for such a time as this

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

I had what I often like to describe as an Esther moment today. It’s a time when things that I have done for a long time, perhaps years, suddenly make sense as they are revealed to be part of a larger plan.

I’ve had a few more interesting experiences since my last post. When I was still at my home church, before returning to college, another special music singer asked me if I would be willing to sign along with her song as well. I agreed, and she gave me the words to the song that I managed to quickly learn before the service. The signing went well and I enjoyed being able to do it again before I had to leave.

Last Sunday, after coming back to college, I was helping host a dinner after the church service for a church group that I am involved with. During the dinner, a woman I had never met came up to be and told me that she enjoyed the way I signed songs during the services. The interpreters had not been working that day, and there were no Deaf people attending, so I had remained in the pew, but she had noticed me signing anyway.

This woman, Diane, told me she had a Deaf sister whom she was hoping to convince to start attending church there, and who has not been to church for some time. Although there are churches in the area with larger Deaf populations, her sister was not attending any of these and she hoped that coming to one with family already there would help.

I told Diane that I looked forward to seeing her sister if she came the next week, and today I was hoping to see her. However, none of the family were there, and neither were the interpreters. I sat in the pew again but this time practiced signing the service itself as well as the music, since if I want to become a professional interpreter I will need to learn to keep up with rapid speakers.

After the service, Diane came up to me and asked me if I felt comfortable signing a whole service. I told her that I did, and that I had done that before when the interpreters were not there. She told me that she had called the office this week and had been told that Barb, the usual interpreter,  was taking a leave of absence for a while, and so there would be no interpreter for the service. Thus, she told her sister not to come. However, if I was willing to try doing the interpreting, she would bring her sister next week.

I told her that I would love to do that, and to be a part of bringing her sister back into a church family. We exchanged emails to stay in contact for weeks when I would not be on campus available to sign, and I have planned to both call the church office during the week to learn the songs and also to attend the first service to hear the message once and practice my signing before I have to sign for the second service. It will be my first “official” interpreting assignment, even though I am nowhere near qualified or experienced, or certified.

I have a habit of volunteering myself for things, and apparently my learning method is. ‘throw the novice in the deep end and see what happens’, but I am truly looking forward to this opportunity. Not only will it be wonderful experience I can use if I go on to study interpreting as a career, but it will be a chance to meet a new person with whom I will hopefully form a wonderful friendship.

This is a situation I could not possibly have anticipated a year ago. I had no idea that the regular interpreters would be stepping aside for a while and that someone would be needed to take their place. I would never have expected that person to be me. But it seems that all along, I was slowly being prepared to take over this job at a time when it is incredibly important to one family, and perhaps to one person’s spiritual life. I will be in constant prayer that God will use this opportunity to draw Diane’s sister to Him, and that I can be one of the tools He uses for this work.

Advertisements

sounds of silence

For one of my classes this semester, I had to give a speech on a passion I have. I chose to speak about ASL, which was slightly ironic since i was talking about a silent language in a speech class!

I was able to incorporate sign language into my speech as a visual aid by signing to the lyrics of a song I like and associate with ASL, “The Sound of Silence”. I enjoyed practicing the portion of the song I used in my speech and hope to learn to do the entire song soon.

I was grateful for the opportunity to inform people in my class about the importance of ASL and how few hearing people actually take time to learn the language. It was a wonderful experience.

I had to videotape my speech for another class assignment, and so I was able to capture the signing and the speech and turn it into a video to post here so that other people can have a chance to hear my speech as well.

once you learn…

I have been so busy this semester that I have not had a lot of time to work with the signing at my church. Today I was able to actually participate. Although the regular signers were not there and there were no deaf people attending the service today, I still signed. I didn’t sit in the front, just in my regular pew.

I practiced signing with the entire service today, not just the songs, and I noticed that I am becoming faster with my signs and my ability to keep up with the speaker. I still struggled sometimes to stay on top of the speed of the message and to remember all the signs I needed to, but I was surprised by my own abilities, especially with a lack of practice.

