Tag Archives: featured

NaNoWriMo 2015

Yup, I joined the National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) and already I’ve logged more words than I did during NaNoWriMo last year. I’m only about two days behind this year.  Here’s what I’m working on…

A Symphony of Gems

Genre: Fantasy
Word Count: 19,181 of 50,000
WriMo ID: jjhil


A quest to reunite the gems before the Reclaiming. A force determined to keep the gems apart, which is best done by maintaining enmity between different cultures. A story of lives caught in the balance while the quest and its battles rage on. Continue reading NaNoWriMo 2015

2014 January – May: We Welcome You

© Robert Lerich | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Robert Lerich | Dreamstime Stock Photos

You know I couldn’t reference Oz without bringing in at least one song…  and it’s fitting.  You’ll remember the house landed with a thud, a colorful place opened up, and a host of friendly people began singing their welcomes and representing their organizations… the Lullaby League, the Lollipop Guild, etc…  The people who have welcomed me are not Munchkins, but it took them about as long to become dear to me (which means, no time at all).

Continue reading 2014 January – May: We Welcome You

Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries

Jesus loves me, this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong –
they are weak, but He is strong.

Generations of mothers, fathers, babysitters and other caretakers have sung or hummed this song while rocking a small child.  Many of us keep it in our ‘top ten’ list of resources by which we comfort ourselves in times of distress or defeat.

What if you had never heard it?  What if your child cannot hear you sing it?  If you’re among the millions of d/Deaf people, or if you are the parent of a deaf child, you don’t have to reach into your imagination to answer that question.

In the early 1990’s, Marshall and Terry Lawrence were faced with the reality of a deaf child and painfully few resources to tell her this simple truth:  Jesus Loves You.  Thus began Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries, a group of dedicated people creating resources to reach deaf children with the love of Jesus, most of whom are born to hearing families.

Many well meaning people over the decades have made honest attempts at communicating the gospel, most by signing messages delivered in a hearing church.  Their desire is to deliver the message in an accessible way, but the result is too often hand-babble and a helper paradigm that leaves d/Deaf people confused and feeling ‘less than’.  An interpreted church service, if there’s no fellowship with the rest of the body of believers, leaves a d/Deaf person feeling as welcome as an eleventh toe.  This is why less than 2% of d/Deaf Americans report having a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, and only 4% are associated with a church.

Progress in technology has made it possible to produce and distribute materials from d/Deaf people for d/Deaf people, communicating ideas in their language  (ASL) and culture (Deaf/Visual).  Several ministries, such as Deaf Missions, DOOR, and Deaf Video Communications have been presenting the gospel, Bible translations, sermons, and other materials to support adults in their Christian walk.

Over the last 15 years, thanks to Silent Blessings and their collaborative partnerships, the pool of resources for deaf children has grown exponentially.  The initial hunt for material yielded less than 2 hours of video; now there’s over 26 hours of video available, and feedback of a world-wide impact.  Their flagship has been Dr Wonder’s Workshop, a weekly TV variety show with per-episode themes presented in ASL with voice-overs and captioning.  Deaf and hearing siblings can all enjoy and benefit from watching, and it can be engaging for adults, too.  They are now looking to expand into VBS curriculum and making learning materials available online to reach not only deaf children, but others with conditions such as Autism and a variety of developmental disorders.

A favorite testimony is of a girl who appreciated having her mom sign during family prayer time, at least she could know what others were telling Jesus.  She watched one of the children’s videos and saw a boy praying in American Sign Language.  Discovering that she could talk to Jesus herself,  in her language, changed her life dramatically.  She now participates in family prayer time, as much more than an outside observer.  She is developing her own relationship with Jesus, which is what each of us must do.

Jesus loves me, and Jesus knows my language.  This is the missionary message, and the message that Silent Blessings seeks to deliver to children all over the US, and perhaps the world.

You can help.  You can pray, raise awareness within your church and community, seek out resources and make them available in your church or personal library (or community library), extend your welcome to d/Deaf people in your community, and of course, you can donate funds toward the production and distribution of resources.  See their website, www.SilentBlessings.org, for more information.

Jesus loves me, He who died
Heaven’s gates to open wide.
He will wash away my sins,
let His little child come in.

“Suffer the little children to come unto Me … for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” –Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16

Bilingual Competency vs Interpreting

Competency in two languages does not an interpreter make.

