#039;Hands of Praise#039; touches hearts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2005

What can't be heard with the ears can be experienced in the heart.

That was the message shared with the audience Thursday night as a team of young people from Jamaica's Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) performed "Hands of Praise" at Southside Baptist Church.

Amoy McClaren, 8, Kadeya Johnson, 9 and Jhoran Salmon, 12, joined 18-year-old Demas Hayles and Setria Bryan, 19. The youth were led by director Cilda Darling-deMercado.

The five-member team signed performances of several songs of praise and inspiration, including "I'm Free" and "We Shall Behold Him." They also performed a skit in mime to illustrate how people try to remake God in their own image.

Ft. Deposit native Ronny Starling and his wife Patricia, sister to Carolyn Spears of Greenville, are missionaries to CCCD.

"A team (from CCCD) came to our church in 1997 and it really touched and burdened our hearts for the deaf children of Jamaica," Starling told the audience.

In spite of having traveled with a CCCD praise team last year, seeing dozens of performances, he said, "The feeling is still indescribable…I never get tired of watching them perform."

Starling believes the joy and passion expressed by the young performers is hard for anyone to resist.

"If you are sitting beside someone tonight and they don't look like these young people are having any effect – you'd better check their pulse to make sure they are still breathing," Starling joked before the performance.

The "Hands of Praise" team is currently traveling across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, performing in schools and churches.

Starling shared stories of the CCCD and its three residential campuses in Jamaica which serve some 250 deaf children and youth.

"But that is only a small fraction of those who need us…there are probably close to 3,000 deaf children in the country," he said.

"Many people in Jamaica are very, very poor. Unemployment is very high. They do not have the personal resources or the governmental assistance to help their children."

CCCD seeks help in sponsoring the youngsters so they can have a better life now and in the future, Starling said. Students at the schools are housed, clothed and fed. Both their spiritual and educational needs are cared for, the missionary said.

"Number one, we want to give these children the Good News of Jesus. Then, we want to teach them sign language, give them an education and help them learn a trade so they can be successful in life," Starling said.

Audience members, some wiping away tears, gave the team a standing ovation, complete with "deaf applause" – hands raised and swiveled rapidly back and forth in a silent cheer.

"This was just wonderful. I am so glad I was here to see it," Susan Sorrells of Greenville said with a smile.

To learn more about CCCD, write to CCCD – US Office, 124 North Court St., Lewisburg, WV 24901 or call (304) 645-4476. You can also go to www.cccdjamaica.net.