Wess Speaks (Part IX)

Read all the posts in the Wess Speaks series.

  • Have you been able to use your sign language as a ministry tool? (Sara Benson)

Wow … how do you even know that that’s one of the languages that I learned?

I learned sign language in San Angelo, TX. It was right after I had come out of the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA, where I had been learning Czech to be a spy with the US Army. I saw sign language for the first time in a little Baptist church and I thought What a beautiful language.

I went up to the lady and said, “What are you doing?”

She said, “This is sign language.”

And I said, “Really?”

And she showed me [the signs for] Jesus and love and save – the gestures are so powerful. And this dear lady said to me, “You want to learn this?”

And I said, “I’m only here in San Angelo for three months.”

She said, “Every Sunday afternoon if you come to my house I will teach you this language.”

I fell in love with the language, and I got to the point where I could sign the hymns as we were singing, but I couldn’t ever get good enough to keep up with the preacher. The tragedy is that I haven’t done anything with it. I do now sit in church behind the sign language section because I just love to watch it. It is so expressive.

The beauty of sign language is that you can’t ignore the person you’re talking to when you’re doing sign language. You have to be eye to eye – personally engaged – because the gestures all matter. It is one of the most beautiful languages on earth.

I’m so chagrined that I fell in love with it, learned everything so quickly, and then haven’t had a chance to do anything with it.

If you’re new here, these are transcribed answers from a conversation we recorded with our CEO, Wess Stafford.

6 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Mike Stephens March 28, 2009


    I learned the sign language to “Awesome God” my favorite song while answering phones for a Compassion event!!! I simply asked a girl if she knew the signs for “Awesome God” and she taught me!!! But I have since forgotten!!!

  2. Kees Boer June 6, 2008

    Hi, Vicki,

    I’m going to be there in 3 weeks and the tour is a week later. I would have loved to have met her. Will you and her be at the DR Advocates conference in October? I just sent the registration in.

    On sign language, I remember the first time, I saw it. It was one of the first days, that I lived in the USA. I went to a big church meeting on Sunday. I saw this lady standing in the front of the meeting, talking to a number of people, while the pastor was speaking. At the time, I thought that is was just someone, who was very uninhibited, actually a bit rude, who was just totally ignoring the church service and was just having her own conversation, while using her hands a lot. I was suprised how no one stopped. Then later on, I found out what she was doing! LOL! I had never seen it before.

    On that topic, anyone ever see the show Sue Thomas FBEye? It’s based on the true story of a Christian lady, who worked for the FBI and was deaf and she was an excellent lip reader. So, she was hired to be able to read the “bad guys” lips with a binoculaur. Anyways, this is the website (www.docstfbeye.com). The producers are Christians and sponsor a child themselves with Compassion.



  3. Beth Ingersoll June 6, 2008

    A friend of mine in middle school knew sign language and taught me a little. I wish I still remembered it!

  4. Vicki Small June 5, 2008

    I’ve always thought I would like to learn sign language, but I’ve never even enrolled in a class. Numerous times, I’ve said, “Maybe when we’re retired.”

    Kees, I learned this evening that a friend of mine from my last sponsor tour will be on the Advocates Vision tour to Bolivia. Her name is Barbara; she’s in Hawaii.

  5. Juli Jarvis June 5, 2008

    One of the projects we visited in the DR — #251 I think — is nearly all hearing-impaired students. This was the project of Anabel, one of June Bianci’s kids. We had so much fun talking to the kids there. My friend that travelled with me is hearing impaired, so we had to translate from the deaf student, to the Spanish sign language translator, to the English translator, and then to my friend (who was reading lips). I had never seen a four-way translation before, and it was amazing! We were also able to speak to the kids a little bit in sign language directly. It was Sunday, so we got to watch the whole service in sign language –awesome! When Anabel started attending this project as a child, her father was an alcoholic and not a Christian–now he is not only a Christian but also a Pastor, so we also got to visit his church & project! Very touching! Anabel is a Doctor now, serving her community beautifully.

  6. Kees Boer June 5, 2008

    That is amazing. I didn’t know that Dr. Stafford was learning to be a spy with the American Army. That’s really cool. The name is Stafford, Wess Stafford.


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