“Deaf people can do anything hearing people can except hear.”- Dr. King Jordan.
From July 22-26, The International Christian Centers for the Deaf (ICCD) partnered with Abundant Life Bible Church to host its 3rd Annual Sign Language Summer Camp at Agape Christian School’s Grace Gym in Marsh Harbour.
Led by Kayla Rohr, ICCD missionary and Bahamas Coordinator and Sign Language Interpreter, she encouraged interested people to come out and learn Sign Language throughout the week through participation in fun games, Bible lessons and activities.
This year’s theme was “Jesus is Our Treasure: Seek Him First!”
Rohr was assisted by nine volunteers from the United States that helped to teach as well as two Deaf teens from New Providence, Patrick Pierre and Zhyon Thomas.
The daily Bible lesson plans commenced as follows: Day 1 – Jesus is our most important treasure; Day 2 – Seek Jesus first; Day 3 – Store up Treasure in Heaven; Day 4 – Let’s share our treasure and tell people about Jesus; and Day 5 – Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.
Participants learned Sign Language for the alphabet, colours, days of the week and food. There was a drama class and crafts and games, too.
“We had 36 campers, and one hard-of-hearing young man during the day camp,” Rohr shared. “A few campers had [Deaf family members]. We also had two Deaf come in the evening, and we visited with two other Deaf in the community.”
During their visitations in the community, Rohr said that there are some who already benefit from Sign Language and education, while others sadly do not know Sign Language.
At the Sign Language Camp, however, Rohr was pleased to see people’s willingness to learn to communicate with the Deaf as she observed that there were several repeat campers mixed in with the new ones. There were also five to eight adults and teens in the evening sessions. They learned basic sign language, and a local doctor attended, so the volunteers incorporated a lesson on medical signs.
In the time since the Sign Language Camp has been held, Rohr has observed that there is more acceptance of the Deaf community.
“The kids said they would sign with Sade when they saw her in the grocery store. The campers are very eager to learn, and it’s exciting to see their willingness to learn sign language so they can communicate with the Deaf in their community.
“It brings me so much joy to see children learn sign language and begin to understand that Deaf people are just like you and me, except they can’t hear. It’s exciting to see the campers go from not knowing sign language to them being able to have a basic conversation in sign language. It’s also so rewarding to see the children learn and reaping the daily bible lessons and the Gospel. I pray that as we share sign language and the Gospel that others would be inspired to become missionaries to the Deaf.”
Following their visit to Abaco, Sign Language Camps were hosted on Eleuthera in Tarpum Bay and Lower Bogue, Spanish Wells and New Providence. There are plans to possibly hold one of the camps in Grand Bahama next year.
Nevertheless, Rohr said that it is their hope is to see more churches embrace the Deaf community and begin to include the Deaf in their services by establishing a Deaf ministry.
“We also hope that through these camps, we will encourage children to share God’s love with the Deaf, too. The Bahamas needs more interpreters, and we hope that this would begin to pique children’s interest in learning the language and begin working together and supporting the Deaf community.”
She reflected on learning more sign language with the children who attended camp, and the beauty of seeing the children’s face “light up when they successfully sign something correctly.”
A closing ceremony was held at Grace Gym on July 26 from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. The campers signed the theme song and Bible verse from memory. Each group also showed what they learned in sign language in terms of their favorite food or colours and the days of the week. Some also performed the skit that they learned in drama class.
Awards were distributed, and four recipients were given awards for being the most improved signer of the week and camper of the week.
“Abaco VBS went, I would say, extremely well. It definitely was amazing to get the chance to visit Abaco and get to spend a week teaching kids how to ‘Seek Jesus First,’ and getting to watch their faces light up this week while learning Sign Language,” she shared. “It’s been a wonderful summer here in The Bahamas…Leaving is always hard to do, but Lord willing, I’ll be back soon! The Bahamas and its people hold a special place in my heart! May God be with you till we meet again.”
She extended a special thank you to everyone who was a blessing and assisted with the Sign Language camps this summer along with her host families for taking such good care of her.
“Thank you to everyone else who has been praying for this trip, as it was definitely eye-opening in many ways and even convicting some as well. Thank you to our chefs of the week who made sure I was eating even though I wasn’t feeling well. Y’all are definitely family to me.”