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Mission Trip Members Overcome Language Barrier

September 26, 2012, 6:05 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Mission Trip Members Overcome Language Barrier

A team of South Dakota business people serving deaf students in Jamaica is at its second location of the trip. Team members are staying at a deaf village on the island for the time being. And they're starting to get more comfortable with the people they're serving.

A language barrier is nothing new for a mission trip. But the type of barrier on this one was new to almost all its members.

"I have no experience with sign language before this trip; I wish I did," Brady Fopma said.

"It was kind of frustrating. I wish I would have spent more time learning sign language," Kris Frerk said.

And when team members first arrived, some of that confusion showed.

"I didn't even want to try and repeat the hand gestures, was very uncomfortable with that," Fopma said.

Signs here are very similar to those used in America. But only four team members know American Sign Language.

For those team members, which include a deaf Sioux Falls woman and two interpreters, communication has been relatively easy from the beginning.  For the rest, it can still be difficult but the comfort level in trying has increased a lot.

For Frerk, the breakthrough came on day three.

"I would draw pictures and then the word underneath the pictures and the kids would show me what the sign was," Frerk said.

For Fopma, well he's trying, but he's not sure he can claim a breakthrough quite yet.

"I know what my name is but it doesn't always come out in the right order on my hand," Fopma said.

Signs may not flow fluently from most team member hands yet.  But a good, and now more comfortable, time is one they all are quick to claim.

"I'm trying. I mean I think the best thing you can do is at least try," Fopma said.

The team had another shoe distribution Wednesday and will leave for Kingston, which is Jamaica's capital city Friday.

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