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by Tricia Crabtree
The word stuck is an unusual word when it comes to sign language. It can mean
the usual things regarding being “stuck” in an elevator or the car being “stuck”
in the mud, but it can have other connotations as well. Basically, it can mean
any situation that is unexpected or is preventing a person from being able to do
something because he is “stuck.” Depending on the situation, it can also mean an
unplanned pregnancy or not being able to go to the store due to an accident or a
person being unable to get a job after the employer does a background check, etc.
I recall a hearing mother being offended by her deaf son who said that he could
not help her do something because he was “stuck” with her grandkids all day. In
most instances, the person saying this would be complaining that it was a burden
to watch the grandkids and did not want to do it. I could tell by the deaf son’s
expression that he just meant he could not help her because he was WITH the
grandkids all day. It is easy to see how misunderstandings can happen when two
When most people think of interpreters, they envision a person signing with their
hands. On the flip side of this, though, is when an interpreter “voices” for a deaf
person who is signing so the hearing will know what is being said. A few years ago,
I was “stuck” in a sticky situation in a public venue. After a revival, people began
to give testimonies about how they were blessed by the meeting. A deaf person
asked me to “voice” for them as they stood and began signing. Even though these
were their words, I began to cringe when I realized what I would have to say out
loud. The deaf person mentioned how thankful they were that we were there to
speak with them in their own language and then said, “I have grown up in this
church and only three people can speak to me.” This was certainly an awkward
position to be truly “stuck” in, and I had to hold back the tears as I voiced these
stark words of indictment.
12 Reseeding America – Spring 2018
As a hearing person (even though I am an interpreter), I do not grasp the
significance of the isolation many deaf experience while attending churches that
are mainly hearing. Any churches who have a heart to reach the Deaf go out of
their way to learn the language and open their doors to the Deaf community.
Sign language classes are started and everyone is excited, but then reality sets in.
After a few weeks, only a core group of the truly interested are left. They are the
ONLY people in the church who will be able to speak to a deaf person who comes
through their doors.
Recently, I read a book by a hearing man regarding growing up with deaf parents.
When speaking of their beloved language, American Sign Language, his parents
said, “We lived for sign. The ability to communicate with one another was like the
water of life, our oasis of language and meaning in the midst of the huge expanse
of desert silence and incomprehension that was the greater hearing world.” If
you were in a church for several years and only two or three of the members
could have meaningful conversations with you, would you stay? Just something
to think about!
Editor’s Note: Scott and Tricia Crabtree and their family have recently
moved to the Columbus, Ohio, area and are beginning Deaf Bible studies
to prepare for the opening of the LIFESIGNS Deaf Baptist Church.
Reseeding America – Spring 2018 13