Director's Travel Report: Brazil & Zimbabwe - August 2017

Brazil

Near Sao Paulo, Brazil, was the venue for this year’s Hope Channel’s Leadership/Managers’ Meeting. I was included in the invitation because I am considered the manager for Hope Channel – Deaf which is one of the 46 different channels of Hope Channel. Hope Channel – Deaf is an Internet channel (www.hopechanneldeaf.org), as opposed to a broadcast channel. Being an internet channel makes it available anywhere in the world where there is Internet reception, regardless of satellite reception. Zimbabwe, for example, is not able to receive the satellite coverage for Hope Channel, but it can receive ours. We use what is called VOD or Video On Demand, which means programs are not aired according to a schedule but according to the viewer's wish or demand. You don’t have to be deaf to enjoy the channel. Try out the section on nature!

The meeting was held at the South American Division Hope Channel site which is called Novo Tempo. It is by far the largest facility of the 46 channels. The General Conference, the mother station, employs 26 individuals with just a few sets for television production; Novo Tempo employs 496 and soon to be over 500. There are 26 different sets from which programs are broadcast. Novo Tempo is a multi-ministry facility which includes not only television and radio productions but also a large Bible school program. It is a state-of-the-art facility and has a tremendous recognition and ministry throughout South America. The networking with various personnel that I was able to do there clearly made the trip worthwhile. Our own Hope Channel – Deaf will certainly benefit!

(Below are images taken during the trip. Each image below can be clicked on to view an enlargement in a new tab)


Novo Tempo Building

Annex of Hope Channel Building

Derek Morris, President of Hope Channel, Inc.

One of several studio sets


Zimbabwe

I cut my time in Brazil a little to attend the Special Needs Camp Meeting in Zimbabwe. What a life-changing experience for me in so many ways. Just two years ago there was very little organized in the way of Special Needs Ministries. With an emphasis coming from the General Conference, things began to change rapidly. Division, union and local conference leadership accepted the challenge. When I arrived, and spoke that Thursday evening, the meeting hall was packed with 350-400 individuals—deaf, blind and many in wheelchairs. What a beautiful sight! We introduced the new recommended theme song, “Not Alone”, and what an experience to hear these Africans sing that song—a song that originated in Uganda and was recorded by the Watato Children’s Choir (made up of all orphans). The division leader, Passmore Mulambo, union leader, Logan Masaiti, and the conference president, Godfrey Musara showed incredible leadership for this ministry. The conference president, for example, has a conference membership of 190,000 and yet he makes it his practice to worship with a special needs group somewhere in his conference once a month. His conference has 17 different camp meetings this year. I can’t say enough about the enthusiasm of all the leaders, including lay leaders. An interpreter for the deaf from Pretoria, South Africa, Zee Purdy Lee, attended and added much to the meetings.

The camp meeting was held on the school grounds of a government facility designed for special needs individuals. On opening night the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare for the country of Zimbabwe was present and gave some opening remarks. His remarks regarding the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were encouraging and inspiring. My brief meeting with him was very positive and we spoke of working together in the future. On Sabbath we had to move out of the hall that had been provided for us and into a tent that had been pitched on the school grounds. The attendance on Sabbath was around 500! I spoke about six times during the camp meeting. I was asked to make an appeal for baptism after my Sabbath sermon. Forty had completed the Voice of Prophecy Bible Study Lessons. I made the call and 34 came forward for baptism! I was overwhelmed with the response. I had never experienced so many in “wheelchairs” come forward to an altar call. That afternoon 15 deaf, 10 in wheelchairs and 9 “able-bodied” were baptized, Some of those in wheelchairs had no control of their legs or arms. I was so moved by their experience. Afterwards with beaming smiles, some shouted, “I’m baptized, I’m baptized, thank you Jesus.” The impossible happened and they were visibly rejoicing. In the midst of all the excitement, I paused. Silently I prayed. and thought of all the uncertainties that I’ve faced over the last several years, and now those uncertainties had a reason. I just couldn’t see why at the time.

I must tell you about a special service – the last service of the camp meeting. What an impression it made on all of us. Three cakes were placed before three individuals: a blind person, a deaf person and a physically handicapped person. Each was asked to cut out a piece of the cake in front of them. A sighted person helped the blind person, an interpreter explained to the deaf person what to do, and the physically handicapped person (no use of either arms or legs) used the best resource he has—his mouth—in which an able-bodied person assisted by placing the knife in his mouth. In each case, a piece of the cake was cut. BUT IT DIDN'T STOP THERE! The sighted person fed the blind person the cake, the blind person fed the deaf person and the deaf person and the physically handicapped person fed each other. No one was better than the other and each one needed the other. The message was clear: we need each one and each one has been called to serve all. Surely, a powerful message for a world that disparages those often whom they call "disabled." The German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder observed, in the 18th century, that we cannot know ourselves without a reference point outside of ourselves. Perhaps, just maybe, that reference is, in part, those with special needs who illustrate so powerfully that they serve as mirrors of our own brokenness. I attended as a student and was reminded that I must remain a student and, while there, they were my teachers.

A little expression that I’ve coined for myself and applied to many situations—both mine and others—was once again confirmed: “Don’t try to conclude the writing of the book when God is still adding chapters!” Heavy on my heart now is, “What about others! What about those who are being marginalized all around the world because of their “disability.” As we now say about this ministry, “Our mission is not about disability. It is about possibilities.” Each one of these individuals with special needs has possibilities that the world often overlooks or ignores. We are out to change that!!

(Below are images taken during the trip. Each image below can be clicked on to view an enlargement in a new tab)


Deputy Director for Social Welfare
for Zimbabwe

Opening Meeting of Special Needs Camp Meeting

P. Mulamba (Divsion SNM), L. Evans, (GC SNM), M. Choga (union pres.), G. Musara, (conf pres.)

Interpreters for Deaf and Other Leaders

One of many children

Tobias Signs His Name - no functioning arms or legs

Child Speaker; Child Interpreter

Sighted Person Helping Blind Person Cut Cake

Deaf Person Instructed by Hearing Person to Cut the Cake

A Physically Disabled Person Being Assisted by a Physically able Person to Cut the Cake

Physically Disabled and Deaf Person Sharing Cake

Tobias, about to be baptized

Deaf Being Instructed Before Baptism

Sabbath Meeting in Tent