Teaching Kristi to Love God
OUR daughter, Kristi, was born in 1977. Shortly thereafter, our doctor gave us devastating news: Kristi had been born with severely profound hearing loss and a mild form of cerebral palsy. Little did we know how much our lives would be affected.
A few months later, my husband Gary and I began attending special classes in the city of Melbourne, Australia, where we learned how to work with our daughter. We also visited the National Acoustic Laboratory in Melbourne. There ten-month-old Kristi was fitted with tiny hearing aids. She hated the devices, and since they had wires attached to them, she would pull them out as fast as we could put them back into her little ears! She also had to wear a harness to hold the batteries, which were quite heavy.
Because of the cerebral palsy, Kristi had difficulty learning to walk. That meant weekly sessions with a physical therapist. But by age three, Kristi began to walk by herself, although she had many falls. Physical therapy continued until she was five. Meanwhile, we moved to the nearby town of Benalla, where Gary ran his business.
A teacher for the deaf drew our attention to the special educational needs Kristi would have. That meant another move, this time to Bendigo, a city that had a school for the deaf. Since I was pregnant with our second child, we delayed this move until Kristi was four years old and our new son, Scott, was five months old. At a hospital in Bendigo, weekly speech-therapy sessions commenced—treatment that would continue for the next ten years. Gary and I also began to learn sign language.
Our biggest concern was Kristi’s spiritual education. You see, Gary and I are both Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we were determined to raise Kristi “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) But how would we do so? The principal of the school Kristi attended observed: “Teaching Kristi about God will be the most difficult concept to teach. You cannot see God, so how will you explain him to her?” What a huge challenge we now faced! We soon learned that it would take a lot of time, study, and patience.
At first, we used pictures and diagrams, keeping our language as simple as possible. We took her to Christian meetings and in the preaching work, even though she had little understanding of what was going on. As Kristi became adept at sign language, a whole new world opened up for her! Even so, there were many words, phrases, and concepts in the Bible that were difficult to explain. One of her favorite books was My Book of Bible Stories, * which was written especially for children. The colorful pictures—along with some diagrams that we made—proved invaluable. In time, a love of God began to grow in Kristi’s heart.
Kristi’s school principal kindly put us in touch with some other Witnesses who were raising deaf children. A big breakthrough occurred when they explained how the deaf can preach to hearing people. One way is by handing them a card containing a printed Scriptural message. So when Kristi was ready to share Bible truths with others, she could easily do so! She became an unbaptized publisher of the good news at age 14. In 1994 she was baptized at age 17.
Still, Kristi needed wholesome association, and it was difficult for her to develop friendships with hearing Witnesses. So Gary and I began holding sign-language classes for members of our congregation who were interested in working with deaf ones. Some who attended our classes later got jobs interpreting for the deaf. But more important, many who learned how to sign came to enjoy communicating with Kristi very much. Now Kristi was able to benefit more fully from our Christian meetings and assemblies. To this day, she takes an active part in them. Kristi is very grateful for the loving interest the brothers have taken in her.
One day Kristi expressed to us her desire to become a regular pioneer, or full-time evangelizer. Gary helped her to obtain a driver’s license, and after working out other details, Kristi was appointed a regular pioneer in 1995. In 2000, she was also able to take up part-time employment at an elementary school. There she helps out with the education of deaf children.
Now Kristi, Gary, our son Scott, and I all share the joy of serving as regular pioneers. We are delighted to be able to spend time teaching people about our God, Jehovah!
‘The Requests of Our Hearts’
Kristi’s deafness is an ongoing challenge for all of us. Sometimes when Kristi engages in the Christian ministry, there is no one to interpret for her, no one with whom she can share her thoughts and feelings. She says: “It feels as if I am living in a country where everyone else speaks a different language.” Even so, we have all learned to cope well with her situation.
We take comfort in the words of Psalm 37:4: “Take exquisite delight in Jehovah, and he will give you the requests of your heart.” Kristi’s cherished hope is to hear music and the sounds of nature and to speak to her loved ones audibly. I long for the day when Kristi will be able to hear my voice. We have faith that these requests of our hearts will soon be granted us, just as the Bible promises.—Isaiah 35:5.—Contributed.
^ par. 8 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Kristi, at 14 months, with “My Book of Bible Stories”
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Kristi presenting the good news using a printed card
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Scott, Kristi, Gary, and Heather Forbes today