My discipleship journey covers 27 years- nine of them as a sign language interpreter. I have had many ups and downs, victories and discouragements ; through it all God has been more patient and faithful with me than I deserve! He is my bedrock.
When I was a freshman at the University of Colorado my best friend, Julie Payne Miller, reached out to me. But I was too prideful, did not believe in the Bible and had no interest in church. But by my junior year I had emptiness inside that grades, sports, pseudo friends, alcohol and Eastern religion could not fill. Julie and Lori Bishop showed me the Truth and I was baptized in the spring of 1986, graduated a year later, and joined the Denver Church of Christ in 1988, where I learned the true meaning of repentance. The first verse I ever memorized was Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” I needed God’s help, and it was easy to be reminded of His strength when I looked at the Rockies!
After a few years in Denver I went on the Lincoln, Nebraska church planting. I was in my late 20s and starting to feel anxious about being single. But God had the perfect man waiting for me in the plains! Dave Casey was in graduate school and waiting to be met. (He’s also six years younger, so I guess I was waiting for him to graduate from high school!) My best memory of the Kingdom is how everyone came together to make our wedding heaven on earth, and how thankful I was for the marriage advice and purity in our dating!
After we were married we went into the ministry. I am so thankful for that opportunity; I have strengths that fit the ministry well- I am a good teacher and speaker, can be organized and very encouraging. But it was not a good fit for my prideful and insecure nature! After serving in Nebraska, Denver and Sioux Falls, S.D. it was decided that it would be better for us to leave the ministry and for Dave to finish his graduate program. I was a few months pregnant with our second child and this quickly tailspinned into my most spiritually challenging time. We moved to Ames, Iowa where I felt isolated, alone and purposeless. My children were young and we lived in a college town, I had a hard time connecting with Iowans, money was tight, the church was an hour away, I gained weight and Dave was dealing with the pressure of getting his PhD. But God always came through and in my “valley time” He taught me about humility, security, and openness.
Still, I was very happy to leave Iowa and move near Nashville, TN! When my youngest entered kindergarten I went back to school and got a two year degree in the Interpreter Training Program. (No, I don’t have my NIC yet- please pray that I will have the courage to try again!) Both of my grandparents were born deaf. Grandpa, who was part of the Deaf community, was outgoing, fun, smart and a huge positive influence in my life. I still miss him dearly, 25 years after his passing. Grandma was forced to be part of the hearing world, and as such never felt comfortable in either world. I became an interpreter because I felt her frustration and wanted to be a bridge between the two worlds.
How do you bridge three worlds- Deaf, hearing and spiritual? The Deaf conference at San Antonio gave me a glimpse of what is possible. The Spirit can do it! I was deeply impacted by those who have stayed faithful through the years despite being the only, or one of very few, deaf disciples. Their faith, courage and perseverance convicts me, for I know how it feels to be cut off from people. I would love to have a Deaf Ministry here in Nashville, but I know that it won’t be easy. We had a Deaf foreign exchange student live with us for a year and although my husband and two sons were very good at signing, few in the church could manage more than a few signs. I worry about the lack of fellowship they would have and honestly, it’s hard to be the only interpreter for a two hour service. But I look at you and realize a spiritual person can be faithful and patient until others are converted. And Joe tells me to pray to convert interpreters, which is an excellent idea! All of your examples have inspired me to believe that people can be faithful and to have hope that more and more in the Deaf community will be converted!
My theme verse is 2 Corinthians 12:10 “…I delight in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” I HATE to be weak and by my nature I am very self reliant. But I’m really not very strong and I cling to this verse when I’m training for marathons, when I’m intimidated by an interpreting situation, and when I don’t know what to do with my kids. Its okay, He’s got me. And He’s got you too.
I can’t wait to hear the exciting stories that will come from the Deaf Ministry!!!
In the photo shown below, and from the left, Heidi, and her husband, Dave.