Art as Therapy: How one alumna is making a difference in Honduras
Rachel Lewis graduated from UMHB in May 2016 with a major in Art, a minor in Psychology, and a heart for the Gospel. In March, Lewis will move into a full-time role with the Signs of Love ministry as it serves the hearing-impaired in Honduras. “I’m going to be doing art therapy with the deaf to help them deal with the hard emotional issues that all of them have but that are very difficult for them to express with language,” she said.
The culture in Honduras can be very unkind to the hearing-impaired. “People are not educated about deafness and there is a lot of superstition around it,” Lewis said. “Parents think that they must have done something wrong to be cursed with a deaf child. They don’t see their kid as a normal human. They don’t think they can learn, and they don’t give them any kind of opportunity to learn,” she said.
Language training is almost non-existent within these communities. Many deaf people grow up with a handful of invented gestures that they use to communicate immediate needs. “Most of them don’t have the language capacity to be able to express the hurts and emotions in their lives, so I want to be able to give them art as a tool to express those hurts,” Lewis said.
“That way they can experience the Lord more Lewis remembers encountering deaf people her own age who didn’t know their own names. “We’ll ask their parents, ‘What’s your son’s name,’ and they’ll just look at us blankly because they don’t know it. They haven’t used it in twenty years,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘I have a birth certificate somewhere, and I can go and find it.’” For this reason, an import-ant part of Lewis’s work will involve developing a curriculum to help teach Honduran sign language (LESHO). “Whereas many outreach ministries begin with, ‘Learn the language, that way we can reach people and share the Gospel with them,’ we have to give them language first,” Lewis said.
Lewis was introduced to Signs of Love in high school when her church partnered with the ministry. “I was able to help be a lead-er in the youth missions team, and I just really fell in love with the organization,” Lewis said. While she had always planned on pursuing a master’s degree after graduation, Lewis said that a mission trip during the summer before her senior year convinced her that God had other plans for her life. “As a fine artist, I didn’t really think things like paint or clay could be used in the mission field,” Lewis said. “But Signs of Love has utilized all of my skills to glorify God.”