Maria Lúcia, from Brazil, suffers from Usher’s syndrome, a genetic disorder that for many causes hearing loss or deafness and progressive vision loss. She was born deaf and learned sign language as a child. Then, at about 30 years of age, she began losing her eyesight. Despite her challenges, Maria Lúcia did not isolate herself. Now, over 70, she continues to live a happy and meaningful life.
Maria Lúcia came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1977, before she began to lose her eyesight. She explains: “I met a former schoolmate, Adriano, who had recently become a Witness. He shared with me God’s promise of a future earthly paradise where all people will enjoy perfect health. I was so impressed with what he told me that I accepted a Bible study. Soon, I started to associate with a congregation in Rio de Janeiro, where some meetings were interpreted into sign language. With Jehovah’s help, I progressed spiritually and was baptized in July 1978.”
After a time, Maria Lúcia moved to a congregation where there were no Witnesses who knew sign language. At first, this was a challenge, since she could not understand what was being said at the meetings. Two fellow believers came to her aid. They sat with her at meetings and wrote notes to describe what was being said. “At home,” Maria Lúcia says, “I could read the notes over and over so that I could understand the information. Later, these two sisters learned sign language and became my interpreters.”
As Maria Lúcia’s eyesight deteriorated, she could no longer see the signs made by the interpreters. So she began using tactile sign language to communicate. What is that? She explains: “I put my hands over those of the person who is interpreting for me. That way I can recognize the interpreter’s signs.”
Maria Lúcia is grateful for the work done by her interpreters. “They are a precious gift from Jehovah,” she says. “With their help, I can benefit from congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions.”
Maria Lúcia stays active in the ministry. Using tactile sign language, she witnesses to the deaf, who are pleasantly surprised by her efforts to reach them with the good news. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Maria Lúcia has written numerous letters to the deaf with the help of her brother, José Antônio, who is also deaf and blind. a
How does she do it? “I use an L-shaped piece of flat plastic as a tool. It helps me to write in straight lines and paragraph form,” she says. “José Antônio has an excellent memory. He suggests topics and Bible scriptures, and I include them in the letters. I try to write in a way that deaf people can understand. Not all deaf people are familiar with written language.”
Although Maria Lúcia is now completely blind, she continues to be industrious. Karoline, one of her interpreters, says: “Maria Lúcia does all her housework and keeps her house clean and tidy. She loves preparing meals and sharing them with friends.”
Jefferson, who serves as an elder in Maria Lúcia’s congregation, adds: “Maria Lúcia has intense love for Jehovah. And she loves people. She is always doing things to benefit others. She is a selfless person.”—Philippians 2:4.
a José Antônio became a Witness after Maria Lúcia and was baptized in 2003. Like Maria Lúcia, he was born deaf and eventually lost his eyesight.