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June 2012 Devotional

Tom Hudspeth

1 Corinthians 12.12-13

You Belong

1 Corinthians 12 (12) The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. (13) Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.

With this passage from First Corinthians, I want to show how that message relates to my story.

I want to show you something, it is a wooden plaque, with the outlined letters to the name "Jesus." Did you catch that? A Deaf person, named Calvin, gave this to me after I started to learn sign language in Oklahoma about 23 years ago.

I tell you a story. I grew up oral deaf, and I didn't know sign language. When I was about 5 years old, I went to Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) in St. Louis, Missouri. I was able to learn to read lips, and speak. That same time, my father started a church for hearing people. I grew up in the church, and many people loved me and were nice to me.

When I was 25 years old, I started to feel God calling me to be a minister. I had thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but I wasn’t a very good law student. I failed. I didn't know what to do. I prayed to God, "Give me something I can be good at! Help me!" I met a minister in New Zealand. We chatted, and I asked him about his work. Wow, he talked about helping people in times of death, sickness, marriage. My father also sent me a letter, told me that he saw I had some gifts for ministry. I thought about these things, and prayed "od help me do your will."

Two years later, I studied in seminary. But, I prayed another prayer "God, what kind of minister do you want me to be? Yes, I accept your call to be a pastor, but what kind of pastor do you want me to be? There is so much to do, but I need focus." About that time, I met Calvin in Oklahoma. He was a big man, had a beard.

I had never met Deaf people before. I felt nervous. I was with a group of Deaf people in Oklahoma City. I didn't know sign language and I felt awkward. I was with a friend who interpreted for me, and he translated for me. We were at St. John's United Methodist Church. I walked into the church and I saw a lot of Deaf people. They looked at me, and felt awkward. I couldn't say hello because I didn't know sign language. The interpreter signed for me, and the Deaf asked me, "are you hearing?" I explained that I wasn't deaf and I wasnt full hearing, but hard of hearing. They understood that I was on the fence between hearing and deaf worlds.

At that moment, I met this big, bearded man in blue jean overalls. He looked a little rough. We introduced ourselves and gave our names. He continued signing to me, and since I didn’t know ASL, I waited for the interpreter to translate for me. I asked "what did he say?" The interpreter chuckled, "He, Calvin, said you belong with us." I was puzzled, "I belong with him? Why do I belong with him?" I waited for the interpreter to translate, and again another laugh, "He said you belong with us because you have a hearing aid."

I thought, "Oh, I see." I was shocked. I had never heard or seen that before. For the first time in my life I felt a fit. All my life I was trying to fit in with hearing world, learning speech, reading lips — all the things to be in the hearing world. But now, my first time in the Deaf world, within 15 minutes of meeting a Deaf person, I am told "you belong with us." Wow. Why, because of my hearing aid.

Now, let’s walk backwards to that scripture verse from First Corinthians. That verse talks about all people belonging to the Body of Christ — the Church. That means everyone is like a part of the body, an eye, ear, nose, hands, feet, head, all have a necessary part in the body — all are connected.

That man, Calvin, looked at me and told me that I belonged with him.

It was a profound moment for me. True, the Church needs all of us. We all belong together. The Church is not just an ear, not just an eye. No. The Church is like all the parts of the body, eye, ear, so on, working together.

So I thought about what Calvin said to me "You belong with us — the Deaf." I prayed to God again. "Yes God, you want me to learn sign language, to learn Deaf people, their culture, and their ways and to experience them. Yes, I will."

At age 28, I started to learn sign language and to know Deaf people.

From that time on, I have wanted Deaf people to know that they belong to God, belong to the "Body" of Christ, the Church. (Picking up the "Jesus" plaque.) This plaque of "Jesus," Calvin gave to me later. I will always remember Calvin. I belong to Jesus. And you belong to Jesus too. Amen.

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