I was glad I was able to do so well at signing today, and I hope that soon I will be able to help the interpreters with the service as well as the songs. I had been thinking it would take much longer for me to have the skills necessary to do that. I certainly do need to learn more and practice more before I am ready for that ind of commitment, but knowing that I am becoming ore capable as an interpreter was very encouraging.

I have come a long way since starting to learn ASL last year, and it surprises me when I look back and think that a year ago I had no idea that learning would take me where I am now. I never expected to actually begin to interpret so early, even if it was a bit of a surprise to me as much as anyone else, and I could not begin to imagine that ASL and the Deaf community would become such an integral part of my life. I’m excited to see where this next year takes me, because if the last one is any indication, I have no idea what’s in store!

better with two

This week, my roommate told me that she was interested in coming to the sign language club meetings this year. I was really excited, and she and I attended our first meeting together last night.

It will be really great to be able to practice with the person I live with for nine months of the year. Lily is a quick learner and enjoys signing what she knows with me, and I like teaching her. We had been practicing a bit since I began to learn sign language last year, but it had never been anything serious.

We discovered over the past week, when I lost my voice due to a fall cold, that signing is a great way to resolve that situation! I would fingerspell or sign something that I wanted to tell Lily, and she would either guess at the meaning of the sign or I would fingerspell it for her, since she is already familiar with the ASL alphabet.

Later in the week, Lily told me she would be interested in learning ASL with the club and from me, and I was thrilled. Lily is my best friend and practically a sister to me, and I’m thrilled to share one of my passions with her, just like I’ve shared it with the rest of my family.

wrapping up the year

My first semester of learning ASL is coming to a close, and I’m excited by everything that has happened since I started. I had no idea when I first got interested in sign language that my passion would take me as far as it has. I’m very glad, though, that it has.

Since beginning this adventure, I’ve inspired my family to take up ASL as well, especially my younger brother, who has been enjoying learning it very much. I had no idea that my interest would get my family interested too. It’s been fun practicing with my family and I look forward to spending more time doing that over the few weeks I’ll be home after school.

I also met some amazing new Deaf friends at my college, who I probably never would have become so close with if I hadn’t found out about and joined the sign language learning club they started. It’s been amazing to spend time with other people as interested in learning ASL as me, and to hear about sign language and Deaf Culture from people who are a part of it.

Last but not least, I’ve interpreted my first events, two services at my local church. It was unexpected and unplanned, but I enjoyed the new experience and it has helped me build my confidence, as well as convincing me that interpreting is a passion I could see myself pursuing further.

When I started learning ASL at the beginning of the semester, I had no idea how far it would take me or the amazing experiences it would open me up to. I’m excited to see what’s next, if this year has already been so amazing!

unexpected opportunity

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.

 

small world

At last night’s meeting of the on-campus ASL club, I was able to see firsthand how much Deaf people value connections to others.

2000px-Pictograms-nps-accessibility-sign_language_interpretation-2.svg (2)

“Connect”

After the class I was talking to the two students who teach the group. I was wearing a t-shirt with the logo of a camp I help open,”Camp Lake Louise”, and the oldest of the students asked me if I knew the camp, and if I knew a family who worked there.

When I said I did, he explained that he knows that family very well. He went to school and ran track with a young man that I have worked with while opening the camp several times, and he knows the whole family very well.

We were all thrilled to find out this connection, and it opened up a whole new avenue of conversation. I was surprised to find such close connections to a favorite place in a college so far from the camp, and finding people who know some of my family’s closest friends is amazing and wonderful.

While learning ASL I had read that finding connections is very important to the Deaf since their community is so much smaller than the general population. Last night, I was able to experience firsthand the thrill that comes when such a connection is made. This search for connection is one of the most wonderful parts of Deaf culture to be, and being part of it was a truly amazing thing.