Now, how do I explain that (quickly, effectively, politely) to sincere opportunists who need communication to take place in two languages, only one of which they know? I’ll start directing them to this article. 🙂  Or, perhaps, to the article in Psychology Today.

I am an opportunist – if I know of a need and the resources are nearby to satisfy it, I will try to put the two together. I’m embarrassed to say that I once asked my aunt to loan me fingernail clippers she had recently purchased as a Christmas gift. The need to deal with a snagged nail outweighed my recall of appropriate in that moment. The good news is, she still loves me and I now keep at least one set of clippers within immediate reach at all times. We all do that – momentarily lose our grip on what is proper to satisfy what is urgent, or seems to be. It’s understandable.

I am conversant in American Sign Language, so I have a measure of bilingual competency. In specific settings, I can help one person understand what another person is saying. In low stakes situations, like “where’s the bathroom”, “what’s the price”, and “how did you become friends”, I can support communication, or, ‘interpret’. The higher the stakes, the less I’m qualified, and it’s a steep correlation. Even professional interpreters have to know their boundaries, such as whether they have enough vocabulary and topical understanding to serve in a hospital or courtroom. One grows into that capability with experience and deliberate study, but there’s more…

A missionary friend once told me that she completely switches modes between English and French – her mind is in one language or the other when in conversation. This, she said, is the secret to fluency, and others have told me the same. I had a crash course in this one day when a native pastor asked me how I was enjoying my visit in his country. We struggled for some time with his simple question, until my friend finally said, “He’s speaking English”. Once I stepped across the linguistic border in my mind to the English side, I understood clearly what the man was asking.

That linguistic border, and the time & effort required to cross it, is what separates interpreters from those with bilingual competency. Interpreters are trained and skilled in minimizing that borderland down to the width of a pasture fence. For others, it might as well be the Berlin Wall, complete with guard stations and three car lengths on either side of the line of demarcation. For me, crossing that border takes a few full strides – I can do it, but there’s too much distance and clutter for me to keep pace with two people who are working in one language each. Again, with experience and deliberate training, the skill can be developed in minds with more agility and less clutter than mine.

There is yet another aspect to interpreting, commonly overlooked. Linguists and sociologists will quickly tell how language and culture are intertwined. There are patterns of thought, concepts, and associated vocabulary that have a “chicken-and-egg” relationship with the culture they are in. For example, there are cultures that hold cows in the highest regard, and would no more think of grilling up a hamburger than we would of boiling our dogs. Elsewhere, my family once heard from a butcher that white dog is premium meat, more tender than dark dogs. A less gruesome example is the Scrabble game I played with a foreign friend, and my attempt to explain “dill” to someone whose whole repertoire of pickles were the sweet varieties.

Beyond reference & vocabulary is the potential for cultural gaffes, which in certain settings could create huge messes. There is a culture somewhere that uses the right hand only for restroom purposes, so offering the right hand as a greeting is actually an insult. Comedy sketches abound where a mispronunciation of a word changes the entire sentence. In ASL, there are signs that mean something different based on the slightest movement or difference of location or angle. See “Horrible Homonyms” for more examples (link pending). One pair is ‘SHY’ vs ‘PROSTITUTE’ – you really don’t want to get that pair crossed.

For these reasons and more, it is somewhere between inappropriate and foolhardy to ask someone to serve as an interpreter on the basis of bilingual competency alone. There will be times and places where a person such as myself can support communication, and other times and places where we must decline. That decision point is a negotiation between the people of each language and the person in the middle. I have friends who, knowing my skills and integrity, will ask me to be helpful, or as in a recent situation, get me out of the hot spot quickly. I appreciate their trust and support, and will not squander it stepping into situations I’m not qualified to handle.

Think of the differences between the following:
— fast food burger-flipper vs top chef
— first aid assistance vs surgical care
— school crossing guard vs police officer
— bilingual competency vs interpreter

Long Story Short

Admittedly, 46 years of impressions, studies, goals, successes, failures, pep-talks, and restarts is a long (LONG) story. Likewise, compressing it all into one line conclusions and whether current status can be considered progress or regress is another challenge that leaves out far too many details to satisfy most. I find myself back-pedaling to explain, then running off on a tangent to share an exciting episode, and then trying to recover as I see my listener’s eyes glaze over with the universal question: “Huh?” Herein is my attempt to convey the important details of who I am, where, why, and what’s next. Continue reading Long Story Short