Amid the crucible of chaos and challenge emerges a girl destined for the cause of Christ.
The circumstances surrounding Ira’s birth were chaotic. Born two months premature, Ira was confined to an incubator, already battling one illness and infection after another. Her father worked so hard, but the treatments were incredibly expensive. To help, Ira’s grandmother traveled to the hospital one day to pay for some needed medications, but was robbed on the way!
Amid these conditions, something else emerged. Ira was the first in her family to be born Deaf.
Though raised in a loving Christian household, being the only Deaf person disconnected Ira from her family and community. She was the only Deaf person at her family’s hearing church and the language barrier made it difficult for her to understand anything about God. Ira would try to read a piece of Scripture and it would take months for something to click and make sense.
When Ira started school, she experienced a great deal of mockery for being Deaf. At the age of 21, she was sponsored to attend the Bible Institute for the Deaf (BID). It was here that she learned how to shift her focus from the mockery to the Lord. She also learned that it is quite normal to be Deaf—it isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s just her life experience and how God uniquely created her.
After a semester of being surrounded and encouraged by a Deaf Christian community at BID, Ira needed to return home. Something that helped her transition back into her family’s hearing world was teaching her sign language, Filipino Sign Language, to hearing people within her uncle’s church. As more people got involved, Talking Hands Ministry was formed. Still, there was a problem. Ira was the only Deaf person.
One day, a Deaf pastor, who also is a member of the Filipino Sign Language Bible translation team, brought Ira a DVD that had 10 Bible stories on it in her language. This was the first time Ira saw Scripture in her Filipino Sign Language. Before, she would try to read a piece of Scripture for months and months before she really got it, but after seeing it in her sign language, she could understand it plainly and was able to share it with other Deaf people. The Word came alive because it was in her language!
Ira had contacted a local public school to see if a group could start meeting there on Wednesdays to watch the DVD containing the 10 Bible stories in Filipino Sign Language. A small gathering formed and met weekly at the school for six months, until they moved the group to Ira’s home. Now, about 14 Deaf people meet every Sunday to watch Scripture together in Filipino Sign Language and discuss how to live it out. Ira knows more Deaf people in other regions of the Philippines, but they live too far away to attend the Sunday gathering; however, by using social media platforms, she is able to encourage them in their walk with Christ.
With just 10 Bible stories in their sign language, Ira, and those gathering at her home group, are learning and growing in Christ together—and boldly sharing the Gospel with other Deaf people in their country.