By Kevin Kindelin
Speaking without having the benefit of hearing the spoken word can present challenges and frustrations, both to the speaker and listener.
Paul told me that if you don’t understand something, ask him to repeat it. “I won’t bite,” he said with a sly grin. He pointed out that awareness is the key to positive impact, which leads to change.
I learned of a shocking statistic recently. It is estimated that ninety-seven percent of people who are deaf in the United States do not know Jesus Christ. After talking with Paul and Betty Jo Lucero, Bill Doescher, Wendy Maulding, and Pastor Warren, I understand why—limited access to the Word. Fortunately, we have some remarkable people at Immanuel who are on a mission to change that.
Deaf Ministries is an “unofficial” ministry that was started by Betty Jo and Paul. After planning for about a year to find a centralized location in northern Illinois and a willing pastor, they launched a monthly Deaf worship service attended by both Deaf and Hearing in January of 2014 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Elgin, IL. Rev. Mark Winkleman leads the worship service and has been instrumental in starting this ministry with Paul and Betty Jo. For its part, Immanuel has had interpreters for more than 15 years at worship services, but also has some amazing people, both Deaf and Hearing, who are doing so much more.
Our Deaf members, Paul, Betty Jo, Bill, and Cindy Kermath, are very active and wish to seek the Lord just as
any person. They are so much more than spectators sitting in a pew. They are active, participating, fellowshipping Christians who serve the Lord. Paul and Betty Jo are greeters; Paul and Bill are ushers and Scripture readers; Betty Jo is in Altar Guild; and Paul, Bill, and Cindy have enhanced worship with the Sign Choir on several occasions.
Dave Brazzle has created a Deaf Webcast for our 10:45 a.m. service with the help of Betty Jo and Paul. One half of the screen shows the interpreter and the other shows the altar. You may have seen Pastor Warren signing a little bit when delivering the sermon during that service. Wendy (Hearing) began studying sign language by attending Silent Supper, an opportunity for hearing people to connect with the Deaf and to learn their language and culture. Only American Sign Language (ASL) is used for communication during Silent Supper. Although it meets monthly at Immanuel, it is not restricted to Immanuel members, but is open to all in the community with a heart to connect with Deaf.
Paul, Betty Jo, and Bill related that fellowshipping with hearing people can be difficult for our deaf members and visitors. Many hearing people may be too intimidated to make the effort to talk with them. Fear of not knowing what to say or how to say it can be a concern. Speaking without having the benefit of hearing the spoken word can present challenges and frustrations, both to the speaker and listener. Paul told me that if you don’t understand something, ask him to repeat it. “I won’t bite,” he said with a sly grin. He pointed out that awareness is the key to positive impact, which leads to change.
Ninety seven percent is a huge number, but it represents an even bigger opportunity to bring souls to Christ. As Christians, it’s our responsibility to reach out to this population in our community and even outside of it. We need to overcome our fears and just talk. A link to a YouTube ASL tutorial is included with this article. Learning a little bit of sign language might help. Learning to say “hello” is a good start.