Summerville Campus Begins ASL Classes

Our “yes” to God’s call is greater than anything we set out to do on our own. Lori Harrison, the Kidscoast Preschool Director from the Summerville Campus, discovered this when God presented her with the challenge to learn American Sign Language (ASL). “This story isn’t solely mine,” Lori shares. “I can’t convey with the right words, how blessed I am that God calls up the broken, the loud, the ill-equipped. He calls for me, calls me to step out into hard and unknown places to be part of something indescribable.” 

Lori hadn’t thought much about ASL until one day, she learned she would have a new Dream Team member (volunteer), in her Kidscoast preschool class. “I was told that she was Deaf, but could read lips. It helped a little to know that I could still communicate with her, but I was still nervous. Then I met Sloman and she explained that she was part of our Deaf community, identified as Deaf because of profound hearing loss, and the whole time she is telling me about herself, she was signing and speaking.” 

Needing to do more

Despite Sloman’s perfect speech and ability to read lips, Lori knew she would need to learn to communicate with Sloman in her language, ASL. “At first I didn’t even know the alphabet,” she said. “When Sloman saw me trying and struggling to communicate, she said, ‘I’ll teach you!’ But I knew that what little time we had on Sunday mornings wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to learn fast.”

Terri Gross teaches an ASL class at the Summerville Campus.

Lori spent hours practicing, watching Dr. Bill Vicars’ online lessons, reading and learning about Deaf Culture (which is an important part of learning ASL), and immersing herself as much as she could. 

She also felt the Lord leading her to find a teacher and host ASL classes so others could communicate and serve the Deaf community as well. Unsure how that would work, she gave God a list of her excuses. But God’s call remained the same. “He was clear with what he expected—make his house a place that is more accessible to his people,” Lori said. “What started as a dream for my Kidscoast leaders to learn ASL, has inspired leaders across all areas of our campus to learn, so that they can communicate with, pray with, and make it better for our Summerville Deaf community.” 

Communicating in new ways

“A short while after I started learning, God brought a wonderful family to our Summerville Campus. Other than friends, I hadn’t used ASL in a real-life setting. When I met one of their boys and he asked my name, I replied in ASL. I don’t know why I decided to tell him my name in ASL, but that is when I learned that he knew ASL and that their family was learning together! It was such an exciting moment to have God confirm the need and his plan.”

“My truest hope is that God moves in such magnificent ways that everyone that goes to Seacoast will be able to walk through our doors and find someone who can speak their language and understand them.” – Lori Harrison, Summerville Campus Children’s Coordinator

Lori has been amazed at what God has been doing to not only communicate his love in Kidscoast but also to the Deaf community in the Lowcountry. “The way we use ASL in Kidscoast is so much bigger and different than we ever thought it would be. We quickly realized that there were children in our care that were non-verbal and learning ASL in their homes and through occupational therapy. We have babies and toddlers whose moms have taught them baby sign, and we are able to know when they are hungry and want a snack, etc. We are also learning to communicate with children who may have trouble communicating verbally, and ASL makes it easier.” The Won By One room, a Kidscoast environment created for kids with special needs, is a great example of this. “There are a few children in there that know ASL, and they respond and learn better when ASL is used.”

An estimated 11.5 million Americans identify as Deaf, and around 7,500 in the Lowcountry area.

“My truest hope”,” Lori shares, is that God moves in such magnificent ways that everyone that goes to Seacoast will be able to walk through our doors and find someone who can speak their language and understand them. If we committed ourselves to learning to communicate with every marginalized person that walks through our doors, imagine how that would change the face of ministry in every church around the world. It can only look more like Heaven on Earth if we all are able to have a human connection with someone. Jesus went after the one. Are we?” 

Next steps 

“We can educate ourselves, practice our trades, buy all the right equipment, read all the right books… but until God moves and provides his words, wisdom, and provision, we are all ill-equipped. It’s the stepping out in faith that starts the process of equipping.”

How do you know that God is telling you to do something? “The only way I can describe it,” Lori said, “is that there will be a vision put on my heart that is so overwhelming and outside of my wheelhouse, that I know it could not be mine. If God has put something on your heart, look for the people God places in your life to help you. The people that will call you out and challenge you to a higher standard. Listen to the truths they speak into your life. God blesses you through those around you. His preparation and plan is inherently worked through his people; and that means you are never doing it alone!”