Reaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teens Throughout West Michigan
DTQ Director, Ellen, shares about her passion for the ministry and how God is using it to change lives.
I grew up watching my Deaf brother struggle with isolation – no friends at school, no interpreter at church, often left out of conversations and jokes. Although all my family members know at least some level of American Sign Language, he still missed out on a lot. After going to college and becoming a certified ASL interpreter, God placed a new passion in my heart – reaching the spiritually lost Deaf teens in West Michigan and providing community for my brother. I had volunteered with Youth For Christ Campus Life during my college years, and learned about the Deaf Teen Quest ministry model. In 2018 God made it possible for us to launch the first DTQ site in West Michigan!
YFC Deaf Teen Quest is designed specifically for building Christ-centered, life-changing relationships with Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. Teams of caring Christian adults enter the world of Deaf teenagers with “fun, friendship, fellowship and faith.” DTQ provides a healthy peer group environment with Christian role models to help Deaf teens uncover God’s story of hope in their lives and develop a mature faith that makes a positive difference in the world.
The West Michigan chapter reaches students from Grand Rapids, Holland, Greenville, Central Montcalm, and we are making plans to connect with more areas in 2022. Most Deaf kids are born into hearing families, and although many parents learn some sign language, it usually isn’t enough for the deeper conversations that teenagers desperately need. That leaves Deaf students without the opportunity to talk about what they face day to day – friendships, mental health, faith, and so much more. Deaf Teen Quest leaders step into that gap by providing authentic, Christ-sharing relationships with teens and helping them navigate the trials of being a teenager.
Alex was one of the Deaf students at our very first DTQ event in 2018. He was at almost every event following, and it was captivating to see him soaking up the positive community and lessons about Jesus. He comes from a very broken home, so in a lot of ways Deaf Teen Quest became his family. We could fully communicate with him. We took the time to process through the difficult situations he was facing, and cheered him on. We loved him and gave him a place to belong. The pandemic isolation hit him really hard, but the DTQ leaders were persistent in loving him, bringing cookies and sitting 6 feet apart on the porch to chat. After one of these visits, he sent me a message,
“I’m so thankful to God and the DTQ leaders for helping me know that I’m not alone. I went on a walk and felt God there with me. I know I am not alone.”
Alex graduated in 2020, but this past summer came back to DTQ as a Young Leader. We are continuing to pour into him and help shape him into the leader God is calling him to be. Alex’s story represents the heart of Deaf Teen Quest – to show students that they are not alone! We are there for them, and more importantly, their Savior Jesus knows them deeply and loves them deeply.
If you’d like more information or to get involved, please contact Ellen.