Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Speaking for Those Who Have No Voice

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth; judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

I surreptitiously eavesdropped on a conversation in the airport. Though I couldn’t catch enough to grasp the gist of the conversation, fond memories from over 40 years ago flooded my mind as I watched the two friends signing companionably to one another.

Thanks to my friend Steve, those who are deaf hold a special place in my heart. Born with profound hearing loss, Steve was sent away to a school for the deaf at the age of two, coming home only occasionally for holidays. At 19, he returned to the tiny town where his parents lived.

Neither Steve’s father nor his mother learned sign language. Though Steve couldn’t hear a car horn blowing beside him, his parents were convinced that if they shouted loud enough, he would hear. Understandably, moving back home was trying for Steve.

Steve attended our church regularly, depending heavily on lip reading. Steve always carried a pad and pencil, writing down what he wanted to say and asking others to do the same.

Many people in the town feared Steve. He was a big man, with many frustrations. Though I never witnessed it, several people warned, “Steve’s got a bad temper.”

God filled me with a desire to help Steve. I learned that the local university offered Sign Language, so I registered for the class. As I gained confidence in my signing ability, I forged a friendship with Steve. Delighted, he began stopping by the house. He often brought our son candy, always requiring Seth to sign “Thank you!” or “More candy, please.”

I invited Steve for supper. I left him and my husband to “chat” while I cleaned up the dishes. Afterward, Dick said, “Guess I should learn some basic sign language, too. How about teaching a class at church?” I felt grossly unqualified but agreed anyhow.

To my great surprise, forty people wanted to learn! Steve was later offered a job by one of the men who took the class and felt confident enough to communicate with Steve.

Steve also gained acceptance in the church and community because people better understood the challenges he faced and made the effort to interact with him. I was so thankful and surprised that those basic sign language classes opened so many doors for Steve.

God asks us to open our mouths for those who have no “voice”—unborn babies, children, those genuinely poor, the handicapped, the aged, refugees, and animals. (God even gave a donkey a voice!) If God is calling you to “speak”, please, don’t ignore His nudges. You never know what life-changing effects God can bring about when you say, “Yes, I will help.”

Be encouraged!

©2018 Pamela D. Williams