On October 22, 2004, Gallaudet University dedicated an auditorium in Andrew Foster’s name, calling him the, “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.” This month we celebrate Dr. Andrew Foster's legacy!
Dr. Andrew Foster was the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University. The late Dr. Foster was also regarded as the “Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet” of Africa because he went on to establish 32 schools for Deaf people in 13 African nations leading to changing the lives of hundreds of Deaf students.
Dr. Foster was a Deaf missionary who taught sign language to many Deaf Africans. It was his utmost desire to see the fulfillment of his favorite bible verse, Isaiah 29:18, which says “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the book.” Once he got married, he and his wife would spend six months out of the year establishing more schools throughout Africa. They would return to the United States to raise funds to support more schools and raise their family.
Before the tragic airplane crash that took Dr. Foster’s life, one of his last students to learn Sign Language from him was Joseph Mwaba. Dr. Foster was in Zambia exploring to establish a church for Deaf people. Joseph Mwaba is building a legacy as a “Father” to many Deaf people in the Copperbelt region of Zambia.
Joseph Mwaba met Dr. Foster in 1982 at the age of 21 years while he was the only Deaf a student at Munali Boys Secondary School. He received information that an American Deaf missionary was looking for Deaf people to meet him at the North Mead Assembly of GOD Church in Lusaka. Joseph said, " I looked for transport money but did not find. So, I had to walk from Munali Boys Secondary School to the church. “It took me 3 hours to walk and run there.” When Joseph arrived he was mesmerized by Dr. Foster’s ability to communicate with both Deaf and hearing people. Joseph reported, “At the church he preached to us a sermon in sign language. At that time sign language was not used in Zambia.” Dr Foster's main mission was to establish a Deaf Church and sponsor Deaf people to study a trade and the Bible in sign language so that he could prepare them to spread the Word of God and become Missionaries.
Before Dr. Foster left Zambia, he gave Joseph three important things, his first bible, an A to Z sign language chart and Joseph’s name sign - a “J” signed on each cheek representing his first named and his distinctive characteristic, dimples. Today, Joseph still possess each of the gifts from Dr. Foster. He carries on Dr. Foster’s mission by pioneering Deaf sport events as a vehicle to provide opportunities for education and Christian studies. Joseph is the founder of Zambia Deaf Vision (ZDV), an NGO that strives to provide inclusiveness and advancement for Deaf people.
Debbie had the privilege to work with Joseph in 1998 when she led a small team to Zambia to fulfill Joseph’s request to bring Deaf Mission’s first Deaf New Testament on VHS. Debbie also educated Deaf Zambians the facts of HIV AIDS prevention, entitled, “HIV/AIDS, Dispelling the Myth”.
Eighteen years later, they have reconnected and commenced doing cross-cultural work together through Easy Signing with a presentation on “Corn to Nshima,” Zambia's staple food. Through ZDV Debbie taught her first international ASL class to Deaf Zambians along with her ASL Beginners’ class at Life Way Christian Store, Maple Grove, MN.
UPDATE: Most recently, Debbie returned to work with Joseph Mwaba's NGO, Zambia Deaf Vision (ZDV). Together, they did "Giving the Gift of Zambian Sign Language" to deaf children from ages 10 to 18 yrs. old, who were without language. They did not even know their names. The youth were totally language deprived and had never attended school in their entire life until they met Joseph Mwaba and Debbie Lawrence.
While ZDV's Resource Training Center was waiting for the USA donations to arrive that would equip the classroom, the students' first classes were held opened aired at Joseph's workplace, Mubende Country Lodge in Luanshya, Zambia.
In this picture Joseph Mwaba is teaching the sign "WATER" and demonstrating some of its functions.
In 2022, Joseph Mwaba will be in the United States to do his first-time cross cultural experience with American Deaf communities. Will you join us by welcoming Mr. Mwaba to present Zambian Deaf Culture at your schools, organizations and churches?
He will be pleased to receive your invitations. Together, let’s continue celebrating the legacy of Dr. Andrew Foster. Contact us to invite Mr. Mwaba to your next event.