give out of a heart full of gratitude for all that He has done for us and all that He is doing and all He will do.  Our acts of service–our giving–and our obedience let Jesus know that sacrificing His life for us was not in vain.   His gifts—keep on giving!  Will yours and mine? 
Here is a link with multiple scriptures related to Our Giving.
***According to the American Research Group, Inc. website: 
2012 Christmas Gift Spending Plans Return to Pre-Recession Levels

Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $854 for gifts this holiday season, up from $646 last year according to the twenty-seventh annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc.
In telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,100 adults nationwide conducted November 11 through 14, 2012, the average planned spending of $854 for 2012 is up over 32% from average planned spending in the 2011 survey and the planned spending matches planned spending of $859 in 2007. 

Year Average Spending Percent Change
2012 $854   + 32%
2011 $646 – 2%
2010 $658   + 58%
2009 $417 – 3%
2008 $431   – 50%
2007 $859  – 5%
2006 $907  – 4%
2005 $942  – 6%
2004 $1,004  + 3%
2003 $976  – 6%
2002 $1,037  -1%

Miracles of Life-Change! Only Him!

 

Witness to 3 miracles of life-change in less than a month!  He has taken my breath, again! I have never seen this, with my own eyes, before!  I have prayed numerous times for God to do a miraculous work to bring life-change.  I have heard stories years after, but never experienced it while it was happening so drastically before me.  I am humbled beyond belief as I have seen God’s Holy Spirit break through years of pain and suffering into hearts that were hard, calloused, unresponsive, and stone cold; thought to never be penetrable, with loved ones devastated, lying in a pile of emotional debris, and having no hope of ever seeing any change or improvement.
Twice, it has been with grown men causing a tornado of destruction to all members of their families because of their own self-absorption, self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness.  They were completely oblivious to the damage they have caused until, UNTIL, the Spirit removed the scales from their eyes. No, I do not understand the ways of my God, nor His timing for causing blinded eyes to suddenly see.  But what I do know, what I have seen and heard is these men are each completely broken as they, for the first time in years beyond a decade for each of them, suddenly realize the pain and suffering they have caused those they truly love the most. Who was that man that did all that?…is the question that now plagues them, possibly, for the rest of their lives. 
While the third miracle holds some differences, to be sure, and much has still to be written because of the horrific trauma buried from the past, for this little one so loved by God, the blessing of watching God do only what He can do is more than humbling and almost to the point of overwhelm.  There are no words to describe it.  Tears flow from my eyes, freely, as I am faced with seeing GOD IN THE FLESH living and moving in these three…transformed lives!
This race is far from over.  The finish line has not been crossed, for any of the three or their loved ones.  Much repair is still required and breaths are being held because of the great fear of their possible regress.   
Can it be?  Is this really true?  Will this really last?  Who is this person; I/we have never seen this side of him before?  One cries uncontrollably and his shoulders quake up and down because of what he has done?  He is genuinely remorseful for the intense pain and suffering he has caused me/us; one more deeply than an another.  What will tomorrow be like? What does this mean for me?  What is my responsibility, now?  Do I dare let him back in?  Do I dare to love him, again?
The answer I have shared with the wife and the ex-wife of the two men was…WAIT!  Let God show you.  And, “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”.  The rampage of thoughts that whirl around these ladies’ minds is exhausting.  Seek Him so He can give you the right response, whatever that is. They both want to be God’s response to the father’s of their children.  Miracles, too!  But it still hurts, like a burn, that seemly is never allowed to heal as the wounds are intentionally scraped over and over again, which ultimately leaves heavy scaring.
What will God ask them to do in response to these miracles of life-change they have been chosen to witness and experience?  Will it hurt, again?  For sure.  But, only He knows how much and only He can give them what they need to respond His way…with His response. 
I can’t help but think how God’s heart is scraped and scared by my own sin against Him…day after day.   And yet, His love for me never waivers.  I cannot comprehend this kind of love.  My mind will not allow it.  This, too, is a MIRACLE!
We do not serve a God who does not know and does not understand and does not empathize with our deepest needs.  We serve a God who is intimately aware of each of our needs and He is the ONLY answer for each of them for each of us.  He does not ask us to walk this road alone, instead He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.  Strategically around us, He provides those we need to lock arms with and kneel down with, so we can all be…His response.  
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The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.”  2 Corinthians 10:4 – 6.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrew 4: 14 -16.

His Peace…What Is It…Really?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 

I have often contemplated the human idea, majority Christian philosophy, as it relates to our “peace-theology”.  Once again we try to force God into our own limited human-thinking.