It's a Small World
(Kitty) Below is a message I got from my friend Juli in November that I've been meaning to share with you. Juli and her husband Alan and their three sons are missionaries in Russia. The stories they tell are always so interesting, but this one I found interesting because I have a lot of friends who have deaf friends and/or are interested in sign language.
No matter how big or small our family or community or the world, it seems bigger when you feel alone, and smaller when you find ways to communicate and make friends. I hope you are finding yourself in a small world today. :)
ANOTHER GLIMPSE FROM RUSSIA
Both of the translators did a nice job at the church service this morning. At the church we are attending now everything is translated, but the only language spoken is Russian. Can you guess what the translation is for? Yes, roughly half of the people attending are either deaf or hearing impaired. So everything that is spoken is translated into sign and everything signed is also translated into spoken Russian.
Today two young ladies stood in front of the congregation and signed a duet. Their feet moved slightly to a soundless beat and the joy on their faces reflected a music that no one could hear. A translator read the words into the microphone, but the nonverbal communication seemed much more poetic.
One of the most remarkable things about attending a "deaf church" is the warmth. Eye-to-eye people greet one another. A quick handmotion indicates gladness that you are there. Cheek-to-cheek women embrace. Men and women shake hands. And everywhere you look conversations are bursting out of people's hands. Those who don't speak sign are in the minority. I find myself gesturing and using animated facial expressions to communicate. Several of the deaf people can also read lips, but sometimes I wonder if my accent gets in the way. Still, we communicate.
In Russia, to be deaf is to be practically unemployable. Yet many of the people in the congregation have found work in some form or other. I can only imagine the struggles they have faced. Sunday mornings with them I see their joy. They don't come to the service just because it is Sunday morning. They come because they love God and want to worship Him. They are hungry for the sermons, singing, and prayer times.
At first, our boys weren't too sure about all the hand language. They swung their hands and arms around a bit, especially during singing. But now they are beginning to pick up some of the signs. Eric and Darin are attending Sunday school, which seems to be almost exclusively hearing kids although many know sign because their parents are deaf.
Last summer we met several of the deaf believers at camp. The church operates the camp on Lake Baikal where we held English and Family camps in July. The friendly smiles we saw everyday on the wooded paths, in the open air cafeteria and around the camp fire are there to welcome us on Sundays at the church service.
Perhaps you are wondering why we are attending here? It is where we fit for now. We continue to work with College students through Compass and desire that many of these students will come to know the joy that our deaf "Family", as well as our hearing "Family" has come to know.