This week we will feature a different woman from #theFives as she shares her heart with us. In an attempt to break down walls and promote unity among women, we will uncover the real lives of those we haphazardly label and judge.
Here is the story of Tamara Koehler, a Deaf woman who is called to share Jesus with others in the Deaf community:
Around the world, the Deaf are one of the populations least reached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tamara, who is deaf, was blessed to grow up in a Christian home where she studied the Bible and learned to pray. Her parents raised her in the “mainstream” culture, socializing with hearing people, and only having a few Deaf relationships.
That was until about eight years ago, when Tamara decided to accept her deafness, and, by extension, God’s calling on her life to share the love of Christ with the Deaf.
“God said, ‘I want you to go to the Deaf community and socialize and tell them about Me,” she said.
Since that time, Tamara has learned there are about 70 million Deaf in the world and only 2 percent know Christ.
“Right now, I am trying to build trust within the Deaf community, and socializing so they can trust me and know the Lord,” Tamara said. “While I do that I’m trying to educate my own church community about the Deaf community and what they need for modern church life to be accessible.”
Communication, along with making worship and teaching fully accessible, are critical.
She said churches give the impression that Deaf people need “help” when what they really need is “access.”
“We need interpreters. We need captioning on videos shown during services and online content,” she said. “Some churches use video to teach online, but there’s no caption and all I see is a moving mouth.”
Additionally, a shortage of professional interpreters in churches presents an obstacle.
“When people want to learn sign and interpret in church, they just go ahead and do it, but they jump in too fast,” Tamara said. “They’re not clear and understandable, because translating is different from communicating. They have to learn to translate clearly, hear what is being said and communicate it with their hands and faces.”
The challenges are many, but often stem from a difference in “heart language.”
“My observation is that I’m noticing more and more deaf people don’t know the Bible,” she said. “ASL is their primary language and English is second. When they read the Bible, they can’t understand it. They need ASL to be able to understand what the Bible is saying to them because of the formal English.”
In her calling, Tamara now seeks to be a bridge between the Deaf and hearing worlds.
“I’m trying to start something within the Deaf community and be a facilitator between the hearing and deaf communities. I want to help the Deaf community build more relationships, especially in the Christian environment,” she said. “I’ve been able to share what God has done in my life and given that testimony. I’ve noticed through my testimony and my experiences and sharing with others, it really has touched other lives.”
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Share your story below.
If you are Deaf and would like to join this session of #theFives, please email us directly at Erica@BelieveBoldly.com
We hope you can #findyourtribe here with us.
*All stories featured in the#FindYourTribe series were collected and written by Sarah Gooding. We love her so.