Breaking Down Barriers
How many times have you heard our mission statement? So many times that hopefully you can say it back without thinking - "we are on mission to ensure that every man, woman and child have repeated opportunities to hear and see the Gospel of Jesus Christ." It's not just a catch phrase - it's truly the aim of all that we do, and we're serious about it. "Every" doesn't mean a lot, it means every. Because everyone needs Jesus. Not just some of us, or a lot of us, but all of us. Romans 3:23 reminds us of that - "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." All means all, and so we're after making the truth about Jesus accessible to every man, woman, and child. But there are some at The Chapel who have never heard it, at least not with their ears. And many of these people have embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord, and are hungry to discover Him more deeply.
"Every" doesn't mean a lot, it means every. Because everyone needs Jesus. Not just some of us, or a lot of us, but all of us.
God is doing something amazing in the community of people who attend our church that cannot hear. There has been an explosion of hunger to grow, to understand the Word, and to be discipled. I didn't know a lot about the needs of those who are Deaf until recently. I assumed, like I'm sure many do, that because Deaf people can't hear, they read a lot and use sign language to communicate. Beyond that, I assumed that as long as something was written or was interpreted, that nothing was different for them. The Chapel has, for a long time, had a small group of dedicated volunteers who have served the Deaf community by providing ASL interpretation at one of our services. We have lyrics on the screen during the music, and our interpreters bridge the hearing gap during the message. But over the last while, I have come to discover so much more about their struggles, their needs, and their desire to grow in Christ.
"Can we buy some Deaf Bibles for our guests?" When Kathy Cammarano, who spearheads our Deaf Interpretive team, asked me this question I was confused. At first, I thought she meant braille Bibles, but I realized these people can see just fine. "What is the difference between a Deaf bible and a regular Bible?" I asked. Kathy and the team informed me that many Deaf people have a hard time with reading comprehension. It's not that they aren't intelligent, but that English isn't their first language. American Sign Language is. ASL is incredibly literal and direct, and so certain concepts written in English are hard to convey through ASL. Deaf Bible versions have taken this into account and re-translated the Bible in a way that ASL comprehending people can understand more easily. This blew me away - that we had people in our church with limited access to the Bible, or to a translation that they could use to grow personally with. So of course, we purchased copies of this translation and handed them out, and they were extremely appreciative. The team shared with me that they were trying to start up a few Deaf Bible studies as a result of the group's growth and hunger for the word.
The next week, I was walking through our atrium at the CrossPoint campus when I ran into this couple who were both staring at the ceiling and looking obviously lost. This isn't an uncommon occurrence - people come into the building looking for their counseling appointment or for a meeting with someone on our staff team and they can't find their way. "Can I help you?" I said as I approached. They didn't even look my direction. As I got close, I asked again "Can I help you find something?" No reaction. Then, as I got closer still, the woman saw me and started to dig in her purse - she pulled out a notepad and began to write. The man with her started to sign something to her, and I realized that neither could hear. I smiled as I put the dots together, and then saw that they were both carrying those big blue Deaf Bibles we had purchased the week before. "Deaf Bible Study?" was what the woman wrote on the notepad. This couple had made their way to our building, Bibles in tow, to gather with several others from the Deaf community to study the Word of God together. Since I had no idea where they were even meeting, I called Kathy on the phone and she shared with me that Nevin, another awesome member of this interpretation team, was meeting them there to facilitate the class. I hung up the phone and exchanged some messages with them on this small notepad. When I told them I knew where the class was and would take them there, their faces lit up with excitement. Though we couldn't really communicate very easily, their expression said it - they couldn't wait to be at this study.
In September, we celebrated as a church, hearing the grace stories of several Deaf people in our community. Maria, Donald, Kevin, and Joanne shared through video how God had transformed them and how they had accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of their life.
There are others who are being impacted with the good news of Jesus, who are being ministered to and cared for, and some who are bringing other family members to discover and grow as well. The heroes of this story (besides God obviously) are these dedicated servants who have a passion to minister to this community of Deaf people. They are missionaries who are helping to make the gospel clear and the love of Christ known, and it's incredibly exciting, but it's also a reminder of what "every man, woman, and child" means. We need to be willing to press through barriers and meet people where they are with what they need in order to have them see the gospel. Those barriers can take on different shapes sizes, but we should be asking the question, "who has God put in my path that might need me to meet them where they are with the love of Jesus Christ?"
Worship and Creative Arts Director