Tag Archives: Christianity

Deaf in Church

It’s a chilly morning.

I’ve got my coffee and sitting on my patio in hopes of letting nature around me to inspire me along with Casting Crowns blaring into my earphones. I’ve had a writer’s block for the past couple of days (maybe even weeks) when it comes to what I wanted to write about. Today, I am just going to be honest and straightforward… And gracious.

There has been one issue that has bothered me for years. Yes, years. I’ve let it go as something as being, “Oh, that’s life. Nothing is going to change.”

Yet, I wonder… Can it?

Here’s the question: Why are there not many Deaf people in churches? Why is it so hard for a Deaf person to find a church to plug into?

Everytime I move, it’s back to the question of, “Oh, where am I going to go to church?” I search for churches with interpreters, and many times it’s a frustrating struggle. Especially when the kind of church I would like to go to doesn’t have interpreters.  I was fortunate when I was living in Virginia, but here I am 700 miles away from there and at the place of struggling with the whole Deaf/church issue all over again.

I do have a church that I really like, and it did have an interpreter for a while, but the interpreter does have a life of her own and couldn’t do it anymore… Thus… Leaving me in a place of just surviving. I do the best I can to not be a burden, but I’ll be frank – it’s a frustrating and lonely place to be.

I tried a Catholic church for a while, since they offered interpreting and the priest signed. It was wonderful, but I was, again, alone. I’m not a Catholic, and even though I did try to become one years ago, I still felt isolated as not every Catholic church offered interpeters. Also, I didn’t have the fellowship that I direly needed, as the general deaf population in the church were almost 20 to 30 years older than me. Being a mother to two children and a wife to a husband going blind, I knew I needed friendships and fellowship.

Some people might tell me, “Oh, you just need God.” That might be true, but God made us to need fellowship and friendship. We are social creatures, and because of this, I knew I needed to find a balance… But this is a whole different subject.

Back to the problem: Deaf people and churches.

Why is it so difficult?

Here is what I think is why.

  • “You can lip-read?”  Not many people are aware of the struggles a Deaf person goes through in this very hearing and noisy world. I am sure many don’t realize how exhausting and imperfect lipreading is. When I sit in the front and try lipreading the speaker at church, there are many times I miss a joke and hear the congregation laughing, but I don’t know what they’re laughing about. The speaker moves around on stage and then there’s the microphone that covers the mouth… Both are not ideal for lipreading. The projection of a slide show behind the speaker helps, but I’m not getting everything.
  • Interpreters getting burnt out. I’ve had so many experiences of having interpreters quit serving in churches because they’re tired and feel they aren’t appreciated. It can become a thankless job when people take them for granted. I’ve seen interpreters give up for this reason.  This is one reason why I don’t push for one, though I know I should. Yet, my experience has taught me to be grateful when I do get one, and I strive to make them feel appreciated and pray they don’t get burnt out. When life gets in the way for them, I don’t push it.
  • Lack of funding for Interpreters. Paying for an interpeter is one way of insuring one being available, but it’s not cheap. Because of this, the interpreters are basically a volunteer position in a church environment. To interpret a service, which would be, on average, an hour or two. That can be exhausting for one person to do, which brings us back to the interpreter becoming burnt out. Oh, what an ugly cycle.
  • Many churches don’t “have a calling” to serve the Deaf community. I’ve called numerous churches when I moved to Denver, and many of them told me flat out that they didn’t provide an interpreter. I was told that it is possibly because they don’t think of it as being a need. A Deaf person looks like everyone else… It is definitely an invisible challenge.
  • “Interpreters” are not skilled enough. I’ve had the unfortunate exprience of attending a church with an interpreter who signed in Signed Exact English with a mix of something else. Needless to say, I was completely lost for a while. I did start to recognize some of the signs as I had been taught SEE when I was very young. In the end, I was exhausted from having to translate in my head what I wasn’t familiar with to even understand what the service was about. I knew I was not returning to that church.
  • Drama.  Yes, I did use that D-word. I’m sorry to say this, but I’ve seen enough drama take down Deaf Ministries and cause conflicts between interpreters, church members, and visiting deaf individuals. The church I grew up in, sadly, lost it’s ministry for several reasons, and drama was one I noticed to be part of it. Deaf people left the church as it made them uncomfortable. I left another church for a while because of it.

Now that I’ve pointed out the problems with why Deaf people aren’t in churches; what are we to do about it?

What can I do about it?

I had to think a lot about that… It’s exhausting sometimes to fight for what I need to understand what is going on around me, and then to try to cultivate relationships on top of that- Oi. No wonder I sometimes feel like throwing in the towel!

Believe me, the past couple of weeks I was thinking, “What is the point of going to church?”

I was reminded of why the Church was created in the first place. We need each other.

“But GOD… What can I DO? I’m the Deaf one.”

“No. You’re a BRIDGE.”

There are times when I wish God wouldn’t remind me of that calling.

“I’m tired. I feel so alone.”

