Ntene was born 14 years ago and was a healthy baby boy. Well we were told he was 14, but his medical record shows he is 16, so the jury is still out about this. He lived with his mother for the first six years of his life until he came down with an unknown illness.
This illness leaf him completely deaf.
Looking at all the facts, it’s safe to assume he was sick with meningitis. Regardless of the cause, his mother did not want to raise a deaf child and moved away. Leaving him helpless.
Graciously another woman in his village took him in. Ntene’s “Mme” loves him very much and does all she can for him.
She is a true picture of the gospel at work. An amazing woman.
Ntene has been attending the Care Center at Khokhoba Baptist Church for several years now and is a favorite among the women and kids for his attitude, love, and smile!
But as he’s getting older, it’s becoming more and more imperative that he attends a school that can fully meet his needs and teach him to communicate through the use of sign language.
School starts in January, and there is a lot to accomplish in order to get him enrolled. So Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we took the first steps together to accomplish this goal.
We picked up Ntene and his Mme on the road and were greeted, as we always are, by the most beautiful smile we have ever seen. He was so excited to go with us. Another member of our party was Ntate Molapo, the pastor (Maruti) at Khokhoba Baptist Church. He graciously agreed to ride along for the journey and help translate for us. Ntene’s Mme did not speak much English, so having him come with us was such a huge blessing.
The last person to jump in the car was Ntate Ntjapeli, another man who is deaf. He came with us with the hopes of being tested as well. We had never met him but were connected together through Teresa Flora. He and his brother were standing on the edge of the paved road dressed up so nice. He had on a blazer, tie, and a fedora! He was looking so dressed up and nice. He was smiling so big and making noises to his brother as he climbed in our car.
If we could get both of them seen by the audiologist to learn if a hearing aid would be beneficial, and if we could take Ntene to the deaf school to meet the principal and begin the enrollment process, it would be a successful trip.
Both Ntene and Ntate Ntjapeli would make noise and point like crazy when they saw something interesting out the window. Ntene especially enjoyed the bridge, passing other vehicles, and motorcycles. And, when we passed a construction zone Ntene was pointing up to the crane with a huge smile on his face. We had so much fun with them riding in the car.
On the way down the mountains, we passed through a town named Leribe. This is where we had been told there was a school for children who are deaf. We decided to stop in to see the school and meet with the leaders to discuss what needs to be done for enrollment. The visit went very well. The women were saying hello to him in sign language until he repeated it back to them. He was smiling so big. We told the women his story and asked them if this would be a good for school him. They agreed he would benefit from being here but wished he had come sooner. If we can get him into school in January, he will have to start in the pre-school class to learn foundational sign language. We are hopeful he will learn quickly and get to advance to be with others closer to his age soon. This school also teaches them a trade – he would be taught how to work on cars, take care of a farm, or one of many other trades they teach that will help him live a successful life.
We all loved what they were saying about the opportunities he would have. We changed the topic to paperwork and what they needed to enroll him. The biggest thing they stressed was that they needed his birth certificate and proof he was an orphan. If we can get this paperwork to them soon, they will communicate with social services that he is an orphan and see if the government would help with the cost of tuition. What an answer to prayers this would be. Next week we will begin looking into getting this paperwork started. His only relatives live in the Lowlands, so this would be another trip for his Mme to get their signatures. Please pray for this process to continue smoothly and for perseverance for the Mme as we gather everything we need.
After the visit to school, we hopped back in the car and went the rest of the way to Maseru. When we arrived in the city, we went by the mall to let them see the stores, restaurants, and even ride an escalator. Ntene had never been on one before and he loved it!
We also let them all pick a few items from the store. It was so great to be able to bless them!
After dinner, we headed back to the bed and breakfast we were staying at and had a great nights rest before the busy day to follow.
The next day was an early start as we arrived at the hospital as soon as they opened. Already the waiting room was overflowing and the line to check in was out the door. We waited in that line for about five minutes before being seen by the receptionist. We explained what we needed done (we had no appointment or referral, so we were praying to find the right person to get us seen that day) and she directed us to the ENT check in station. This lady was insistent that we must have an appointment, but after several minutes she gave us the much needed stamp validating we now had an appointment.
