Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Learning to See Life Through Eyes that Don't See

A while back a friend I met here in Jamaica, Sarak Klapak, introduced me to the Salvation Army School for the Blind. It is the ONLY school for the blind that exists in Jamaica, and nearly 150 students go to school here, with most of them living on campus. I got connected with the coordinator of the "integrated" program, which takes students and places them in mainstream, public high schools in the Kingston area, and she set me up with a few students to tutor. During my down times without teams here at CCCD, I have been going to the blind school as much as possible, sometimes 3 days a week. I first met Sanjay and Jade when Sarah brought them a guitar back in February and I was able to tag along. When she told me that her blind students played guitar, I honestly didn't expect them to PLAY the guitar. That goes to show my wharped perspective and ignorance, cultivated by a culture that typically views persons with disabilities as somehow inferior or inadequate. Not only can they play the guitar well, but they are both very talented pianists. I have been learning so much about them, about blindness, about a more God honoring perspective on life.
One day Sanjay and I were walking to a room, and as soon as we got to the corner he turned. I asked him how he knew when to turn. He explained to me that although he doesn't have any sight, he can feel the presence of his surroundings. When he walks past a wall to an intersection, the air changes, the noise changes, and he can sense that the wall is no longer there. With having lived at this school for so long, the entire layout is embedded in his memory forever and so he knows when to expect a turn.
Last week I asked him how he and Jade learned to play the guitar and piano. They have a music program so I asked if they had a teacher there at the school that taught them or if they picked it up from visitors. He calmly replied (he is always calm, steady) no, Jade and I are self-taught on the guitar and piano. We just have played and played and played until we have learned. Wow, I was amazed. How do you learn to play new songs, I asked. Well, he replied, you just listen to the song and then play it back until it sounds right on the piano.
For Sanjay and Jade, their attention to detail is impressive. I was reading to another young man the other day, and Sanjay walked in, heard my voice, placed his hand on the other young man's shoulder, and then said the other boy's name in greeting. Later I asked him how he knew it was that boy. Sanjay said, well, his uniform is different than ours because he goes to a public school during the day, so all I had to do was feel the seem on this shirt and I knew who it was. Wow!
Last night I was working with Cheyenne, another integrated student who I am helping prepare for her CXC Biology exam May 7th (please pray for her success, she has asked me for prayers specifically for this exam). During a break in reading, Sanjay and I were chatting and somehow we got on the topic of "contemplations of life." I wish I could quote what he said, it was very profound, but in general he said, ya know, I have learned to be content without sight, I have learned that this is who I am and how I was made, and all I can do is take what I've been given and try to make the most of it. Some people, and I sometimes still struggle with this, but some people with disabilities or blindness can't learn to accept that it is who they are. I also believe that my blindness can be viewed as a gift. My other senses have increased abilities due to the loss of my sight. I hear things clearly, I can touch things and instantly understand what it is, I have learned music in a way that otherwise I may not understand.
Such wisdom from a young man!
Anyways, later this week or next week I do hope to record a video of them playing the piano and guitar, and I think there is a way to embed video into my blog (I'm still learning how to do this) so I will try to share with all of you. As you go about your daily life today, I challenge you to think about your ability to hear and talk, your ability to see, the health you have to walk and run, the monetary gifts you have to jump in a car, the comfort of your home, the blessings of family and friends who would do anything to help you if you were in need. And I have not even asked you to think about the gift of eternal life in heaven! God has been good to us, but don't let Satan use that blessing to steal our hearts and draw us into the pit of complacency and entitlement and materialism. Jesus prayed, Father, I ask not that you take them out of the world, but that you would keep them from evil. Evil is sin. Sin is putting things ahead of our Lord. Have you counted your blessings recently? Have I? I'm thankful for the lessons I am learning from my blind friends. After being among Deaf for almost a year, I take for granted my hearing and what I initially learned to be thankful for when I was first being introduced to Deaf culture. It is taking blindness to open my eyes again. To reawaken a proper perspective of who God is, who I am, and what on earth I am here for.

