MPCC Deaf Ministry 14th Anniversary

Joe Cepeda had taken American Sign Language (ASL) on the Fall 1994 at the San Antonio College (SAC). It took a while for him to become fluent in ASL. He improves his receptive skill quicker by taking ASL courses, watching interpreters from college classes, and attending monthly deaf events to communicate with the deaf, hard of hearing, and interpreters.

Three years later in the Fall of 1997, Joe Cepeda started the Deaf Ministry at the San Antonio International Church of Christ (SAICOC). He had no religious interpreter experiences and had limited knowledge of ASL during that time. It was very challenging to start a Deaf Ministry without experience. There were no members who have religion interpreter services. He took his best shot to interpret entire service for the first deaf visitor. Joe used to wear powerful body aids that have long cords on both ears and able to hear very clearly to the church sound system. There are two ways to put his microphone: clip on the Evangelist’s shirt or on top of the sound speaker while he interpreted for the deaf visitor. Some of the former church members & visitors who were interpreters assisted Joe for a short time. He had trained them from his experiences to interpret at the church services. Joe used to practice and memorized 20 Kingdom songs daily to prepare for Sunday services.

On October 2004, Renae Quick started to take over interpreter services while Joe steps down interpreting for spiritual reason. She is a certified interpreter and non-member that have religious interpreter services. Joe & Carole have done fundraising to raise funds for the interpreter fees and website hosting. Our church leaders and disciples voted for a new church title called Mission Point Christian Church (MPCC). Our Deaf Ministry at MPCC will miss Renae very much and have appreciated her service and hard work these past 7 years. Renae’s last day for interpreting service was on Sunday, September 25th, 2011. We have two current interpreter members at MPCC. Matt Simkovsky is a non-certified interpreter disciple with experience from the International Churches of Christ (ICOC).  He is planning to enroll in the Interpreter Program in the near future at SAC. We also have Sabrina Ornelas, a certified level 1 interpreter who graduated with Interpreter AAS degree at SAC with experience at MPCC. Our goal is to baptize interpreters to have strong team support.

Joe’s best memory with his wife, Carole, was vacation trips to the Los Angeles Deaf Ministry on 2006, 2008, & 2010. They enjoyed spiritual times with the ministry family. They have close friendships with them and continue to keep in touch with them. Another amazing memory was when Angel Blanchette committed to co-administer for the DMICOC website on April 2011. She has done an incredible job to assist our website with new monthly updates. Joe and Carole feel blessed to have her special friendship in Christ and our DMICOC website partnership.

Joe and Carole have experiences for deaf bible studies. Joe baptized a deaf UTSA student from Campus Ministry but he left the church. He baptized a faithful disciple named Sabrina Ornelas on January 2001. We have Deaf Ministry fun events that meet once a month or more for our group to be united. We will have great memories in our hearts for our ministry’s anniversary in the years to come. Joe & Carole are very grateful to God that He gave them talent to lead the Deaf Ministry in San Antonio.

Angel interviewed Joe with the following questions below:

1. What inspire you to create DMICOC website?

God called me to create this website on June 2009. I was inspired by disciples & DMICOC deaf members from around the nation who contacted me to be connected with our ministry. I believe more good news can happen anytime and I posted articles on this website.   Jeremiah 29: 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2. What is DMICOC’s mission statement?

DMICOC’s mission statement is to encourage, challenge, inspire, and support to the deaf disciples and interpreters.    Hebrews 10: 24“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

3. What is the best way for a deaf disciple to connect to another in the same area or long distance?

It is important for deaf disciples to have strong disciplined relationships in their local area by weekly contact or to meet every 2 weeks. We can communicate with each other by ASL. They can contact each other by mobile texts, emails, and videophones. For international deaf disciples and interpreters, it’s best to contact them by emails and live video chats for spiritual encouragements. You can plan a trip to a city where there is a Deaf Ministry and set-up schedule in advance for deaf double dates and fun events. We encourage you to teach non-deaf disciples ASL to communicate to each other.   Ephesians 4: 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

4. What was your biggest challenge being a deaf/hard of hearing disciple?

Carole & I biggest challenge for being deaf is when no interpreter service provided at Bible Talk. We have to pay close attention to lip-read during bible discussion group. No closed-caption videos available on big screen at church can be frustrating and discouraging. We have learned to request in advance for special needs to the church leaders. Currently, we are the only deaf couple at MPCC. Sometimes it can be difficult to schedule a meeting with LA deaf couple (disciples) for spiritual guidance. We have discussed our struggles to another deaf couple by videophones to get a strong spiritual encouragement.   Exodus 4: 11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

5. How to study the bible with the deaf effectively?

We need to bond relationships with the deaf and hard of hearing. You need to be humble to share your spiritual life to them to be a positive influence on them. Don’t be unprepared and without prayer when you schedule to meet for their bible studies. It’s best to practice ASL in advance to know how to sign for the studies. There are great resources for religion signs at the internet. I would recommend long distance bible studies via Skype or videophone if a church don’t have disciples who are fluent in ASL or have no experiences on how to studies with the deaf and hard of hearing.   1 Peter 3: 15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

6. How to be an interpreter for DMICOC?

You will need to learn on your own when there is no mentor at church. The best way to become expert interpreters is by meeting professional certified interpreters who have religion interpreter experiences. Don’t be embarrassed to ask deaf members or deaf visitors for feedbacks after church services to find out what interpreters need to write down in their improvement list. Attending Interpreter Program at community college, university and interpreter workshops is a great plus to improve your skills. Contact Los Angeles Deaf Ministry Interpreter Team to seek advices on how to improve your interpreter skills.

1 Timothy 4: 8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

7. What is your vision for DMICOC’s in 5 years?

My vision for DMICOC in 5 years: Deaf Conference in every 2 years, monthly Deaf Devotional on video conference calls on Skype or better program, deaf disciples and interpreters baptize everywhere, deaf disciples rise up to become leaders, good news videos around the world to be posted on DMICOC website & eagerness to volunteer for DMICOC website.   Colossians 3: 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”