April 24, 2014
When I got to Gordon-Conwell’s campus, I thought to myself, “How could I survive being the only Deaf student living on this campus, where I want to express American Sign Language fluently? Being on campus, there is only one person I can talk with freely in ASL...God Himself!” I have been a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary since the fall of 2011. I used to live as a commuter student, where I did not have much opportunity to be part of the Gordon-Conwell community, until a turning point in my life where I lost everything. It caused me to relocate to live on Gordon-Conwell campus in January 2013. I had become an exilic person because I was truly detached from the Deaf communities I had called my home for 35 years. Living on campus was like living in the Babylonian Empire, where I began my new adventure and new experience learning to live inside the hearing community.
Seeing inside the hearing community gave me a new understanding about the hearing community’s ignorance concerning how to communicate with Deaf individuals. For years, I used to assume too much that I was being neglected or being left out. That caused me to think I was being oppressed because of being a Deaf person. Months have passed by and my understanding has dawned, helping me correct my false views of oppression when dealing with seminary students, professors, and staff. My rational thinking about being oppressed by hearing people has changed, and I had to unlearn old ways of thinking and change the new way of thinking about how hearing people are reacting toward Deaf people. Most hearing people have no experience with and have never even encountered any Deaf individuals in their lifetime. Therefore, it is not their fault if they do not understand. I was given an opportunity to interact with them on campus and even correct their assumptions and myths that Deaf individuals cannot do anything at all.
Why did I identify myself as “Deaf” instead of “deaf”? I identify myself as being part of the Deaf culture and community, where American Sign Language is considered the primary language. This differs from “deaf.” The word “deaf” is defined based on audiological loss only applying to general loss. People with audiological loss can lose their hearing ability as an adult. Some would prefer using the oral method instead of using sign language as their communication method.
I keep receiving comments from students saying I am considered as a joy to the community and I bring light to them. They also keep telling me, “I love your presence when you are smiling!” It has become an icon on this campus. However, it is nothing new to me because my family and close friends have told me the same thing. It is my only way to express the unconditional love I have received from God and I want to send the flow of love from God to them.
Michael is a native of Southern California and Pennsylvania, and has been living in the Boston area for 11 years. During his social work residency near Boston, he worked with Deaf clients and empowered them with independent living skills. He has also worked as a mental health social worker for the Deaf. Michael is pursuing an MAEM at Gordon-Conwell. He sees his journey with God—since 1995—as the most beautiful story that brought him to truly understand God’s unconditional love and grace upon his life!
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