Often, people ask me, “Why is Signs for Hope working with Deaf children in Liberia? Why not Haiti or Honduras or some where closer home, less costly to get to and less volatile? You know, they have Deaf orphans, too?”
The answer I give them is the same answer I give to many questions people ask me these days, simply, “God led me there, that’s why!”
Liberia was still listed in the top 4 poorest countries in the world in 2011. Some websites place it as number 2 and others, number 4. The top five are really very close in their poverty levels. An FYI…, Haiti is usually closer to number 15 or 20 even post-earthquake.
13 years of civil wars has all but destroyed Liberia and its people. Government efforts to reconstruct the vital infrastructure of this country have been extremely slow since the end of the war in 2003. Most former American, European, and Asian business, which was booming in Liberia in the 70’s and 80’s before the war, remains leery of return. The UN is still present in Liberia and while there are no current “travel warnings” for Liberia, the State Department is detailed in listing concerns for those who plan to travel there. Medical facilities in Liberia are almost non-existent and one of our team was told there is only one orthopedic doctor country-wide. We secure medical evacuation insurance each time we travel to Liberia.
|The Liberia 2012 Team!|
As God began to unfold His plan “to coordinate the adoption of Deaf orphans in the world” to me, I realized that I had never been in an orphanage, much less an orphanage for Deaf children. I once again turned to my trusted friend, the Internet, to search for the place where I could experience Deaf orphans face-to-face. I knew the Lord would lead me to the Deaf orphanage He wanted me to go. It was early 2009 when I set out on this quest. It was not an all-consuming quest, mind you, but it was one of my focal areas, at that time. I was also researching the whole new world of adoption, Deaf adoptions and, as I had done for the past decade, Deaf education research and resources.
Quickly, I realized that just searching “deaf orphan” did not produce the best or most results; so I began to search for Deaf orphans in specific countries; for example “deaf Vietnam orphan” and “deaf Philippines orphan”. I remember well, searching these two. The number of “hits” for most of my searches were very limited. While this more specific search gave me some additional information in specific countries, I discovered finding the Deaf orphans was not a simple straight-forward task. Some of the “hits” were from many years prior, so I began adding the date “2009” to my searches. If there were any “hits” for my specific searches they revealed not only current ministries in those countries, but also any blogs where people had visited those countries on mission trips or blogs of people who had adopted children from those countries. But, again, the number of “hits” for each country was very small in number and sometimes only two maybe three.
Somewhere along the line I began to notice a recurrence though…Liberia…Liberia…Liberia! These early God-connections to Liberia came from multiple places. Some of you would politely remind me, now, that if I had been journaling I would know exactly how many connections there were. So true! While all of the connects were not directly related to Deaf Liberian orphans or their adoption, they were unmistakeably…Liberia!
I remember being connected to an Asheville family who had adopted two boys from Liberia. Then someone reminded me of a former church-member who had grown up as a missionary-kid in Liberia, back in the 60’s & 70’s. I found two families, on-line, who had recently adopted Deaf children from Liberia. Wow! Not long after finding one of them, some of their private information was hacked and the family shut their blog down for a time. I was so disappointed when this happened. But before it did, I was connected, for the second time, to a woman by the name of Angel Rutledge. I had previously been on a website that had detailed her team’s recent mission trip to Liberia in March 2009 and more specifically this team had worked with…you guessed it…Deaf orphans in Liberia!
|Construction continues on the vocational trade school!|
There was a phone number on the website and so I called it! I was eventually connect to Angel’s cell phone. My first conversation with Angel was in the afternoon back in April 2009. I still remember some specifics of our conversation that day. Angel told me she was planning a different type of trip for June of that year and I was reminded that one of the other couples I had been connected to (they had adopted two Deaf children, a few years before, from the Deaf Mission where Angel’s team had been) was traveling to Liberia in June, as well. As God would have it, they (Angel and this couple) were able to meet while in Liberia. I also told Angel I would love to join their next team trip to Liberia in 2010. And my focus was the Deaf children. She was excited to hear this as no one on their trip in March had been able to communicate with the Deaf children.
|The Deaf children and two of their Deaf teachers! (June 2012)|
The rest is history!
In May of 2010 Vandora Henderson (Signs for Hope board member) and I joined with Angel and her team to visit and love-on the Deaf orphans. Last year, I led the team to the Deaf Mission. There were just three of us; me, my husband Charles, and Vandora. This year made it the third trip for Vandora and me to reconnect with these precious children.
I will never forget the first day our van drove up to the Deaf Mission in 2010, though. We had already visited the Daniel Hoover Children’s Village (DHCV) the day before. DHCV is a boarding school for the hearing children. When we arrived there the driver honked the horn as we approached. Masses of children appeared to run along-side our van, all the while waving their arms and grinning from ear-to ear. However, when the driver honked the horn on this day, no children appeared. It wasn’t until the children “saw” our van that they began to run wildly toward us. The first Deaf boy to reach inside our van to touch someone, anyone, had eyes that were tear-filled. I almost lost it! But, inside I knew it, this was where I was supposed to be! It doesn’t matter the cost it takes to get here! It doesn’t matter the conditions I have to endure to be here! It doesn’t matter how long it will take to accomplish what it is that God wants to do through me here! This is where I am supposed to be! Liberia!
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. Jeremiah 29:11-13
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10