A Letter From the Dominican Republic
“I Have Never Felt Such Love”
NIURKA gave a Bible presentation for the first time in our congregation this week. She had prepared by writing out in Braille what she would say, and then she memorized it. I was on the platform with her, playing the role of a person who wanted to learn Bible truth. A microphone carried my voice to her headphones. When we finished, the appreciative audience applauded with such volume that she actually heard them. Her smile reflected her great joy and satisfaction. I was happy too. How rewarding it is to be in missionary service!
I remember the first time I met Niurka. It was two years ago. After a half-hour drive over dusty country roads, I got my first glimpse of her. She was sitting on the porch of a modest country home—a wood and cinder-block structure with a rusted tin roof. Goats, rabbits, and dogs added to the sounds and smells. Niurka sat slumped with her head down, a picture of solitude and depression. She looked much older than her 34 years.
I gently tapped her on the shoulder, and she looked up at us with eyes that 11 years before had lost their ability to see. By shouting into her ear, I introduced myself and my preaching companion. Later, we learned that Niurka is a victim of Marfan syndrome, a genetic disease that caused her much suffering. Niurka also has severe diabetes that requires a vigilant monitoring of her highly erratic blood-sugar levels.
When I placed a Bible in her hands, she recognized it and said that she had enjoyed reading the Scriptures before losing her sight. How, though, was I to teach this lonely, humble, fragile creature the refreshing truths in God’s Word? Since she knew the alphabet, I began by placing plastic letters in her hands. Soon she could identify them. Next, by feeling my hands as I signed, she learned to associate each letter with the corresponding letter in American Sign Language. Gradually, she learned other signs. Since I had only begun to learn the language myself, each study session required hours of preparation. However, both Niurka and I were highly motivated, so we quickly grew in our abilities with sign language.
A giant boost to Niurka’s progress came when a charitable organization donated hearing aids to her. Though simple, they helped immensely. After living for more than a decade without sight and in almost total silence, she had withdrawn into her own world. But Jehovah’s spirit awakened both her mind and her heart, filling them with knowledge, hope, and love. Soon, with the help of a cane, Niurka was walking about in her neighborhood, sharing Bible truth with others.
Niurka conducts a Bible study with her aunt and two cousins. She prepares well, memorizing each lesson in advance. Her students read a paragraph, and Niurka reads the question from her Braille book. A companion conveys the answers to Niurka either by speaking into her ear or through tactile signing.
The entire congregation helps and encourages Niurka. Several of her Christian brothers help her get to the meetings and assemblies. Others accompany her in the ministry. Niurka recently said to me: “I have never felt such love.” She hopes to be baptized at our next district convention.
As we turn into the lane where Niurka lives, we see her sitting on the porch in the sun with her head up and a smile on her face. I ask her why she is smiling. She says: “I was thinking about the future when the earth will be a paradise. And I was imagining that I was already there.”
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Niurka with some members of our congregation in front of the Kingdom Hall
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Niurka shares what she has learned with others