Mat 6:19-21  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

updated April 29, go here to see video:
Sanjay and Jade on keyboard
Jade on guitar and singing

Monday, April 26, 2010


Mega Sports Day 2010

Sports Day is a traditional Jamaican school activity, generally occurring in the weeks leading up to and following Easter. We had ours here at Kingston in March, but last week the Montego Bay campus of CCCD hosted a special Sports Day and invited Knockpatrick and Kingston CCCD schools, along with Maranatha School for the Deaf (St. Elizabeth) and Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf (JCSD). All in all there were close to 200 deaf students there, all dressed up in their various team colors. It started late (go figure), and rather than a 9am start the first race took place at 12:10pm. Needless to say the whole day ran behind schedule, yet I think everyone, the kids in particular, really enjoyed the day. One of my students saw her cousin who goes to another school, and many friends were reacquainted. I was excited to see the Deaf get to have an athletic meet completely devoted to them. Every other school has the opportunity for athletic competitions with other schools, and I think it was a positive thing for our students to get the same experience.
The Teen boys 100m race
Mario Henriques (all black) can flat out run
In full stride...pretty good form
Until the end when he started show-boating like Usain Bolt!
The Teen girls 4x100 meter relay.
Little boys race, Alex McDonald took second (left, in red)
Three legged race.
The "Principal Race"...check out my facebook page for a video!
Presenting  the "Missionary" trophy to Nicole Jones

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


New Shutterfly Website

Compared to facebook and shutterfly, posting pics on the blog is a pain and very time consuming. In the future, when I have a blog posting with more than just a couple pics, I will be posting links to shutterfly and facebook albums, where you will be able to view more photos. Check out my facebook page or new website, to see more great shots. If you don't currently use an online photo site (shutterfly, snapfish, etc) I'd highly recommend looking into getting one. have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Work team progress!

Betsy putting up grid lines for the new Library design.

Very cool sun around the fan. This group did an awesome job!

Always need rules.

Prior to ceiling

Ceiling grid going up.

Ceiling ply installed.
My future apt.

Existing guard"shack". Digging footers for the new guard"house"

Pouring the lentils and wall caps.
New vs. Old
Old entry design. Cool but not as professional as other options.

Old gate color scheme.
This is what the wall used to look like.

Same old wall, different view.

New entry gate.
New entrance.
View from across the road.

New front wall design.

Yes, this was free-handed! Reed Yackley has awesome talents!

Friday, April 09, 2010


Family Vacation!

March 13-20, 2010: These dates were marked on our calendar's since last fall. As Katie often reminded all of us, "we haven't had a family vacation since I was in 5th grade!" So, taking a chance that might never happen again, the whole family committed to coming to Jamaica to visit me during Purdue's Spring Break. They arrived in Kingston on Saturday afternoon. We spent a few hours here at my school before heading up to Mandeville and the Deaf Village. Sunday we went to New Life Church of the Deaf (JDV) and also visited the Knockpatrick campus.

Kids skit at church.

Family pic at JDV (including my brother Ionda)

Mom and Dad with Ionda and Kadene (fiance)

Katie and I with Jessica Craig, the student I have sponsored for a while.

Monday we went back to Kingston to spend more time with the kids.

Katie with Daphawn

Mom and Dad with some of the kids.

Brad with two of the girls that crushed on him.

John flipping the kids.

Tuesday we went to YS Water Falls on the way to Montego Bay, where we stayed at the Riu. We spent the rest of our time there at the hotel until I left for Kingston Saturday morning and the family flew home.

Mom and Dad posing by a very cool plant.
Snorkeling was a lot of fun!
Brad before he lost his snorkel.
Very cool coral.
Love this shot with all the fish.
Katie and me
John and Brooke

I'm thankful for a blessed week. My family got to see more of my life and we also got to spend some time together having fun and relaxing!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Fire at JDV

A while back I posted about the need for rain. The need is intensifying. A week ago, on Sunday, March 28, a fire broke out up at the Jamaica Deaf Village. Apparently a neighbor was burning a tire and trash and was not paying any attention to containing the fire. The grass around here is so dry it goes up in an instant. 40 charred acres later, the fire was finally put out. It burnt up a lot of pasture grass, some crops, one cow, a whole heap of fence post, but praise God no buildings were significantly damaged and nobody was injured. If the fire had happened a day before, it could have been catastrophic as nobody was here, but thankfully there was a work team of 22 from Florida, as well as the congregation of New Life Church of the Deaf that were all able to pitch in after the fire was discovered shortly after church. Using branches, towels, and shovels the fire was beat away from buildings, homes, and some crops.

The smoke was very thick. Here Miss Veronica comforts a frightened Brianna.

The work team and JDV residents battled the fire for hours.

The fire took everything in its path, but the CROSS stood FIRM! (appropriate for Palm Sunday, eh?)

A few days later, view to the left

Same place, viewing to the right.

Looking down from behind M1 and M2

The fire burnt right up to the Huber's house and around the other side.

A recent article I read in the paper said that this is the worst island wide drought in the last 20-30 years. And there are now a lot more people dependent upon it.

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