How to Offend People at Deaf Church


Siri said we were only four minutes away. “Brandon...this is Deaf church…what if no one there can hear? Like, probably, no one there can hear. We have to be able to say something in sign, something to make them understand we can’t communicate with them...and why we’re there, even though we’re not Deaf.”

I used my phone, in the parking lot of the church, to figure out how to say what I thought was, “We have had one ASL (American Sign Language) class. We are maybe adopting a deaf child.”

I was so proud of myself. I had it down.


We entered the church feeling out of place. Thankfully, after just a minute or so, a sweet woman walked up and spoke to us out loud, jolting us out of our culture shock. She was the interpreter.

We said hello, explained what we were doing there, and I proudly showed her the sign language I’d learned all of five minutes ago. We...are...maybe...adopting...a...deaf...child.

That’s what I thought I was signing, anyway.

Then, she leaned over, smiled, and pointed out that I was actually doing the sign for “drop” instead of “adopt.”

Oh, hey there, Deaf Church! We are here to MAYBE drop a deaf child. Maybe. We’re thinking about it… Please pray with us...

Thankfully, we got that cleared up before we got beat up by the most Jesus-loving deaf people in the city. The signs for those two words are super similar, okay??

So, yesterday morning, we got the call we’d been waiting for. China said YES and gave us permission to adopt our little deaf sweetheart whom we are naming Sawyer Joy. We’ll call her Joy. It’s easier to sign.


Back in April, when we started the process, we got our first zip file full of paperwork. One of the first things we were told to fill out and return was the “Special Needs Consideration List.” It was about two pages of ailments, one after the other, with boxes to check yes, no, or may consider.

We sat up in our bed that night and I read off the ailments and we answered in unison to each one. We were on the same page - saying no to the most “scary” sounding and yes to the most doable needs.

We felt good about it, but when we got to “deafness,” I paused. One of us said, “I want to check yes to that.” The other said, “I do, too. I don’t know why. But, I do.”

I really don’t remember who said it first, because the weird hmmm-is-this-something-we-could-pursue moment happened for us at the same time.

So, we checked yes. We sent it off, and I got in the shower.

While washing my hair and thinking about special needs, I started praying out loud. I usually only pray out loud with my children or if I’m driving alone in the car and Nicole doesn’t answer her phone. But, for whatever reason, I prayed out loud.

My initial “yes” started feeling scary a few minutes later. I thought, “Why in the world would we do that?” Then I prayed, “God...why am I doing this? Deaf? Why would I ask my family to adjust their lives in such a dramatic way?”

And the Holy Spirit immediately said, “Look how I adjusted My life for you.”

So, this past Sunday, after a few months of taking ASL classes and sitting awkwardly in the corner at the Deaf church, we finally had enough vocabulary to sign with one of the deacons that we are Brandon and Scarlet and we’re adopting a three-year-old deaf girl from China.

He then shared the news with the church and the whole congregation turned to us and gave what looked like gloriously excited spirit fingers. That’s how the Deaf culture applauds. And then they prayed over us in sign language and they hugged us and we cried and it was just amazing.

And now, we will wait. And we will trust that God will take care of our precious daughter. And we will learn how to count past ten in sign language. And we’ll thank Jesus every day for being willing to drop us. I mean, adopt us.

God is so good.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6