Deaf + Hearing = One World

7 09 2008

Labor Day weekend was the time for LifeLight.  It is a HUGE outdoor Christian festival in Sioux Falls, SD.  It’s free and open to everyone.  My son and I signed up to volunteer for the weekend and we were excited to be a part of an event this big.  This whole event is staffed by volunteers and it was undoubtedly the best event I’ve attended of it’s kind.

Alex was enlisted to drive the parking “tram.”  This tram is actually a tractor that pulls a large trailer to which benches have been attached; which provides transportation to and from the parking areas to the various stages.  Since it was 90 degrees and the winds were somewhere around gale force (actually only 40mph, but who’s counting?), this was not the most ideal job for an asthmatic.  He was quite stern about not quitting on the fine folks of LifeLight however, so instead of quitting, we went to the emergency room instead for a nebulizer treatement and a new inhaler.

I was helping to coordinate those volunteers who’d signed up to work the vendor booths.  You know, the tables that are set up in mega rows that stock all manner of artist paraphernalia for the most ardent of fans.  Casting Crowns and Building 429 have really cool custom drum sticks by the way.  I know I personally sold over 50 million TWLOHA t-shirts in little over 90 minutes on Saturday evening.  Maybe it was only 30 million, but I lost count at some point due to the constant search for $5 bills to make change.  Why can’t these people just make everything cost $20 and set it so the ATMs only give out $20 bills (well, most places have it half right anyway 😉 )

When I wasn’t setting up merchandise, or selling merchandise, I was helping other volunteers get to those places that needed them.  This pretty much consisted of grabbing anyone who chose to stop at our table for more than 3 seconds and assigning them to a place to work.  That’ll teach them to linger around my work station, that’s for sure!

One of the many “vendors” in our area wasn’t a vendor at all, but a rather a wonderful family that was there to provide a service I’d never seen at a festival like this before.  This family, and their group of volunteers, are called “HandsInMotion.” They travel the Christian concert and festival circuit, providing signing services for those hearing impaired persons who, otherwise, would not be able to get nearly as much out of these largely auditory experiences.  It is estimated that only 3 to 6% of the hearing impaired community are Christians.

As I watched this family and their group serve those in need during the festival, I couldn’t help but wonder how it all got started.  Afterall, it’s not as if thousands of deaf folks flock to music festivals, right?  Actually, more would attend if they could “hear” the concerts.  Having an interpreter who specializes in music at these events, makes it possible for those who would otherwise be left out, to experience something very unique.

When I asked Jeff (the founder and director of H.I.M.) about this, he said that many years ago while attending a festival in Chicago, his wife noticed two deaf individuals who appeared to be very lost and just wandering.  She only new alphabet signing, but managed to find out why they were there and what they needed.  She recognized that there were no sign language interpretors because Christian concerts and festivals are outside the jurisdiction of the A.D.A, so they don’t have to provide them.

Jeff and his wife knew that this was the ministry to which God was calling them.  They found others willing to volunteer their gifts and talents and off they went.  They set up a non-profit organization do handle the requests of event organizers and coordinators throughout the U.S.  It took off!

Last year, this family earned just under $21,000 in their “real” jobs.  Of that, $6,000 went into direct support of this ministry.  They have set up their organization so that they CANNOT be paid from any funds received.  They sell small jewelry items at various events to help offset fuel and travel expenses for these events.  They drive a bus folks, so that’s A LOT of fuel!  All of their volunteers are just that.  Volunteers.  They pay their own way, provide their accomodations, etc.  Funds received by this organization are used to pay for continuing education for the volunteers, as well as to help teach others sign language so they can volunteer too!

Not only was I struck by the uniqueness of this ministry, but I was humbled by the passion and joy that ressonated with this family.  It was very easy to see that they truly loved what they were doing!  That was partly evident because their almost one-year-old son was with them from open to close (9am to 10pm) each day and their daughter was busy making more jewelry to sell (very moderately priced too, I might add).

Take a moment or three to stop by their site and check out their ministry in more detail.  Even better, if you use sign language or know someone who does, get involved!  They are always looking for more people to help out.  If you’re an artist and would like an interpretor for an event, contact Jeff at his site and he’ll do his best to help you out.

Bring the Word of God and the love of Christ to the 94 to 97% of the deaf world who hasn’t experienced it yet.  Make it possible for those who are deaf to “hear” the gospel; and become part of One World; His World.