Author: Jenae Williams

[caption id="attachment_17100" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Photo by Priscilla Du Preez[/caption] We rarely acknowledge some of the Bible's most beautiful phrases, and as with other literature classics, its phrases on familial bonds are especially good. (And yes, the dysfunctional families exist too, but we’ll save them for another...

It’s a beautiful Sabbath morning. The Seattle rain has fled from the bright sunshine that occasionally makes an appearance in the sky. Invigorated by the glorious weather, you decide to visit a church in the area. After choosing which church you will go to, you drive there. You walk to the door and are met with smiling faces of the greeters who begin to speak to you. Not being able to hear what they are saying, you smile and nod. Those who were smiling at you a moment ago are now frowning at you not sure how to react. You suddenly realize that they asked you a question, and you did not answer appropriately. Pulling out a pen and paper, you quickly jot down, “I am deaf. I did not hear you. Can you write down what you said?” The people at the door are now flustered, realizing that communication will not be as quick. More individuals begin to arrive behind you, and the greeters are attempting to mouth their words with more exaggeration so you can understand quickly. Still not able to make communication with the greeters, you are ushered to the side to create more room for those coming in the door. Undaunted, you make your way into the sanctuary for church service. Sitting towards the back, you are met with more smiling faces from those occupying the pews in front of you. They begin to speak to you, and you quickly point to your ears and shake your head, indicating you are deaf. But they are baffled on how to communicate with you so their smiling faces turn to quizzical looks, and they soon turn around. This same situation is played out several times throughout the course of church with various individuals; soon no one comes to say hello because people are afraid to attempt communication with a person who does not hear. While you knew that you would not be able to hear the church service, you had hoped to meet someone who would be willing to be a new friend. Silently, you get up and leave church in the middle of the service. No one seems to notice your departure. No one comes after you to encourage you to stay. It's a sad story, right? Unfortunately, this happens all too often to members of our Deaf community. While they do not expect to meet a person who is fluent in American Sign Language at the door or even in church, they do expect to meet people who are willing to make communication happen in any form. Let's review two common misconceptions that hearing people have about the Deaf and then provide some suggestions that will help to reach the Deaf.  

The bible characters are often valorized. They are stripped of their foibles, and deodorized of any taint of scandal. Take Joseph for example: His name meant "God gives more". And if his name was supposed to be an indicator of his life experience when he was a teenager then it was an unfortunate choice. He was born in his great-uncle's house in a foreign land according to his father, at his birth he already had ten half-brothers and one half-sister, he had four different ladies that called themselves his mother. The first time he met some of his cousins he believed they were coming to kill him and his family.  His oldest brother slept with one of his father's wives and another brother slept with his own daughter-in-law. Two of his brothers were murderers before the age of 18. It's easy to study, talk and preach about Joseph, but imagine if Joseph walked into Volunteer Park Church as a young adult, and recounted his story to us. Would we have the capacity to take him in? Or what if Joseph came to visit us on parole after spending time incarcerated, with the scarlet letter of 'felon' dragging behind him?

Nohelani is a nationally certified Sign Language Interpreter at Sorenson Communications and freelancer. She's the Deaf Community Coordinator at VPC and has been attending the church for four years with her husband and three children. I asked her about her family and the one thing she wish hearing people knew about deaf people.

How did your interest in the deaf community and ASL begin?

I was eleven years old and was part of Girl Scouts (I did not grow up SDA). Our Girl Scout leader took us to a theatrical production in Coloma, CA. While the other girls were watching the play, I was fascinated by the sign language interpreter in the corner. My first thoughts were, "I had no idea people could talk with their hands!" I thought it was the most beautiful language ever.

November marks the beginning of the holidays (Thanksgiving!) and kicks off a galore of family gatherings. Most of us will be taking time this month to list the things we are thankful for, but it’s also a perfect time to think about F A M I L Y. Recently, while I was in downtown Redmond, thinking about these close-knit bonds, I saw a family member I’ve lost contact with. It’s been eight years since I saw her last, and instead of being excited, I was reluctant to say hello. Our relationship has always been extremely complicated and awkward, hinged on messy family dynamics that started before I was born. Eventually I did have a conversation with her (but only after a lot of encouragement from a friend who is arguably also a saint). Just before I walked towards my estranged family member, I thought, Here I am thinking about family—isn't this what it means?

Jesse is a manager at AT&T Labs, living in Bothell. He’s been attending Volunteer Park Church (VPC) for less than a year and coordinates volunteer opportunities at VPC. We sat down before church to talk about his favorite Thai restaurants and who inspires him spiritually.


You're a manager at AT&T. What does that mean?

My impressive title—but no one knows what it means—is principal member of technical staff. . . I manage a team of software research for auto-configuring the AT&T network.

And after work, what do you most look forward to?

Just one thing? Oh, I don’t know, there’s so many things! Um, researching future projects that I want to do on my own, going to the gym, going out for food. . .

What kind of food? What's your favorite?


Where’s the best place to get it?

Chantanee, Iyara, Thai Tom, Bai Tong.