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.
Jay/Fiorela Thibodeaux family
Austin Christian Church