Part of the purpose for our travels at Christmastime was to make connections and start building relationships that will assist with our work here in West/Central Africa. The trip was fantastic, and we had many opportunities to further this goal. One of the key ways we accomplished this objective was by me (Ryan) teaching a half-day seminar at the Centre Luthérien d’Études Théologiques (CLET), the regional seminary for Francophone West/Central Africa.
Rev. Jacob Gaugert arranged for the students and faculty of the CLET to come for a seminar, which began at 7:00a.m. with Matins, and ran until about 11:00. The students were on a holiday break, but because they come from several other countries, they do not return home during short breaks. Instead, many of the men bring their families to Dapaong with them. The students and African faculty members represent about eight countries and numerous language and people groups.
Because my French is currently limited to asking for the WC and ordering from menu, Rev. Gaugert agreed to interpret the presentation into French, and also to interpret discussion as we went along. It was interesting to listen to the interpretation, and to engage in technical discussion in this way. I learned a great deal, even as I was teaching!
We discussed cultural ideas about deafness, causes and effects of deafness, the history of deaf education and deaf ministry, and how to welcome the deaf into the Church. Also, I demonstrated some basic greetings and phrases. One interesting thing, which is a blessing to us, is that most of the countries in this region base their sign languages on American Sign Language, so I have been able to communicate with the deaf I have met so far.
It was a challenge for me to talk about grammar and language structure, because my comments had to be translated into French, and French grammar is not like English. It made my brain work harder, and was a mental stretch for Rev. Gaugert also, but it was worth it.
The participants were quite engaged in the presentation, and we had some great discussions. Many of the ideas I presented regarding language use and the ability to discuss deep subjects in one’s mother tongue were very clear to them and connected well with their own experiences. The idea of such a hidden population with virtually no access to the Gospel seemed to resonate, and they wanted to hear more about how to reach the Deaf.
We thank God for the desire to serve that He has poured into the participants in the seminar, and for all the students and faculty at the CLET. It is exciting to see what opportunities may arise from even this short time there.
Oh, and the kids enjoyed it, too!
Special thanks to Rev. Micah Wildauer for the photos.