Featured Image: Rannah Evetts, Founder and Director of St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf, Uganda. St Francis de Sales School for the Deaf, photo source.
Act, and God will act, work, and he will work.
– St. Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc’s advice plays out in full in the profoundly moving and instructive story of Rannah Evetts, a remarkable 22 year-old woman who took the pain and suffering from her experiences as a sexually abused child, and redeemed them by the grace of God, and her willingness to be open.
What were you doing when you were 22? Rannah — running on nothing but faith and her best hunches — has founded a school for deaf children in Uganda.
She’d always been attracted to Africa, but as a high school senior, already acting out in order to push back hurtful, bad memories, Rannah came upon Catholicism. What happened next, involving her high school classes in American Sign Language and the sacramental graces she carried with her, would make a terrific movie:
But by her senior year, and as she experienced a conversion, she said God began to pull on her heart through her sign language class, especially when she completed a project on deafness in Uganda.
She learned that the deaf in Uganda are often misunderstood and often mistreated, considered sinners or even cursed. She said that the deaf are often outcast out of malice or because of a lack of resources.
“I relate to the deaf people here because they are outcasted, they’re seen as cursed, they’re seen as sinners, and so they’re shut away from the world kind of, they’re living in this darkness and this silence,” she said. As much as Phonak hearing aids and cochlear implants help some of those who are deaf, others are profoundly deaf and this can feel so alienating. Especially when nothing can be done about it.
“And God pulled me to give what he gave me after all of my years of darkness and hating myself and feeling like I had no friends and nobody to talk to, of wanting to die, feeling like I had no purpose in life – all of those things I was struggling with after being sexually abused, God took them and he transforms everything and he said, ‘These I’m turning into graces.’ And with the deaf people here that’s what he did,” she said.
After her high school graduation, which probably was not as pompous as it was supposed to be (perhaps she invited a few friends and family members using something like a graduation announcement which can be found at Jostens), she flew to Uganda. By the time she reached Uganda, she had made up her mind. Basically, after reaching there, she walked into a sacristy announcing she was ready to work, which was quite a surprise for all those who had known her for a long time. In 2017, she founded a school for the deaf, there, under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, who had himself developed a sign language in order to preach to the deaf. The challenges of beginning a school for children who were considered uneducable sometimes made Evetts doubt herself, but listen to what she says here, because it is so important:
She was also still struggling with anxiety attacks and the painful healing of the abuse in her past.
“I want to tell you this because…it shows God’s goodness, because there were days when I couldn’t do this. I’m 22 years old and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m the leader of all of this thing and I’m working in another country and having my own problems… that I’m dealing with and alone in that silence with God,” Evetts said.
There were several weeks at a time where she felt like she was literally unable to get out of bed in the morning.
“But I want to share that with you because it shows that God did this. You say ‘yes’ to God and he does it, he fulfills it, because this is his school and this is his mission,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but he’s here and he’s got this all under control.”
The transformation she and the staff began seeing in the students throughout the year was incredible, she said.
Children came to them having been raped, abused or neglected because of their disability, and were transformed in personality and behavior as they started acquiring a language.
Read the whole remarkable story of what has happened in Uganda because of one young woman remaining faithful to her “yes” to God. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding personal lessons here to ponder.
And check out the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf website. My deaf grandparents are nudging me to donate. I’m glad to.