For years I had been fascinated by sign language ever since the day a young man came to the house with an alphabet card asking for donations. My Dad gave him a dollar, and I learned the alphabet from that card. Then I took two classes at American River College in SEE signs. As doors of opportunity opened, I used my sign language to help someone in a store, with directions, drove a deaf girl to college, joined a deaf club, sat in the Sign Language section at conferences, studied VHS tapes of signs, sang with signs and even taught sign language at Chico State. I attended a Spanish speaking church in Chico and taught Sunday School in English. One day we had a young deaf student in my class who signed in Spanish, and this was my first chance to teach trilingually in Spanish, English and Sign Language.
God gives us interest, gifts and talents, so we can bless others. When I went to Costa Rica and met the Esquivel family, I had no idea that their oldest daughter, Yadira, was born deaf. She was so excited to learn that I spoke in signs. She had the same dictionary, Signing Exact English which was confusing until I explained that those signs that used a letter of the alphabet to form the signs just needed to be switched to the Spanish letter. For example to sign the word “I” you put the letter I to your chest, but in Spanish it would be the letter Y for “Yo.” We went through the dictionary making corrections where needed. To this day, 25 years later, we sign to each other or write in Spanish on Facebook.
New Year’s Eve in Costa Rica was a special, blessing. The Esquivel tribe (all 9) and I went together to a church service and after Pastor preached, we all stood in a circle to share how God had blessed us in the previous year. Yadira took me aside and asked a very important favor. At age 17, she had never been able to share on this special night because although she went to a deaf school, her family knew very little sign language. She communicated with them by reading lips and speaking or writing Spanish. Would I be able to translate for her? Oh wow! What an honor. So in that candlelit room of believers, this precious child, who had years of pent up feelings of love and gratitude, poured her heart out to the Congregation. She shared how much Christ meant to her, how she loved her family, little miracles God had done for her and many blessings. I translated from Sign Language to Spanish as she spoke. Everyone, including me, had tears in our eyes as Yadira at long last had a chance to express herself on New Year’s Eve because God had sent an American sister to help her. Happy New Year Colusa County from my grateful heart.
■ Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at email@example.com.