Without Words

Posted Jul 19, 2011 by 3 Comments

“What’s your name?” I repeated, a little louder this time. She was sitting away from the others, with her head down. The light coming in from the room’s only window didn’t reach her face. I couldn’t tell if she’d heard me or not.

After I repeated the question for a third time, I started to feel a little annoyed. Surely I was close enough for her to hear me. I gave up for the moment and turn my attention back to the meeting that was in progress.

I found everyone in the room silent and staring back at me.

Confused, I attempted to evaluate my situation. Had I committed a terrible cultural error? The sound of a bench scraping the concrete floor broke the silence. A slight man stood up and moved closer to me, as the rest of the room sat still.

“Her name is Judy,” he said gently. “She can’t hear you, but she wants to know what you’re saying.”

Welcome to Kware, the home of hundreds in Ongata Rongai.

I looked at the woman again, not entirely understanding what was happening. She stared back at me like she’s seen me for the first time and began making graceful movements with her hands. She seemed just as confused as I was.

How could I have missed the fact that she was deaf?


Of the hundreds of people who are part of Beacon of Hope’s programs, Judy is the only one who is deaf.

Through Jack, the gracious man I’d met, I learned that Judy was married with three children.

They all lived nearby, in small house in Kware Slum. Kware is smaller than most of the slums in Nairobi. It’s not as famous as Kibera, or as dangerous as Korogocho. In fact, you’d miss it entirely if you stay on the main roads in Rongai. But for many people, Kware slum is still the only place they can call home.

The slum is slowly being squeezed out of the city as Rongai grows. People are buying property and setting up small businesses within the slum’s boundaries, which takes away from living space.

You could say that the area is getting better, but for those living inside, the streets are still as dangerous as they’ve always been. The roads are still nearly impassible, food is still too expensive and the smell of human waste is still overwhelming.

Through Jack, I learned what life was like in Judy’s world.

Now imagine daily life in Kware being deaf.

The Caregivers

Part of Judy’s weekly routine is to attend the Kware Caregivers meeting on Wednesdays. She can’t contribute much to the meetings, but she’s there nearly every week.

While the other women laugh and talk about their daily lives, Judy simply waits her turn, clutching a tattered plastic bag.

The bag holds all the money she possesses.

The other women in Kware Caregivers meet to talk about the small businesses they operate. The group itself exists to provide the women involved with emotional and financial support for their work, depending on specific needs. The ultimate goal is to build up a community of success where relationships can transform neighborhoods.

Every week Judy waits not to receive business advice or an encouraging word, but simply to turn in her savings. She scrapes together what she can throughout the week and saves what little she and her children don’t need to survive. Through Jack, Judy tells me about her education and her home, her children and the place they go to school.

Despite her deafness, Judy is very much a part of the community.

But she doesn’t tell me about the time her husband left on a business trip. It’s been a year, but he hasn’t come home.

She doesn’t tell me that she and her children often survive only because of their neighbor’s generosity, not because of the money she’s earned.

She doesn’t tell me about her past, how often she’s hungry, or what night is like inside Kware.

She doesn’t explain why she still believes her husband will return.

As her hands tell pieces of her story, there’s so much more I want to know.

What’s Ahead

The Kware Caregivers found Judy struggling to survive in Kware. When they saw her needs, many of them began to help support her family and then connected her with Beacon of Hope.

Now, Judy is learning to iron so she can work for a tailor nearby. She’s making a little money now, but she’ll make more once she has a stable job. Every week she has a place to go and friends to meet.

And the money in the bag she’s holding is entirely her own.

When it’s finally her turn at the meeting, Judy hands over a few hundred shillings with pride. Her amount is far less then what the other women have brought, but you’d never know it.

As she stands to leave, the light from the window finally illuminates her face. She’s smiling.

This look is the reason I can’t wait to go back to Kware.

I watch her push her way through the crowd of chatting caregivers. Outside, a man selling fruit waves to her and she waves back. He can’t sign, but you can see they have a friendship. She crosses the street and pauses to touch the heads of a few small children. They laugh and hug her, then she continues on.

I watch her until she disappears down the street. The week ahead of her will be hard. She might be lonely, tired and hungry. Her problems haven’t gone away.

But I know she’ll be back with her plastic bag next week … and I can’t wait to see her smile.

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Next Steps
    • Pray for Beacon of Hope’s brave caregivers as they continue to work, live, and serve in their communities for people just like Judy.
    • While it might not seem like another culture, your local deaf community can be part of the world next door! Many churches offer deaf ministries or sign language classes to help reach out. So get involved! Different cultures are closer than you think.
    • Be a caregiver! Loving your community is the first step to change. Be present, be involved and be in prayer for your neighborhood.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Molly Meyer was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2011. She currently attends Indiana Wesleyan University where she’s studying Journalism and International Relations. She loves discovering how God can work his grace through every story, no matter the circumstances.

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  1. Maddie said... 


    July 19th, 2011 at 7:43 pm  

    Wow, so amazing to see how people who have so much less than us have so much more joy, thank you for sharing judy’s story.

  2. Tasha Simons said... 


    July 20th, 2011 at 3:16 am  

    Thanks for sharing. Will pray for Judy and for Beacon of Hope. Sounds like a wonderful ministry.

  3. Jim.M said... 


    July 20th, 2011 at 8:32 pm  

    I am reading this on Wednesday night.

    The image of your meeting again today with her, and how it must have been different for both of you now that you know one another just a little is fun to imagine. The beginning of relationship in community based on mutual understanding of one another is a microscopic view of the Kingdom, how God intends us to be… Molly, God is sharing His heart with you one encounter at a time. Love the story.


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