Back to the Border:
A Visit With Isaiah 55
Deaf Ministries

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Photo Credit Jane Freidinger, Isaiah 55

 

Can you imagine going your whole life in silence? Have you ever considered what it would be like to live with your family but not have a language to communicate?  Or ever thought about the devastation of realizing your child can not hear and having no options to teach them a language, maybe never even having heard or such a thing as signing?

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Language is Freedom. Zenie standing outside of Isaiah 55’s School for the Deaf in Reynosa, MX

 

We spent last weekend visiting some of our best friends Nono and Kate Beale who live outside of McAllen, TX and run Isaiah 55 Deaf Ministries in Reynosa, Mexico.   Nono was a successful entrepreneur (actually he still is it just looks a little different) and Kate an expert in southern hospitality and mother of two (she still is both those things too), both were content living on the Alabama River when God called them to the mission field16 years ago.  Of all of the places in the world they ended up living in the Rio Grande Valley on the border of Mexico and launching Isaiah 55.

 

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Zenie enjoying the colorful classrooms at the Isaiah 55 school for the deaf.

Their School for the Deaf has been enormously successful. The leadership has transitioned almost entirely to a Mexican staff and many of their earliest students are now being trained as teachers. Plus they are in the process of developing a curriculum that will be used and shared all over Mexico to teach sign language in schools and to families. Still, even in Reynosa, they are teaching only a fraction of the deaf population, about 60 students out of the suspected 700 or more that would likely benefit. The nearest school providing the same sort of opportunity is over 600 miles away in Mexico City.

 

Liturgy of Life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf Ministries
A view of one of the Isaiah 55 buildings. Nono mentioned that once they started painting their buildings, the atmosphere of the neighborhood started changing, graffiti stopped and neighbors started painting their own homes too.

 

As their  school has become more  self-reliant Isaiah 55’s staff has decided to broaden their mission in Reynosa. They acquired a property adjacent to the notorious “Boys Town” a walled community of legal tolerance, consisting mostly of bars and night clubs where prostitution is legal and exploitation is the standard.

Nono is a man of many skills, and with their growing staff, Isaiah 55 has begun developing a vocational training program. They offer welding, sewing, silk-screening and other courses. Currently these classes are offered to the children from the Deaf School, allowing them the opportunity to develop job skills and earn a stable living when they graduate.  But the team in Reynosa has even bigger dreams than this and hopes to  offer similar opportunities to hearing children living adjacent to Boy’s Town in the coming year as well.

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Beautiful spools of thread displayed for kids from the deaf school to use. They were working on sewing tote bags for Mother’s Day presents while we were visiting.

 

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
From Left to right Nono, Michael and Ryan Culbertson looking at some of the workshop spaces for vocational training.

Much of their success has had to do with the stability and skills of their staff. The Beales have been working along side of Erin Knobloch and Kim Kaiser for 12 years. Now their team is growing with several new families and individuals who have joined them over the past few yeas and several others who are on their way. (Click here to read more about their amazing and growing staff.)

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Kate and Erin serving a staff lunch, fried chicken and mac and cheese. What could be better?

We have know the Beales for about 6 years and in that time they have become both mentors and friends. Nono is the first person Michael calls to sort out most problems especially anything mechanical. And Kate is one of the best cooks and homemakers I know and has inspired  me in countless aspects of our home.

 

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
You will find some of the happiest dogs in Mexico hanging around the Isaiah 55 buildings. Dogs don’t go hungry whenever Nono is around.

 

Along with visiting the mission Kate treated us to some of her famous southern cooking. This meal included homemade barbeque sauce over short ribs,  succotash, greens and cornbread. The next day we piled in the van for a day at the beach at South Padre Island.

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Kate serving it up.

 

Liturgy of  life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf ministry
Having a blast!

 

In a time where violence has deterred many people from visiting Mexico (short term mission trips at Isaiah 55 have declined from 600 participants per year down to about 120) and where even most people in Texas don’t  have The Valley (As in The Rio Grande Valley, think San Antonio and head south, which includes over a million people and two of the poorest cities in the US) on their radar, the Beales and their team through Isaiah 55 have made an impact as they live out the calling that is part of their name.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:2

Liturgy of Life visit to Isaiah 55 Deaf Ministries
A little bit of wildlife right in the middle of the city. It turns out the Texas Tortoise, officially a threatened species, thrives in the Reynosa climate and many of the staff have these cuties living in their back yards.

Thanks guys for a great visit. (If you are interested in visiting or bringing a work team to Reynosa please click here to request more info.)

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