YFC’s Deaf Teen Quest Provides a Community for Youth to Experience Christ

September 6, 2022

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YFC Deaf Teen Quest

The CDC indicates that roughly 1.7 children born out of every 1000 has an identifiable hearing loss at birth. This translates to a significant population of young people that use American Sign Language. This also includes other accommodations to gain communication access with the world at large. Those who live in the deaf world have a long and rich history as a linguistic and culture group. This group also had to create a community of like-minded individuals who see the world through a unique lens. However, there is a challenge to making these same meaningful connections to the wider hearing world.

 

Youth For Christ (YFC), a leader in the missional ministry community in America for 77 years, is dedicated to coming alongside young people — all young people — and living life in Christ with them through personal, powerful relationships. YFC’s Deaf Teen Quest builds Christ-centered and life-changing relationships with deaf and hard of hearing teenagers. With that said, it is always important to have caring mentors enter their world by offering fun, friendship, fellowship and faith. YFC Deaf Teen Quest creates a space for healthy peer groups with Christian role models. YFC helps deaf teens uncover God’s story of hope in their lives. It is important to develop a meaningful faith that makes a positive difference in the world.

 DTQ Challenges

Matthew Belwood is the National Director at YFC’s Deaf Teen Quest. Belwood has been serving alongside deaf and hard of hearing teens since the inception of Deaf Teen Quest in 2000. He recently commented on the challenges deaf teens face in their daily lives — and how Deaf Teen Quest journeys alongside them.

 

Belwood said, “Many people ask, ‘Why don’t you have deaf kids go to other ministry outreaches or just go to a hearing camp and do hearing stuff? They’re regular kids — they just can’t hear.’ I think that that actually makes sense on the surface. But there’s so much more to the deaf experience.”

 Processing the World

“Deaf people experience the world in an entirely different way than hearing people. On a biological level, deaf people use different parts of their brain to communicate than hearing people. They don’t just think like a hearing kid would think who had their hearing turned off. Deaf people are a very specifically designed people group that have a very specific way of processing the world.

 

“So the question is: how do they communicate? How do they problem solve? How do they interact? How do they learn how to make emotional connections? The problem is not deafness. The problem is the disconnect from the world. The majority of the world doesn’t speak their language. Many deaf or hard of hearing kids live in a family with hearing parents or siblings. Imagine living in a house with people who speak an entirely different language most of the time.”

 We are Who we Are

Belwood continued, “I had a deaf kid ask me once, ‘Does God know sign language?’ It broke my heart. I told him, ‘God has complete knowledge of everything about you — your heart, your soul, your mind, your spirit. He purposely designed you just the way you are.’ Deafness is not an accident or disability. Exodus 4:11 makes it clear that God designed us exactly as we are on purpose.

 

“We provide a place for deaf and hard of hearing kids to come and be surrounded by other people just like them. They feel seen and understood at a deeper level. At our Deaf Teen Quest Camps, even the year-round camp staff learn sign language. It’s the one week a year that communication barriers don’t exist. By providing a safe space that celebrates exactly how God made them, many deaf kids feel more comfortable to open up and seek Christ.

 

“YFC’s goal is to see that every young person in every people group in every nation has the opportunity to make an informed decision to be a follower of Jesus Christ and become a part of the local church — including the deaf community.”

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