By Brian Paris
The team I am a part of went on a survey trip to the islands of PNG in May. On this trip we stayed with a family in the small village of Masarau. I met Paul there. He is deaf. On surveys we try to identify deaf people for a colleague from another mission that specializes in deaf ministry. If we find someone, we let her know and, if she is able, she goes and assesses their needs.
Paul is the nephew of the husband we stayed with. He was born deaf, has never learned a spoken language, but communicates with a homemade sign language. I was quite taken with Paul. On Sunday we went to church with the family while Paul stayed behind eagerly guarding our things. When we returned, I gave him a gift bag that we normally give to people who help us out. The bag included some fishing line and hooks. That night, we ate fresh fish caught by Paul with his new line.
Paul is quite bright and eager to understand who I was. On survey we typically take along pictures of our families and home to show people, giving them a context for us. Paul poured over these photos asking and re-asking questions trying to understand who was in the pictures. After a few hours of this, I started to learn a bit of his sign language and our talk moved on to the church. He considers himself a Christian, but doesn’t like to go to church because he sees people who go to church living lives that do not seem to reflect a Christian standard. He prayed for me and the work we were doing though I have no idea what he said. I’m sure I didn’t communicate what we do very well, but I do know Paul would like to be able to understand a Bible, any Bible. Please join me in praying for Paul, other isolated deaf people in PNG, and our colleague reaching out to them.
Brian and Hannah Paris are sociolinguistic surveyors.