I had the amazing and slightly terrifying privilege of being the interpreter for the church service I attended today. I go to the church across the road from my college campus and watch the interpreters in the service every chance I get.
This morning I arrived confident and planning to have a conversation with the deaf man who sits next to me in the front row. All went well until the service started and the two chairs up front were empty.
Although last week there had been only one interpreter, this week neither one came. So I turned to the man next to me and signed, “do you want me to try signing,” and he agreed. So I went up and sat in the interpreters’ place and did the best I could for the rest of the service.
I was certainly far from being a qualified interpreter. I didn’t know a lot of the words to sign the service, and I was very slow trying to keep up with the pastor. Still, it was something. I apologized several times for being so slow and not very good, but the deaf man just thanked me for getting up and doing my best.
It was a very humbling but also uplifting experience. I know now how much work I will need to become a real interpreter, and this has made me aware of how hard the job will really be. But at the same time, I feel blessed to have been able to do something, no matter how small or stumbling, to show that I care and want everyone to be included in the service. I was somehow able to find the confidence to volunteer and get up front and do the best I could manage.
While this is not at all how I imagined my first interpretation, it was an amazing Sunday morning to feel God at work in what I do. If I had any doubt about the reason I have been learning ASL, that was put to rest this morning. I know that I have already been put in the right place at the right time with the right skill once. I have no doubt it will happen again. And next time, I’ll be even more prepared.
Interpreting with only six months of lessons under my belt may not be the most excellent option, but it convinced me of one thing. There is no going back. Before this, I was learning without the need to actually use everything I knew in such an important situation. Now I have just volunteered myself for the job in a sort of incredible leap of faith. I am technically an ASL interpreter now. I just need to become a good one.
I may not have exactly been ready for what happened this morning, but I had gone to church feeling confident and prepared to have a conversation with the man next to me. Little did I know how much I would need that confidence, or how much I would realize about myself and the use of the gifts God has given me.
I felt it appropriate that one of the songs in church today that I helped interpret was “Take My Life and Let it Be”. As I stated in an earlier post, this is my theme song for my work with ASL, and I couldn’t help but feel the truth of it today. When I gave this talent, gave my hands, to God, he was able to use them today because of that. I am looking forward to what he has planned for me next. Because even if it’s something unexpected like today, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.