Did She ‘Hear’ the Gospel?

Dr. Mark William Seeger

It was Easter Sunday, and more than 100 of us gathered in our little deaf church to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. There were 26 members in church and about three times as many nonmembers — mostly the families of the children in our Thursday afternoon children’s program for students from the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD). It was a full house, every seat taken, and several people were standing in the back. I knew most of them from when they would pick up their children on Thursdays.

“I know that my Redeemer lives; / What comfort this sweet sentence gives.” The choir was signing my favorite hymn, and most of the children and some of the parents were signing along.

After the song, I noticed her. She was standing in the back, in the hallway, holding a baby in her arms. She was new to me, and I guessed her to be about 25. There were no empty chairs, and because she was in the back, no one noticed her to offer her a chair.

0409lifeline1.jpgAll through the service she stood there, baby sleeping peacefully in her arms, watching the service. Her eyes fixed on the Scripture readings, the Creed, the children’s message, and the sermon. She watched the prayers and the hymn “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, Alleluia!”

How did she know about our service? Perhaps through the advertising we had posted on the two Central Texas e-mail news services for the deaf? No, she had heard about it from a deaf woman, a friend of the congregation, who had met her and invited her to church. She came. She stood. She watched.

Less than two weeks later her name was in the obituary column. She had died in her sleep—a 25-year-old mother with a four-month-old daughter. When I first saw the obituary, I didn’t realize it was the woman I had met briefly after our Easter service. Then it hit me. How could this young woman die in her sleep? Why? Yet, those were not the important questions. The questions that really hit me were “Did she ‘hear’ the Gospel?” and “Will I see her again?”

Those same questions had hit me during spring break the previous year when 18-year-old “Miss Deaf Texas,” Tara Rose McAvoy, was struck by a train and killed. Before she graduated from TSD and went off to college, she had attended our Wednesday youth nights. The Gospel was proclaimed to her, too, but “did she ‘hear’ the Gospel?” “Will I see her again?”

While those of us in deaf ministry proclaim the Gospel with our hands, we know the results are in God’s hands. We do what He has called us to do. We are faithful in proclaiming the message, and we pray that these two young women, and all people, do “hear” and believe the Gospel. If these two young women did “hear” and believe, the angels in heaven rejoiced, and now they are with their Savior in their eternal home, hearing, for the first time, the alleluias and singing along.

Lutheran Deaf Ministry is made possible because of caring Christians who pray for and financially support their local missionaries to the deaf. For that, we say, “Thank you!” We will do our best to show salvation to the deaf so that some day we can all be together in heaven.

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