The road is rough and winding, and at times it feels as if it folds in on itself as it snakes around vine-covered trees and deep valleys. But at the end of that road is Eden, a farming community so small it goes missing from most maps of Jamaica. But there’s not a place more aptly named – for creation is taking place there. You’ll feel it when you drive through the makeshift entrance to the Jamaican Christian School for the Deaf. Because feeling is hearing.
First, silence. Then laughter.
There’s something beautiful about the quiet joy of children who are deaf. Silence is not quiet in Eden. Every classroom is full of learning and trying and accomplishing.
There’s something even more wonderful about their laughter. When they laugh, they are loud and bold and beautiful. Quiet joy is powerful. Loud unfiltered joy is divine.
“Howdy mah people! Ow nuh doo dis morning?”
Miss Mary greets everyone with a smile and arms that wrap tightly and linger as if to say, “You’re home now.” She has worked at the Jamaican Christian School for the Deaf for almost 20 years. She loves the children, loves the ministry that’s being done. And she has dreams of even more. She is like laughter – bold and unfiltered and beautiful.
She has her own family and a home that’s hours away, but it’s the students of the school who bring Miss Mary to life. “I’ve gone to houses where children are enslaved and forced to do all the labor in a home because they are deaf, “she shares. “They are treated as less than human, beaten and ridiculed. And I won’t stand for it. These children deserve a safe place to live, they deserve a loving place to live. They need an education and they need good nutrition. They should receive all the privileges afforded a child. You should see it when some of the children come to the school. They’re terrified. They don’t want to be held because all they’ve known is that hands are for beating. I am a hugger. I ache when someone doesn’t want to be held.”
Miss Mary is a dreamer. She has huge dreams for the children, huge dreams for her country. And ever single one is wrapped in the belief that all people are worthy of great love and a powerful future.
Mary shares one of her dreams. “I pray for parents to take responsibility for their children. Most of these children don’t have a home to return to because the parents don’t know how to communicate to someone who speaks a different language. They push their deaf children aside to care for others. When the children tell their stories, sometimes it’s hard not to want to give the parents a punch. But I have to remember that God can change stories. All stories.”
Yes. God is the master of stories that change stories. I believe, Miss Mary. I believe.
What causes you to ache? What is it that makes you have to remember that God can change stories? And how far would you go to care for someone else? Would you share that today?
This year, I’m sharing 31 thought-FULL things I’ve been taught by the women of Building Eden, the book I’m writing about women who believe restoration is a reality – on earth as it is in heaven.
There is not one who doesn’t fight, there is not one who isn’t afraid, there is not one who at times questions or wonders or worries that they’ll be found lacking in a world that loves to define by the doing. The women battle self-loathing, they battle mental illness, they battle loneliness, they battle their past. They battle oppression and bias and scorn.
And yet, they still believe.
And these women have taught me more about leadership, about servitude, and about being fully and gracefully and unapologetically a woman than any book, seminar, conference, or Ted Talk ever could.
What I share is just a taste of what will be in the book. I pray the words of the women will inspire you to be unafraid to stand in the gap to restore what is broken in the world around you.
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