Math, movement and the mutuality of mission - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2021 newsletter


Steve and Loyce Veryser, Tanzania

Amani and I demonstrating Capoeira moves during our Saturday class

Christmas is coming! One of the things that most makes Christmas special is the anticipation, the suspense of what might be under the tree on Christmas morning, of opening each package to find how well our loved ones really know us — how well did they guess what we would like?

Then as we grow up, there is the anticipation of watching the reaction on the faces of our loved ones, or colleagues at a Secret Santa, as they open our gift, to see how well we’ve chosen for them. The anticipation we feel must reflect an essential element of the holiday that we inherit from the time of Christ’s birth. Who is this savior? How well will he know us, and we him?

One of our students doing a flip during their International Deaf Week demonstration

Most of us start the journey of mission with an idea to help people in need. As we live the experience, we start to realize that, while we may have some gifts to share, we are probably receiving so much more from those hosting us. Similar to Christmas, one of the things that most makes mission special is the anticipation. What will it be like? What will I do there? Will I have friends? Can I make it?

If we’re often unsure of what we can offer a community we’re going to work with, we even more cannot fathom what they will offer us, how we’ll be changed by our experience in mission. Missioners use the term mutuality to describe the two-way giving and receiving of our experience in the communities that host us.

International Week of the Deaf is celebrated worldwide annually the fourth week of September. This year the Tanzania Association of the Deaf, Chama cha Viziwi Tanzania (CHAVITA), held the event in Mwanza, and from Sept. 18 to 26 people with hearing loss from all over the country gathered in the city we live in. It was a great opportunity for them to connect with each other, advocate for their rights with the government and other stakeholders, and share initiatives from different Deaf communities around the country.

I had hoped to meet with other teachers who are using sign language to teach math in order to compare notes, and signs for technical words that we’ve started using — since these aren’t in the regular online dictionary (think acute angle, obtuse angle, numerator, denominator, etc.). Unfortunately, other teachers of the subject weren’t able to travel for the event and there aren’t any around Mwanza. I was surprised to hear from others at the event that they actually only knew of two other math teachers in the country teaching in sign language! After so many years in Tanzania, I still live in anticipation! The opportunity to be one of these few teachers in the country is a gift I had never anticipated being in a place to offer.

Amani and I showing the “Armada Negativa” technique.

There are about eight deaf students from Bwiru, where I’ve been teaching math, who are talented in gymnastics and were invited to perform at the event. They, in turn, asked me to help them practice for it. When we started, they were doing flips and handsprings, and I showed them some Capoeira movements to try. Click here for a video from their performance at deaf week. 

Following the event, Amani and I started training Capoeira with them at the school on Saturday afternoons. It has been fascinating to see how they’ve been inspired to learn from Amani, who’s also deaf. Amani learned Capoeira from me over the past two years, and I learned sign language from him. I feel like the experience has been a great example of the “mutuality” of mission we talk about. I have read that people with hearing loss are often gifted in spatial reasoning. I wonder if their interest in gymnastic movement shows such talent. Click here for a bit of our class with them.

We wish you all a very blessed Christmas. May you find grace in the mutuality of gift-giving of the season. Your generosity enables us to continue to serve here, to learn from our Tanzanian hosts, and in-turn, to share our experiences with you. As another way to participate in the mutuality of mission, we also welcome your financial contributions.

We are so grateful for your continuing support of our ministries. During this season of giving, we would like to urge you to consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign. This new campaign raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us.

A group of donors has already pledged to match the dollars raised by this campaign 2-to-1. That means that every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. This campaign will ensure that Maryknoll Lay Missioners will be able to continue to send and to support missioners like us in the years to come. Please pray for the success of this campaign and if you can, please donate at the “Walk With Us” button below. 


Steve Veryser
Based in Mwanza, Tanzania, Steve Veryser is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' area director for Africa and Asia. He also teaches math to deaf students at Bwiru Boys Technical Secondary School. Steve and his wife, Loyce, have been Maryknoll lay missioners since 2018.