Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Outstanding (04/21/11)
TITLE: Hearing God's Voice
By Janet Richey
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In 1935, he was born to farmers in rural central Pennsylvania, also known as the coal region. When he was nine months old, he developed whooping cough, a disease all but eradicated by vaccinations today. The aftermath of this disease would define him. “Oh, my glory,” I remember my grandma saying in her faintly Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, “he was a wild one, yes sir.”
She told me the story of how he once got his hands on a kitchen knife when he was three or four years old, and chased her around the kitchen. “If someone hadn't grabbed him, he might surely have stabbed me,” she said. At age six, my grandparents took him to a doctor in Philadelphia who said he should be put in an institution. They thought he was insane. “Oh, I cried the whole way home,” she said to me. Grandma was an outstanding woman whose strength was rivaled only by her practical love for her family.
A family member suggested a hearing test, and from that they learned that my dad was deaf. For nearly six years he lived without a language. Imagine. My grandparents sent him to a deaf school nearly 4 hours away. He would only come home on major holidays. The first time they took him to the school, he watched their car drive down the road from a 2nd story window, where he tried to jump. Divinely, a room mother grabbed him in time. He did adjust to his new surroundings, as kids usually do, and when he came home for the first time for Thanksgiving, his first word was, fittingly, “mother”. A smile came over grandma’s face as she finished her story. But that wasn’t the end. Many, many words would follow.
My dad attended two deaf schools over the course of twelve years. There he learned to speak and lip read to communicate with the hearing world, and to sign, to communicate with his. There he learned the basics of math, reading, science and history. In 1953, at age 18, completing the 10th grade level, he left school to work on the family farm. The boy who acted like a wild animal was now a man. Two years later, he married his high school sweetheart, her story as amazing as his. One year after that, their lives changed dramatically as they became parents. They would have three children, in all.
About ten years later, some local deaf friends became Christians. Through them, he met an outstanding Christian woman, a modern-day Paul, who gave him the book “Peace With God” by Billy Graham. Not only did he become a Christian, but by 1973 he was an ordained minister, preaching to a deaf audience in the downstairs Sunday School room at the First Baptist Church in town. In 1977 he sold the fledgling family farm, and moved to the town where he first attended school, which had a large deaf population. There, he and a group of deaf people purchased an old country church and established an all deaf non-denominational congregation. Hearing people were welcome because an interpreter was always nearby, but Dad was speaking so well at that point, most people could understand him.
During those years, he and other outstanding Christians, both hearing and deaf, had formed a missions organization. He travelled to Central America in the late 1970’s, but would develop a heart for the deaf in Jamaica. There he helped build a church and a Christian deaf school among the poor in that region. Now in his mid 70’s, my dad still visits Jamaica at least once a year.
His life was not without flaws. Like all of us, he has faced heart ache, hurt and tons of failures. But imagine going through life facing all of those things; work, parenting, even the simple task of driving, without your hearing. My dad, in his deafness, has lived life mostly independent and lived it serving the Lord in the only way he’s known how. And that is outstanding.
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