11 Sep ESPERO Program: Giving Hope a Voice
The word “Espero” in Spanish means I hope. We use it as the name of our school for the deaf. Not only does it mean I hope but it is also an acronym for Escuela de los Sordos para la Educación Regional de Occidente, or in English: Western Regional School for the Deaf.
The dream for such an outreach began a few years back when Dennis Wilson challenged Phil Waldron to consider reaching out to the deaf population of Honduras. Just after that challenge, Phil and Donna were having dinner with some friends and supporters in N. Richland Hills, Texas. One of those friends was Renee Fleming, who has passionately served the deaf since age 12. She shared her story of how she became intrigued by the deaf ministry at an early age and learned how to interpret for the deaf despite being so young.
Having just retired from a career as a teacher, Phil challenged Renee to consider coming to Honduras for a month to teach our team sign language to reach out to the deaf community. Renee accepted the challenge and in 2015 she spent a month teaching sign language to the Mission UpReach sta . As a result, we were able to attract the attention of a few in the deaf community. Two of our missionary apprentices, both participants in the AIM (Adventures in Missions) program out of Lubbock, Texas, knew American Sign Language (ASL) and became a vital part of this outreach.
One of those missionary apprentices was Matt Bridges who later married another young missionary, Hannah, and together they effectively advanced that ministry until their return to the US this year. Abbie Wilson, the other missionary apprentice and the daughter of Dennis Wilson, grew up signing and became passionate about touching the lives of the deaf in Honduras.
As the outreach grew, we learned many things about the deaf community in Honduras. To start with, most of them do not have a common language and have spent most of their lives with limited ability to communicate or learn. In Honduras, the common sign language is called LESHO and di ers some from ASL.
A big part of our outreach involves teaching LESHO (Lengua de Señas Hondureñas) to the deaf and their families. The second thing we learned was that there are no accommodations in the educational system for educating deaf children. As a result, the deaf adult community we are working in consists of uneducated individuals. From this realization, ESEPERO was born.
This year, we began our school with one classroom of 9 deaf adults, all starting with the first grade. We utilize a government program designed for adult learners. The greatest challenge we faced was adapting this program for a deaf population who had no common language. We currently have one licensed teacher and two assistants, who also serve as interpreters. Abbie Wilson serves as one of the interpreters and continues to passionately serve in our ongoing outreach to others, who will hopefully be a part of our dream to grow the deaf school and one day soon include a school for deaf children.
It has been amazing to watch God grow this ministry. Choosing to reach out to the deaf by opening the school has proven to be a great tool in God’s working to draw them to Him. The school environment, along with our local church incorporating the deaf into our worship by providing interpreters, has provided the community and acceptance this underserved population has never had. In the past few months, 5 of the deaf have been baptized and the one couple that was living in a free union were married.
As we dream about the future of this ministry, we trust that God has only just begun. We began this ministry in faith, having no funding for the school. As we stepped out in faith, God provided not only the funding for the school for 2017, but also the funds to hire a full time missionary to serve with us. (See Enrique’s story on page 3.) As 2018 is fast approaching, we are praying for and seeking support to continue funding this ministry.