Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm speaking in Wheaton, IL, Dec 7, 2010

Here's an invitation to ladies in the Chicagoland area to come hear me speak at the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, Illinois, on Tuesday morning, December 7th. It's the women's ministries' Christmas Brunch, and I'll be talking about hearing loss and the sounds of Christmas. The brunch starts at 9:15 with food first, a few Christmas songs by the toddlers of the group, and then I'll be at the mic around 10:30, until 11:10 or so.

If you'd like to come, please let me know so the hostesses can have a chair ready for you. They have a rough idea of how many regulars might show up, but they'll want to have extra seating available and food too, if needed for visitors. Thanks, and I'll be available afterward to meet anyone interested in hearing more about my story, my faith, or cochlear implants, as you wish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My cover article in Hearing Loss magazine

I'm excited to announce that my story is the cover article on the November/December 2010 issue of Hearing Loss magazine. I was asked to write about my own hearing loss, and how I've coped with the resulting issues and solutions. I was impressed that no editing was done to remove my faith testimony, and lots of pictures of my family and my work in Mali were showcased. What a fun way to share my story of hope, and my success with cochlear implants.

I hope that anyone interested in overseas missions might consider researching the opportunities to serve with WorldVenture, or donating to help our work through the WorldVenture website: http://www.worldventure.com/Missionaries/Missionary-Directory/Missionary/Seward_Tom_Lisa.html

For regular updates on our work and family, go to http://www.tomseward.com/ .
Thanks to Cindy Dyer for pulling the story together and taking the cover shots. Thanks, also, to Jim Adams, for some of the family shots on the collage. Thanks to my family, particularly my good hubby, Tom, for his patience and love throughout this journey. And thanks most of all, to my Lord for His help, strength, wisdom and hope for each day.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Missing Information

The obvious problem with hearing loss is that you miss information.

Deaf babies miss the auditory stimulus to begin differentiating sounds and trying them out with their own mouth and tongue. Deaf children cruise on past the prime time for natural language learning, and if they haven't been taught some way of communicating, they miss the relational interaction that helps to socialize and inform them as they develop. Deaf adolescents may continue to have socialization problems and also vocational challenges if they haven't been helped to be functional in an increasingly information-centered world. And late-deafened adults (that's me) become increasingly isolated from the functioning world if they can't find ways to share and receive information about their friends, family, work expectations; you can see the problems here.

Often, a deaf or blind person doesn't even know they've missed some bit of information. If we know we missed something, we can ask for a repeat, but when we don't know, we just continue on with life as we know it. This picture from a couple of years ago is of Tom and me with our friend, Aminata, who is illiterate and having eye problems. She misses a lot of information about the world and things she's interested in because she can't read. She's also vulnerable because she's easily taken advantage of when she doesn't know about necessary documents to sign or requirements for enrolling her kids in school.

There are lots of news stories that I miss every day. When I'm overseas, I must say that I don't actually miss the scare stories, the product recalls, the election ads, the tele-marketers and infomercials. But there are things that I wish I knew sooner when I finally do hear about them, like some new technology or way of doing something that makes life safer or healthier.

Recently, I was reading a discussion on the Facebook wall of a new FB friend who is an atheist, about how no one has the right to push their beliefs on someone else. Being the missionary that I am, this of course, caught my attention. While I agree that no one has the right to forcibly coerce someone to proclaim an allegiance that is ingenuine (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc... all have their historical moments of using force and violence to acquire this among their neighbors and "enemies"), it is not true that we don't have the right to share our beliefs openly and honestly with others. I know of people who are so grateful that they heard a different story than the only one to which they had ever been exposed.

It's like the information problem for deaf people, but really everyone. If you don't have access to the internet, newspapers or magazines, or the outside world, you have no opportunity to learn about other belief systems or ways of doing things that might be better than the only way you know. Not that I'm advocating forcing modernity on primitive peoples (yes, there are still some out there untouched by the modern world), but how can anyone learn and make personal decisions if they have no input?

I think it's only fair and humane to share my beliefs if someone is interested, because they might decide to agree with me if they have the chance to know about it. I'm not going to go around beating people over the heads for the chance to share with them. I'm also not going to bribe them with gifts and resources from America, because that would be just as ingenuine as violent coersion. But I know that there are people wanting to know what else is out there, and as far as belief systems go, I tell them that I follow Jesus Christ and his gospel as revealed in the Bible. And I try to live that Gospel out in my life; "walk the talk" as they say.

(By the way, for all my hearing loss friends, watch your mailboxes for the new issue of Hearing Loss Magazine; you'll see a surprise there. If you have hearing loss but aren't a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America, you might want to consider it by checking out their website: http://www.hearingloss.org/ )

Friday, September 3, 2010

Connections with People

Connections are what life on this planet is all about, don't you think? Connections with God, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, pets, on-line strangers and so on. We're all forming our personalized web of connections, or relationships, and that web changes every day. It's like a spider web blowing in a breeze, that gives and takes a little, sometimes detaching one silky strand from it's anchor when the tension gets too strong.

Social networking is an exciting, but ever-changing way of bringing some of those connections to life and keeping them stronger. I've personally recruited many of my friends and acquaintances to Facebook, but as the novelty is wearing off, those who aren't serious about getting on-line for anything more than emails have "dead" profiles. Personally, I think they're the ones to lose out on the fun and satisfaction of new, renewed, and closer relationships with people, but I understand being swamped with life and new technology. It's hard to keep up.

