Salt And Light in Salt, Jordan

By Trish Edwards-Konic 3-25-2011

I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I toured the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf with director Brother Andrew de la Carpentier. I ate lunch with students and teachers who have everything down to a science. Then I interviewed Brent Stutzman, a Mennonite working through their SALT program as a volunteer for three years.

His commitment to serve and follow where God leads him is amazing. After earning a biology degree from Bethel College, he volunteered to work in Jordan to maybe work with correspondence, English curriculum or vocational training.

Instead, he found himself assigned to the deafblind unit and specifically to Muhammad, a 17-year-old student. Knowing nothing about deafblind education, and little, if any, Arabic, he says, "I was thrown into the fire."

Now halfway through his three-year commitment, he continues to create an Arabic deafblind curriculum. There is no Arabic model to follow so he states, "I have had a long road of many failures." But it is evident from the progress of his student that he has achieved a shorter road to success.

"The challenge," Brent continues, "is staying one step ahead of Muhammad while continuing to learn Arabic, set goals and evaluate them, and develop activities for learning."

Although he works in a one-on-one situation, his intention is to help change cultural outlooks about what it means to be disabled. No longer left in a room by themselves, the students at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf are not perceived as helpless. Brent's goal is to have the family and community see the potential in each child.

Jesus said to be salt and light in the world. Brent is definitely both, as he works in Salt, Jordan and continues to rely on God to serve the disabled.

Trish Edwards-Konic is the pastor of two rural Quaker churches in southeast Colorado. She previously was the editor of Quaker Life magazine and Friends United Press.

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