In 1992 at around the age of 3, my sister Jennifer was diagnosed with deafness. I was a sophomore in high school. The news came to us as a shock. We did not know of any deaf people or anything about deafness. My family, who are immigrants from Haiti, was living in the United States for only about 6 years. My mother and father did not know what to do or where to go, so they did nothing; a thought that raged war against my joy for a long time. Per the school district, Jennifer went to The American School for the Deaf (ASD) for the week and came home on the weekends. As Jennifer was learning sign language, we as a family drew farther from her. During that time, as a senior in High School, God blessed me with a guidance counselor who knew American Sign Language (ASL). She taught me some basic signs after I expressed my concerns to her. My counselor and I looked at schools in Washington DC, in order to take classes at Gallaudet University in hopes of learning more signs. God had other plans.
I did not get into my first choice school, so I accepted a school in Rhode Island that I did not consider at first. After 2 years, I took the fall semester off and I transferred to the University of Connecticut (UCONN) for the Spring of 1999. The little signs I acquired in high school, deteriorated by then. Although I thought about my sister often, the distance and my passivity hindered our connection.
The first couple of days at UCONN, disciples invited me to church and there started to study the Bible. I also took up ASL classes, which I was so grateful for. I was baptized into Christ four months later on May 16, 1999 and continued to learn sign language. After graduation, I worked at ASD, where my sister attended school. I took up classes at ASD and also at a community college for one semester. God blessed the church with a small Deaf Ministry and I became one of the few interpreters. Between working at ASD and interpreting for the church, I was making tremendous progress with my signing skills.
I left my job after two years and decided to go to graduate school to learn speech and language pathology in hopes of someday using those skills to help Jennifer. By that time, I was communicating comfortably in sign language and stopped taking classes.
Jennifer graduated high school, attended a community college and transferred to the National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) a part of Rochester Institute of Technology. After being there for over a year, in the spring of 2012, I realized that I, like my family, was not doing much to connect with Jennifer spiritually or emotionally. This realization came to me when Jennifer no longer wanted to go home for Spring Break or any other holidays.
It broke my heart to see how the isolation affected her in such a deep way. Moreover, I was not helping with the gap between her and the rest of the family. I decided to spend my summer and actively reach out to her. I challenged the entire family to learn sign language, since that was Jennifer’s only way of communicating. God helped me to forgive myself for not doing anything sooner and my family for their behavior of indifference, with the exception of Marie, our other sibling who took the time to learn sign language. It continues to be a battle getting the rest of the family on board, so please keep us in your prayers.
Jennifer and I attended the World Discipleship Summit in July 2012 and she visited the Rochester Church of Christ while in NTID the fall of 2012. Unfortunately, Jennifer is hoping to transfer to Gallaudet next fall. I am praying and hoping that God continues to help me as I help her to have a relationship with Him.
Currently, I am part of a sign language club in the church. We come together to learn and practice ASL. Our hope and prayer is to revitalize the Deaf Ministry and bring the Gospel to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.
Rose Beaujour (Greater Hartford Church of Christ)