But while I was jogging yesterday morning, I passed a sign that alerted drivers to an area with a "hearing impaired child". I immediately wanted to know where this family was and what was the child's situation. I thought there might be a way I could help them understand cochlear implants if that was an option for them. I didn't even know these people, but because of a shared challenge, I felt connected to them in some way.

Just last week at a training seminar for youth workers, the speaker introduced himself and told us about his wife and three kids, the youngest of whom was born deaf. During the coffee break, I met him and told him of my deafness and the solution that bionic ears have been for me. I encouraged him to pursue his research in that area as quickly as possible, since his 5-year-old is already reaching the post-lingual stage of language development where adaptation to C.I.s becomes more challenging, needing speech therapy. I don't know whether he'll follow up on the contact information I gave him or not, but after that, I knew we'd connected on a different level.

Last year, I received an email introducing me to a Ugandan family whose daughter was also born deaf. The couple had contacts with missionaries who were friends of ours. They told this couple about cochlear implants and my experience, and shortly thereafter, a travelling medical team gave them a contact Stateside for hearing evaluation with someone they knew who performed cochlear implant surgery. I recently received an email letting me know that the little girl has just been implanted in Massachusetts, courtesy of the Christian surgeon who had compassion for their case.

I wonder that the more areas in our lives where we've been touched by tragedy and struggle make us better able to connect to people struggling with the same. In that way, it's a blessing to persevere through the struggle, knowing that later on, you might be able to make someone else's journey a little easier.

I know there are also times when you've reached the other side of the struggle, or perhaps the struggle continues indefinitely, but you don't want to be reminded of it in your life, so it's better to pull away and detach. Someone close to me who had breast cancer 5 years ago is not at all interested in marching in 5Ks to raise awareness of cancer. The big "C" is something she has survived at the moment, and doesn't want her life consumed by worrying about it or meeting other people who are in that struggle. To some this might seem selfish, but to her it's mental self-preservation.

Now with a hearing challenge, it's easier to play shy and "keep to myself" if I'm not sure that I'll have anything useful to say or if I lack the courage to put myself out there. But there are times when I know I'm being led to take a step out toward making a connection with someone, and I'm rarely disappointed that I followed it. While some people are intimidating to approach, I think everyone is looking for connections in this world. May they be increasingly positive and grace-filled.

(By the way, this photo was of the boys and me heading to Michigan for Grammy Maire's funeral 2 weeks ago; a temporarily broken connection which I look forward to renewing someday.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's the end of the school year. I'm finishing home-schooling my 4th grader and trying to wrap up a very brief overview of the Civil War. We've just "closed" our village house and tied up all the loose ends that we could with our house helpers and ministry co-workers in Mali, as we head to the States for this next school year. We've stopped in Dakar, Senegal, where our two older children attend school, for the end-of-the-year activities associated with a graduating senior.

And so here I sit in the dark, writing off my computer battery as we live through another power outage and try to make sense of where the flashlights are, but also, where to focus our scattered thoughts and emotions.

My first-born baby is graduating from high school next week. She's getting ready to go off to college, after spending the last five years in Africa. She doesn't have a driver's license yet or a bank account. However, she's not so far behind in American culture as you might expect since she visited "home" a couple of times when we were there for my medical leave and cochlear implantation process. Plus, with internet connections and Facebook friends all over the world, one does not have to live a cloistered life anymore, even in a Third-World country.

So, we have a quick Summer ahead trying to get her "up to speed" on as much as we can before school starts on August 25th. With weddings and travel, doctor's appointments and car shopping, MK Transition Seminars and public school enrollment for the boys, we have a lot to think about in the next three months. Oh yeah, we also have a family-favorite vacation, Cornerstone Music Festival, and I'm attending the Hearing Loss Association of America convention for a day in Milwaukee in June. Did I mention that we have to go through our belongings stored in our trailer and move into our housing for the year before school starts?

But, for this next week or so, we are the proud parents of a sweet, beautiful, loving daughter who is so excited that we can be part of her boarding school life as she graduates. We spent this afternoon looking through her life in pictures, lovingly scanned and stored on 2 disks by her dad, picking out 30-40 of the best representative shots from various ages and locations, for her to choose 15 for a Senior Poster for the Reception. That brought lots of good memories, and only a couple of groans.

Later this week, we get to attend the formal banquet with her and her date and his parents. This should be an interesting time as well, as the seniors are honored by the junior class. Sunday morning's worship service next week will be Senior Sunday, where various class members have opportunity to lead singing and give testimonies. Hilary will be giving her own testimony in the dorm tomorrow night, so I'm not sure she'll do it in the big group next week, but it's a good chance for the students to formulate in their own minds where they've been and where they hope to go in their lives, with God's help and direction.

So, I'm taking that opportunity to meditate a little this week. The last few months have been hard in Mali, with an extra-hot hot season, exacerbated by power supply limitations, and then a heart-breaking situation with a church family that included church discipline, on the road, we hope, to repentance and reconciliation. There have been many joys amidst the challenges, and that just leads us to this transition time of mixed emotions. Joys and heartbreaks. Hopes and disappointments. Rewards and mistakes.

I want to focus on the important things for awhile, like my good God, my loving family, many caring friends and good health. Lord, help me to be de-sensitized to my personal discomforts or annoyances, and live each moment in the joy and peace You give.

I look forward to any comments or advice you'd like to share, if you've been down this road already...