God then reminds me of the verse that pretty much every Christian knows.

images-2

I think I need that tattooed on me somewhere so I don’t forget.

So, again, I asked, “What can I do?”

With me being a BRIDGE, I can help those who can hear to understand of this great need. I’ve been wanting to do a sign class for ages, but the fear of adding one more thing onto my already full plate has held me back. I might just have to take that leap of faith and trust that things will be provided to help me do it.

This may not solve the interpreter situation, but it would help build an understanding and break down communication barriers that would cultivate relationships. It could also bring an awareness to a need. There are many people who come to church and see me sign songs, but I often wonder –  do they think I am fine?

Maybe.

Nothing will change if I don’t do something…

Guess it’s time to break out of my shell and try.

I just saw this quote on Facebook, and it is so true:

“Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier?

Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and processing.”

~Unknown

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Nature is my Medicine

With my feet having recovered from the overzealous hike from the previous weekend, and after having a rough anxiety filled day yesterday, I felt I needed to get out and spend some time alone with my thoughts. With the kids in school, I returned to the Green Mountains, wearing my trusty old tennis shoes this time, and began the trek I had gone before. The mud from the previous weekend had finally dried up, making the way easier, and I also decided to leave my hearing aids behind for this hike. I plugged in my headphones and cranked up my music, but I made sure I stayed to the right side of the path so bikers could just pass me if they came.

I like being deaf, and I also like just listening to music. One thing I will mention – music does sound different without my hearing aids. I hear the low sounds more than I do the higher pitches. When I have my hearing aids, I can hear a higher range of high pitches, though there are some high pitches I will never hear.

I was walking along the long stretch of the trail where there were several forks in the road for other trails, and I decided I didn’t want to walk the 8.9 miles of the weekend before. One fork looked inviting, and without hesitation, I strode down that path feeling confident I would find my way back to my car before it was time to get my kids.

I stayed to the right of the narrower trail, even though I had not seen very many hikers or bikers. I found an easy pace and found that this trail was one I liked. It dipped, turned, ascended, and descended along the small mountainside. It was definitely not a boring path! A couple of bikers and hikers passed me in that hour I walked this peaceful and narrow trail, and a few even smiled and waved as they went by. They were enjoying it as much as I was.

When I came to a part where the current trail met up with main one that looped around the mountain, I realized my hike was almost over. A mile and a half more was to the parking lot, but after the past 4 miles, I was beginning to feel the need to rest and go home. It was then I realized I wasn’t feeling any symptoms of anxiety. I was relaxed, breathing normally, my heart rate was normal (elevated from hiking but not from panic), and it was such a relief. I felt such a joy and a peace, and I was so thankful to have some respite from what I was feeling lately.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. When I got home and was resting after having cleaned myself up, the symptoms flared up and I had no choice but to take some medicine to help calm the symptoms.

As I waited for the symptoms to ease, I began to think about what had transpired.

Being outside had always been a place of peace for me, and hiking allowed my body to be in that place. The mountain isn’t something that man made. God did. I had medicine to help me ease the symptoms of the Anxiety Attacks, but the true peace was when I was around God’s creation.

Oh, I wish I could stay out there in nature all the time, but that’s not what God wants me to do. I realize now I have to take what peace I found out there in Him and bring it into the crazy and man made life I live in.

Isaiah hiking picture

I found this verse today, as well as a wonderful quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in thee.”

I have to remember I’m made for Him, and my heart will find it’s rest in God.

It doesn’t mean these symptoms will go away and never come back. I am still struggling with the symptoms, even though I trust God to take care of me. He will hold me. My heart might race, my hands might shake, I might feel claustrophobic, but, despite all that, He will hold me.

I have to believe that. I’ll remember the peace I had on that trail, and I’ll try to bring it into my everyday life. But on days I struggle and need to breathe and find peace, I’ll just be out on that trail with music blasting into my deaf ears. Thankfully, I have that!


Grace Defined

During church this morning, my pastor gave such a great sermon on grace, and on starting at the beginning again. Peter was given a chance to start all over again. I sat there in church, and though I should have been watching the interpreter to catch everything, I had to write this down. I pray it inspires you as it did me. I am thankful for the Grace and the chance to start at the beginning again when we’ve goofed up in life.

 

Eyes curiously stare,

“You were with him.”

Peter sits frightened,

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Do you love me?

Yes, I do.

Feed my lambs.

Jesus beckons.

 

Another binds him to the condemned one,

“Aren’t you one of his followers?”

Peter shies away,

“I don’t know the man!”

 

Do you love me?

Yes!

Care for my sheep.

Jesus pursues.

 

Fingers points,

“You followed him, surely!”

Peter curses,

“No, I did not!”

 

Do you LOVE me?

Yes! I do!

Feed my sheep.

Jesus persists.

 

The rooster had crowed,

Shame and guilt stained his heart,

But thrice the Savior redeemed,

Giving way to grace indeed.