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My “Reach 2016” Experience

by on Aug.01, 2016, under Member Profile

Hello Deaf Ministry,

My name is Katie, and I recently attended the Reach 2016 Summit Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Boy oh boy it was hot; the weather AND the lessons. I was grateful to go even if it meant I had to take a red eye flight at midnight. I was so happy to see many of my friends at the conference and to make some new friends. One of my new friends is Brittany Torres. We had a blast as she showed me around St. Louis with her “city skills”. It was great meeting our new Deaf brother in Christ, Forrest, along with so many other awesome hearing disciples.

At the Deaf track, as we began our time together, we sat in a large circle. The circle kept growing as more people joined us throughout the session. We opened up by introducing ourselves and I found that most of the attendees were hearing with a minimal understanding of ALS (American Sign Language). I really enjoyed getting to know the large number of hearing people who attended the Deaf Track. When I talked with them I found that many of them were excited and curious about the Deaf community.

A handful of hearing married couples shared that they felt called by God to love and invest in the Deaf ministry and the Deaf community as a whole. I met a few girls who had taken as many years of ASL as possible at their high school or college. This was all very encouraging!

There were a few hearing people who expressed some uncertainty in how to approach Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. I wanted them to feel comfortable and confident as they approached our Deaf brothers and sisters so I thought of this analogy/comparison. When a hearing person meets a Deaf person they might be nervous thinking, “This is the first Deaf person I’ve ever met”. The Deaf person is thinking, “This is the 1 millionth hearing person I’ve ever met”! People laughed and there was a collective sigh of understanding.

I appreciate the help of the volunteer interpreters and other seasoned disciple interpreters as I was able to sit back and have a break from interpreting. I did make one exception and volunteered for the song Men Who Dream (I love interpreting this song!).

Orlando, Florida will be hosted the World Discipleship Summit in 2020. What an impactful time that will be! Let us pray together that many Deaf people from around the world will be able to attend. Fun Fact/Helpful Hint: If you saved 10 dollars each month starting this month, August 2016, you will have just under $500 dollars or you can save $30 each month and you will have just shy of $1,500 for the Summit. We can do this!

Thank you God for letting us share such a great time together!

All my love,
Katie Kessler

2016 Deaf Track

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Interview with Fiorela Thibodeaux

by on Jul.01, 2016, under Member Profile

Joe: Hi Fiorela, Who reach out to you and invite you to church?

Fiorela: It’s a bit of a long story. I grew up a devout Catholic and have always been a bible reader, but by the time I was in college I had left my inherited religion. In 2000 I was living and working in Peru, which is my country of origin. I was in such a deep darkness; I was going through depression, anxiety, struggling with eating disorders and prevalent loneliness.

At that time I had a co-worker named Vanessa. She always seemed joyful, full of energy and was loving. I noticed she seemed to spend every bit of her free time reading the Bible and her work ethic was extraordinary. Vanessa invite me to come to church and once I even went to an outdoor event with her, but it was not the right time for me. My self-righteousness would not allow me to join the group.

6 years later I was married and living in the U.S. after having done quite a bit of traveling, and yet, I found myself in an even deeper darkness. I became so fearful of condemnation and separation from God that I could barely sleep. I began a long and desperate search for God. I reached out to Vanessa again, who now lived in Spain, and asked for help. She contacted me with a couple of sisters in the Austin Christian Church. I went to the service and the rest is history.

Joe: Why did you become a disciple?

Fiorela: Soon after my first visit to the church, I asked a sister sitting next to me to study the Bible. I was so full of pride that I wanted to see if they could teach me something new. I did not know what I was getting myself into! The studies were specifically directed at me.

Despite the fact that I already knew most of the scriptures the sisters shared with me, I realized that I had never held myself accountable to Jesus’ standard. The most important thing that I had not realized was that I needed to be redeemed through baptism. At this point I was in such darkness that I was willing to surrender completely to God’s will. A few weeks later I got baptized! My fears slowly started to vanish and for the first time I found myself joyful, peaceful and full of life.

Joe: What are your strengths as a disciple?

Fiorela: I have been told by other sisters that I am a very relatable person. People tell me they connect with me easily because I tend to be vulnerable and express empathy. I have been asked for advice on many occasions and I greatly enjoy encouraging people. God has also gifted me with the ability to speak multiple languages. That also helps me to connect with others.

Joe: How did you learn ASL?

Fiorela: In 2012, my husband, Jay, began studying ASL. I did not appreciate it because I thought it was taking time away from his family. To our surprise, in 2014, our second baby was born deaf. Praise be to God!! He was preparing my husband two years before Liam was born. I deeply repented of being unsupportive of my husband’s initiative. Jay immediately signed me up for my first ASL class and now I am working towards becoming a trilingual interpreter.

Joe: Do you have a vision for the Deaf Ministry at the Austin Christian Church? Why?

Fiorela: Jay and I have a dream to host a Deaf bible talk in our home. Having a Deaf son, we have truly fallen in love with ASL and Deaf Culture and we want to share with our Deaf friends the gift of the Word of God.

Joe: What would you like to see in future Deaf Conference(s)?

Fiorela: Topic on Deaf Culture to include do’s and don’ts. How to reach out to a Deaf individual and Deaf ministries around the world.

Joe: What is your spiritual goals?

Fiorela: To be more discipline in my relationship with God. To grow in my understanding of His love and to do everything out of love.

Joe: What are your career goals?

Fiorela: Right at this moment I want to become a trilingual interpreter and work as an advocate for Deaf children. Eventually I would like to go back to my career path as an Environmental Engineer. It would be ideal to combine both careers somehow.

Joe: What are your favorite sports and hobbies?

Fiorela: My husband and I greatly enjoy travelling, mountaineering and scuba diving. We love learning languages. We also like to watch movies and hang out with friends.

Joe: Last but not least, what is your favorite scripture and why?

Fiorela: Jay and I were in Brazil during one of our many travel adventures. My worldly life was at its peak, but my spiritual life was in complete darkness. We were waiting in the middle of the street for public transportation when a taxi car, without a sign, stopped for us and offered to take us to the next town. We agreed because this kind of transportation was quite common. The driver happened to be a devote Christian and we engaged in a conversation about Jesus, the church and life. At the end of the journey he gave us his personal card. On the back of the card was this verse in Portuguese:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.   Romans 8:38-39

It was just what I needed to hold onto. It was a little light to shine in my darkness. This was the verse I memorized and shared with the congregation right before I got baptized.

Fiorela Thibodeaux

Jay/Fiorela Thibodeaux family

Austin Christian Church

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He Reigns (ASL) by Katie Kessler

by on Sep.27, 2015, under Video

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne- Psalm 47:8

If you ever want to come out to one of our services, please visit for more information. We have ASL interpretation available. All are more than welcomed!

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Send Me Out (ASL) by Leslie Chavarria

by on Sep.20, 2015, under Video

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.-Matthew 28: 19-20

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