By the look on our faces,
you wouldn’t have known it rained all night,
or that it was still dark outside
even though it was morning.
We were the sunshine.
We reflected the light.
We were God’s children – both Deaf and hearing, caravanning to the 2019 Passion conference where our Deaf Filipina friend, Ira, would sign her story to 40,000 young adults. We were about to encounter something extraordinary only God could orchestrate. It was Isaiah 43:19 coming alive, God was about to do something new, and we felt the movement of it.
Ira’s story is familiar to many Deaf around the world. Facing educational systems, employers, churches, and Scriptures established by hearing people for hearing people, most Deaf experience isolation, loneliness, and despair. Where can hope be found in the silence of it all?
The Passion Conference lights a bright fire in the hearts of thousands who want to make an eternal difference for Christ. Founder and speaker, Louie Giglio, is a supporter of the need for Deaf awareness and sign language Bibles.
We arrived at the conference where Millennial and Gen Z packed the center. Through the crowd, we made our way to the small, reserved Deaf section distanced from the stage. Others piled around us. A mega screen towered above us with interpreters to one side. Lights. Fog. Anticipation. It was a Christian rock concert. A temple. A house of God. A place for believers to just be. The music started. Some swayed as the beat shook the floor. Some Deaf people signed the lyrics on the screen while some followed along with the interpreter.
The spotlights took their positions, casting a heavenly glow as Ira stepped out on stage. With her story confidently tucked deep inside, thousands of miles from home, Ira unfolded her encounter with God to the crowd.
As she signed her story, we didn’t need an interpreter. That’s the kind of world the Deaf dream of – direct communication. A world where everyone has the opportunity to understand and connect.
A world without exclusion.
A world with hope.
Ira first met God through a single existing Filipino Sign Language DVD. Through her native language, Jesus was able to speak directly to her heart and transform her. Ira found love in those few signed Bible stories. In her language, she saw that God knew her, and she was not alone! Excitedly, Ira shared the Good News with other Deaf friends so that they could experience the same hope and love that the Father had given her. We were about to encounter something extraordinary only God could orchestrate.
It was Isaiah 43:19 coming alive,
God was about to do something new, and we felt the movement of it.
As Ira’s life-message spilled out of her and into our hearts, a young Deaf woman started weeping loudly behind us. We knew that many were moved, but after several minutes, her sobs became louder, and her tears moved me. I reached around, touched her knee to console her. I wanted her to know that everything that God brought was so, so good! She briefly looked at me and motioned that she was okay. She was in a place of hope and peace.
A Passionate Perspective
There was a woman who sat in front of me. She turned around and touched my knee. It was obvious I’d been crying, and she was trying to comfort me. I motioned to her that I was okay. Ira’s story was so compelling; it affected the deepest part of my soul. I couldn’t help but feel that we were in a moment where everything finally made sense.
Ira’s life was as familiar as the back of my hand. I grew up Deaf. I was three when I lost my hearing. The doctors told my parents that they were unsure of why I was Deaf, but a high fever might have caused it. Growing up, my class was set up for hearing kids and highly taxing for me. It was tough to keep up. I had years of speech therapy and learned to lip read. It was the only way I could fit into a hearing world.
Once, I was assigned Spanish as a second language. My teacher’s harsh responses and misunderstandings of my deafness felt oppressive. She would make me repeat the sentences out loud. Standing in front of the classroom was humiliating as I couldn’t hear the sounds that formed the words. I felt like a failure. However, something bigger stirred inside me, and I stood determined and assertive. That was the day I started my journey as a Deaf Advocate.
Throughout my life, my mom had always been a source of strength and inspiration. She fought alongside me and taught me how to look beyond barriers. Years later, I am proud to stand strong as a young Deaf woman supporting other Deaf people. I have accomplished so much already, and I want others to know that they, too, can do anything in life except hear.
In my youth, church was boring to me; there were no interpreters or a Bible in my sign language. People would pass me the notes after the service, but nothing made much sense. Later, at a Christian Deaf camp, someone told me about Jesus in my sign language, and my world changed. I believe God gave me a new life to make a difference by showing His hope to others.
I worked as a Deaf advocate at the Passion Conference for two years. I had only dreamt of a kind of day where Deaf people took the stage, delivered a Godly message, and impacted others. As Ira laid out her life before the audience, all language barriers melted away. All my years of speech therapy, separation, and isolation faded as I saw a new day with a bridge built between the two worlds of Deaf and hearing. My tears flowed for all Deaf people to experience the same hope as Ira!
Ira found love in those few signed Bible stories.
Ira’s testimony stirred the desire for many to get involved and support hope in every sign language. Generous donations poured in, and the total giving soared over $440,000!
As God said to Isaiah, and those at the Passion conference, He is doing a new thing, and we are a witness! This is just the beginning…