The only problem was that the stamp needed to be in a “Boukana” (medical journal that everyone has), and Ntene had a Boukana but Ntate Ntjapeli did not. So with Ntene’s book stamped we went back out to the waiting room and spoke with another man who directed us back to the first check in station to get a Boukana for Ntate Ntjapeli. Back at the first desk we explained that we needed a Boukana and she had us fill out “check-in” forms for each of them. That paperwork was tedious but once it was completed she signed those documents and sent us to another line for processing the appointment. This line only took another five-or-so minutes but the lady did not want to check them in until the Boukana was purchased. Rachel went to wait in a separate (and much longer) line to pay for the hearing exam and buy a Boukana while I pleaded for the appointments to be processed.
Finally the appointments for each of them were processed and she printed out the stickers for them showing the time they were checked in. I went and joined Rachel in the other line and purchased the Boukana and paid for each of their hearing exams. With a fresh new Boukana in hand, the stickers ready to display our appointment check-in time, and the correct stamps verifying the appointments were approved, we sat in the waiting room and began the four hour wait to be seen.
Thank God Ntate Molapo came with us to translate because we couldn’t have completed half of this without him helping us get through each checkpoint.
The audiologist was a very nice Basotho woman who spoke clear English as well as Sesotho. She saw Ntate Ntjapeli first and told us that because of his age, she would be worried that if we got him hearing aids, he would be confused more than he could understand. Her thoughts were that if he did get hearing aids, he would choose not to wear them because of all the environmental noises he had gone without for 42 years. We were taken back and didn’t know what to even say. This poor man has never heard a day in his life and she is telling us it is better for him to stay this way. A day later, we are looking back on this and wish we were more persistent with her in assessing his hearing. Before this, neither of us had much experience with individuals who are deaf and how they cope and communicate in life. If a hearing aid has the potential to help him, we are tempted to try it out.
Next was Ntene’s turn, his Mme and him walked in and sat down. Before coming in, we gave the doctor a brief history and explained that this Mme took him in after he became deaf and his biological mother left him. She started with trying to talk to him, and all the sweet boy could do was smile back at her and then look over at us. She was speaking Sesotho so we don’t know what she was saying, but probably something like “Hello, can you hear me?” And of course, he could not. She took a look inside his ears as he sat so nice and still looking straight ahead. We asked her about the school for the deaf in Leribe and she knew it very well. Her only concern with enrolling him there was that he would have to be in class with pre-schoolers. We explained that the plan would be for him to learn the basics with the younger kids and then progress to be with children closer to his own age.
She then used some fancy equipment that tested his ears for hearing. She was surprised at how much the test showed. What a blessing, he has a little bit of hearing! Not enough for him to hear anything without the assistance of a hearing aid, but enough that it would make a significant difference for him to use one! She would recommend getting a hearing aid for him to hear environmental noises and sounds to get his attention such as a cow mooing, a car driving down the road, and clapping. She doesn’t think he will be able to speak or understand a conversation fluently but there is huge potential for him to learn sign language and hear background noise in unison.
As you can imagine, we were overwhelmed with excitement about this discovery!
After a long morning, we grabbed some lunch and hit the road back to Katse. On the way home, we talked with Ntene’s Mme and made sure she was in agreement and understood all that had transpired at the school and at the doctor. We were so pleased with how much she understood and how much she was willing to do for him to get into school.
As of now, our plan is to meet back up with her next week and plan a time for her to travel to his family in the Lowlands and get the paperwork started.
We have been blown away but all the encouragement and prayers we received as we started this journey with Ntene. We are so thankful for each and every one of you.
We will keep everyone updated as things progress!
Tyler & Rachel
We have recently discovered new information that both contradicts and better explains Ntene’s true origin story. Instead of re-writing his story, we are adding the new information below.
Ntene was abandoned by his mother when he was 5 years old and was raised by another family in his village. He never attended school and worked all day, every day in the fields as a shepherd.
He witnessed a dispute among two shepherds and was going to be taken to trial to testify about the situation. The shepherd in the wrong took Ntene to a witch doctor and asked that his ability to speak and hear be taken away so that he could not testify against him in trial. That day, Ntene became deaf and mute and has been ever since.
While this is heartbreaking, we firmly believe God is sovereign, and works in all things to do incredible things. Whatever the true story of Ntene’s hearing loss happens to be, we believe God has a big plan for Ntene’s life, and we are so grateful and honored to be a small part of it.
With Love (again),
Tyler & Rachel