Overcoming Deafness by Listening to God - Part 5

Posted by Gayle Raif on

Mark’s teachers said they knew by his behavior when he had talked with his dad.  But Art didn’t limit his influence just to the telephone.  He came to Maryland, ostensibly to spend the weekend with Mark.  Later that night, as I was getting into my car, I found papers that had been pushed through my window.  They were court orders giving Art custody of Mark; they weren’t spending the weekend together, they were on their way back to Texas.


The next morning I called my lawyer because I had not received any notice of a court hearing.  By the time I got to Texas, my lawyer had arranged a hearing before the judge.  One of the court clerks had not entered a number on a form, which invalidated the orders.  After 12 hours in court, I again was awarded custody.


While I was in Texas, I couldn’t work, but again God provided the means for me to pay the rent on my apartment.  A woman I knew from Gallaudet called to say she needed a place to live temporarily, so we arranged for her to stay in my apartment provided she made the rent and utility payments.


Back in Maryland I got Mark into counseling, but after a year I changed him to a social worker whose specialty was teenagers.  She told me that at his age, Mark’s mores and values were formed and that I needed to let him live with his dad.  I assured her that was a stupid idea.  But as I began to think about what she said, I knew that until Mark saw his dad as he really was, he would see me only as his dad said, not as I really was.  After I made arrangements for Mark’s return, I cried every day for two weeks before I put him on the bus back to Texas.


Now that Mark was gone, my excuse for not dating went out the door with him.  I thought I would die of embarrassment if I continually had to ask my date to repeat what he said.  So I had a choice:  stay home and be lonely, or get out and try.  Fortunately, I tried.


I changed churches because they had sign interpreted services.   I began attending a Sunday School class taught by a man who was near my age and single.  I discovered he was from Texas and had been a member of the church where my father was Minister of Education. He knew my parents and sister.


From the minute I walked into the church, I was greeted with open arms.  They took me out for brunch after church, invited me to their homes for dinner, and even made me part of their couples’ group.  This is where I finally “came clean” about parts of my past I had not told anyone.   I was afraid that my admission meant I was not a good Christian, and I couldn’t do that.  I felt a huge load lift off my shoulders when they told me they didn’t care where I had been, only where I was then with God.


At Gallaudet, I continually was amazed how God helped me.  With other students’ encouragement, I got over my reluctance to sign.  I changed my major to psychology with a minor in English.  It was a humbling but exhilarating experience when I walked across the stage to pick up my diploma.  I’d graduated summa cum laude with honors in psychology, and university honors.


During the summer I had a temporary job until my proposal to King Jordan, President of Gallaudet, was approved.  He hired me as liaison to late-deafened and older students, working through the Office of Admissions.  I held town hall meetings and arranged for faculty and students. I trained faculty in how older students learn.  Many of the faculty began classes just for older students and said they loved them; they were there to learn, not party.  I also developed a handbook to be sent to single parents who were applying to Gallaudet, informing them of rent prices and quality of the schools in the areas surrounding Washington.  At that time computers were just for faculty offices and didn’t make it into the classroom until after I left.  That solved the other problem I had worked on:  to make the lectures accessible to late-deafened students who didn’t know sign language.


At Gallaudet, I continually was aware of how God was using me.  Students and faculty I didn’t know would ask me to pray for a concern of theirs.  God also gave me the creativity (a quality I didn’t know I possessed) to be an effective liaison for the older and late-deafened students.  And it was at Gallaudet that I met the man I was to marry.  He was a dean and on the board of deans and faculty chairs that helped me to incorporate different teaching methods in the classroom to help older students.  And God had even more amazing things in store for me--things for which I had no previous frame of reference.


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