Botswana 2012 ….That the deaf may hear

We rolled into Boyei Primary School on a Monday morning with a lost look in our eyes and an uneasy anticipation in our guts. However, the headmaster and teachers welcomed us with eager excitement and gave us free reign in their classrooms. We spent the first day meeting the deaf students and sharing stories about who God is. We quickly realized that the students’ language age was about 5 years below their physical age. As we prepared for the next day we wondered how we could introduce them to Christ when they didn’t even comprehend the sign for “sit down”

We spent the next day drawing and acting and signing and singing (deaf singing is the loudest, most off key and beautiful thing I have ever heard!).. We wrapped up our day by showing the Jesus film. While the students watched the film I watched their faces. As the story unfolded, their eyes would light up as they saw the stories from earlier play out before them.

At the end of the movie, they decided to send the youngest students back and discuss the film with the older students. I couldn’t stay…the Lord brought me to this verse At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Matthew 11:25

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I grabbed sweet Bethany, a team member competent in ASL, and followed the 5 and 6 year olds. I began to ask them what they saw, what they liked, what they remembered.They were quiet, perhaps lacked the words at first, but then one boy raised his hand and began signing the most beautiful Gospel presentation I have ever seen. He said “Jesus came to the earth, He loved people, then he died on the cross, he rose from the dead and he ascended to heaven on a cloud and now we can go to heaven too.”

I looked in disbelief for the child who did not understand left and right the day before had just shared the gospel. But the Lord was not done. Another little boy jumped up and pressed against the wall with his arms spread wide. A classmate came and pretended to hammer in three nails. The boy against the wall “died”, I went over picked him up and laid him on the ground. I asked the students if it was finished, they all said no. I tapped the little boy on the shoulder and he got up. I asked “why” and a little student simply signed “love”.

The child that had pretended to be on the cross ran to the back of the classroom. He grabbed a bible story book they had looked at for months, but never understood. He turned to the page of the cross and pointed with wide eyes as if suddenly all the little bits and pieces of broken communication had culminated into understanding. A little girl stood up and took a small cross we had given her earlier out of her pocket. She looked at the cross and then pressed it against the pages of the book as if seaming it all together for the first time and I realized that the Lord meant so much more than audible sound when he promised “that in that day the deaf will hear…” Isaiah 29:18

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” -Jesus

To read more stories from the trip visit the School to the Nations Blog

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On The Cusp

The cusp…where two tangents or ornamental arcs meet…a point that marks the beginning of change. I sit here on the cusp between preparation and execution. I felt as though the preparation resembled laying bricks to make a smooth path for the journey ahead, but now it feels a little more like we’ve been packing black powder and I am about to be shot out of a cannon like a circus performer. With my calendar wily spread before me, I realize that the next three months will look a little like this… family/best friend visit – Botswana – coordinate a wedding – Thanksgiving – train SE Asia team – promote a new trip – roadtrip with the roomies – Christmas – SouthEast Asia – home.

Here are the phases of my grand performance…
Phase 1 – Ignition
The weight of my calendar began to cloud my heavenly vision. Somewhere between finding a place to sleep in Botswana and arranging ministry in SouthEast Asia, I lost sight of the goal, the mission, and the people. This past weekend was a whirlwind of training and ropes coursing, but the Lord used it to ignite my withering wick.
The SouthEast Asia team learned to share the gospel! Everyone on the team can clearly and effectively share the Lord’s heart with the people we meet! Praise the Lord. We then had a day of ropes where the students learned to work together on the course and on the mission field. That night we wrapped up with a ethnic meal and cultural training. My sweet friend, Rachel, came out and answered our millions of questions leaving us informed and eager to meet these beautiful people!
The next day was followed up with more ropes coursing with the deaf outreach team. The team came together to overcome language barriers between the deaf and hearing cultures. We were able to reevaluate how our team could effectively communicate and care for one another.
After three full days of training, mastering the dreaded ropes course wall and getting the team down from the zipline, I barely had a voice and could hardly lift my arms above my head, but my heart was refreshed. My students reminded me of the things logistics had shoved aside! They turned my head back towards the Lord’s glory and the incredible opportunities we have to share that Love with unreached people.

Phase 2 – Blast Off
This weekend will be full of so much love. My mom, my aunt and my best friend are all coming in to visit. I can hardly wait. I am so thankful to the Lord for my incredible friends, family and supporters.. On Sunday our Botswana deaf team will follow the biblical pattern for being sent out with a commissioning. This is a time to humble ourselves before the church and seek prayer for the journey. It is also a time to unify with the church to remind us all that this a unified mission not an independent team. I eagerly await soaking up every moment of love and fun this weekend will hold. Monday morning at 4:30 AM this cannonball sets sail with a gusto behind my wings. If you would like to receive our trip updates email theabicopeland@gmail.com

Phase 3 – Flight
This is the part I have been longing for since I returned home last January. (Not the physical flight…I generally try to sleep through most of that.) The flight, the journey into the hearts and lives of thousands of people who have never had the opportunity to call on Christ precious name, brings my soul overwhelming joy. As I look at the course before me, I eagerly anticipate all that the Lord will do. His heart is bursting for these Deaf and SE Asians to KNOW Him! I cannot wait to write you all again of the miraculous works of our Father!
For now I will leave you with some sweet encouragement shared with me…The other day as I whined to my brother about my busy schedule. He gently encouraged me saying ‪”stay sane, I think what you do is worth everything‬ and I can’t wait to see you, love you” Today as I checked out at Walmart the cash register man asked if I worked today and I thought for a moment. Yes, today I will send emails, write this update, finalize last minute details and have a staff meeting, but really today I will live life. I will live for the opportunity to encourage and love on people. And this “work” is worth all that I can give and so much more. I challenge you to work live in this same way!


I have been trusting and loving my great big brother since we were wee little tots.