The sunlight shimmered off the water in the circular pool in Joe Marriner’s backyard. For Jenna Griffith and Auzy Bú Perry, the 2010 Wildwood Summer Project was ending, and this ceremony capped the finale of their summer of evangelism, discipleship and spiritual growth.
Auzy, Joe and Jenna (pictured left to right) waded in waist-deep water on an August day for Joe’s baptism. She joked with them and then continued talking with her hands in American Sign Language [ASL]. Both Auzy and Joe are deaf.
About 8 months earlier while she was driving, Jenna felt God directing her to interpret for a Summer Project. What? she thought.
That summer, Auzy, a student from Rochester Institute of Technology [R.I.T.] joined the 10-week Cru summer mission in the beach resort community of Wildwood, N.J. Jenna served as Auzy’s interpreter for that summer and the next.
“I would be interpreting everything that was said in meetings, trainings and informal conversations,” Jenna explained. “And I would be speaking what he was signing when he wanted to join in the conversation—essentially I was his voice for the summer, providing access to the information to Auzy, as well as allowing the hearing students who did not know ASL to understand what he had to say.”
Over the summer about 45 students and Cru staff members partnered with 4 churches. This included The Light House Church [TLC] in Cape May Court House, N.J. TLC has an interpreted worship service for the Deaf. That’s how Jenna and Auzy met Joe. He was one of six deaf members that attend the church.
The church celebrated Father’s Day by hosting a picnic at a campground. Joe had just sat down at a picnic table and so Jenna and Auzy started asking him questions in ASL to determine where he was at spiritually.
Jenna and Auzy learned that there were some things Joe didn’t fundamentally understand about Christianity even though he had been going to church most of his life. Finding a cardboard box, they tore it open and between them they signed and sketched a Bible timeline from the Creation story, the Fall, the flood, and Jesus, to the present. This explanation, sprinkled with Joe’s questions and their clarifications, lasted about 2 hours.
They explained to Joe that we are separated from God because of sin.
“What happens if you can’t be with God?” Joe asked.
Jenna and Auzy furthered explained the separation from God meant eternal separation from God, but that he could repent and turn to God and have a relationship with Him.
Joe was adamant. He wanted that relationship with God.
Auzy told Joe through signing that Joe could pray and begin that relationship with God. So Jenna signed a sentence and Joe copied it, as he repented and asked Jesus to come into his life.
Jenna and Auzy met with Joe twice a week for the rest of the Summer Project and studied the gospel of John together. After they left, they contacted Joe over videophone once a week. Because Joe had missed so much growing up in a church without an interpreter, it took about a year to go through the first 5 chapters.
When Auzy and Jenna returned last summer, they continued to meet with Joe.
On that day at the pool the first summer, Jenna looked at Joe and signed. “Joe, you accepted Jesus into your heart this last Father’s Day, correct?”
“Yes,” Joe signed.
“So now Auzy and I baptize you in the name of God the Father, the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the name of the Holy Spirit, “buried,” under the water for the cleansing of sins and “raised” to NEW Life in Christ.”
Jenna and Auzy lowered Joe backwards into the water and the water whooshed when he came up.
Joe started laughing and Jenna joined him.
Joe signed, “Thanks ” and turned and hugged Jenna and then Auzy.
This summer marks the 3rd year in a row that Jenna will interpret for deaf student participants. Although most of the 45 to 50 participants can hear, this year more deaf students have applied.