“A Voice the Deaf Can Hear,” Ensign, Apr. 1976, 18
When I was a young child I felt that I belonged on this earth. I was a part of my family. I had friends. I could attend church and school and be a part of many other things around me.
But when I lost my hearing at the age of six, the world no longer seemed the same to me. My friends left me. My family suddenly seemed distant, even though we lived in the same house. In church I was treated as a nonperson, and I could not learn in school. So eventually I was sent to a school for the deaf, coming home only for Christmas and the summer.
The times I spent at home were unhappy ones. I was left to myself a great deal, with only my books, my bicycle, and my cat. Although I fought to find my place within the family, I never could. I had no one but God.
I would not have you think my family was cruel; they just never took the time to help me function as a human being because they did not understand deafness. After all, human beings need other human beings in order to function like one. I know my mother played an important part in my life because of the foundation she laid for me when I could still hear. One day I asked her where I had come from and how I got here. She told me that I had come from God, and the way she said it made a great impression on me. She told me I had a loving Father in heaven, and young as I was, about five at the time, I know the Spirit bore witness to me that it was true.
I continued to attend church with my family for a number of years, but one day I simply refused to go any more. I did not exist for those people; I had no friends; I could not learn; and the whole thing was making me ill. So I stayed away, but I could not turn my heart away from God. How could I, when I knew he lived above? I could pray, and so I prayed many times during the next few years because I wanted to know the truth.
When I was fourteen, my mother invited me to the branch Christmas program. Since it was Christmas, I went. At the door we met two missionaries. I always hated shaking hands with people who could hear because of the way they looked at me, like I wasn’t really a human being, but I had to shake hands with the elders. The first one was polite and walked away. But the second one looked at me with something in his eyes that told me he recognized me as a human being. He kept looking at me all through the services and later when we went caroling.
This elder was a frequent visitor at our home during the two years he labored in our town. I knew he had something I wanted very badly: the Truth. But I was very shy and afraid, and anyway, I just did not know what questions to ask. He did try to learn to talk to me with his hands, but we never did get very far, since he had his labors to take care of.
One August day I suddenly knew he was coming even before he arrived at the door. When my mother opened the door, they talked to each other, and although I couldn’t hear a thing, I knew he was leaving the mission field. I asked my mother if this was so, and she said yes. I ran outside. I wanted to cry.
“Oh, no,” I thought to myself, “he is going home. What will I do now? We never really got to talk to each other, and now I have lost my opportunity to know the truth, for who can ever take an interest in me as he has? And what about other deaf people who want to know the truth, too? Who will care about them?”
Suddenly I heard a voice saying: “Do not worry. His sister and her husband will.”
“When?” I wanted to know.
“She has to go on a mission to the Spanish-American people first.”
This sounded like it would take a long time, and I was afraid. “How long will it be before she and her husband can help?”
“It will be eight years.”
“But why can’t they do it now?”
“Because you have to grow up first and finish school.”
I got on my bicycle and rode around, and as I did so I asked other questions; the answers were given me, until finally I felt relieved of my fears.
September came, and I left for school. I came home again at Christmastime. And when I walked in the door, I heard a voice telling me that there was something for me on the bookcase. Thinking I was imagining it, I sat down on the sofa, but the voice, more urgent, told me to get up and go to the bookcase. So I did, and found a shiny black book lying on top of it. It was a Book of Mormon. As I opened it, the voice told me that it was mine. Inside, I saw the missionary’s name, Elder Crawford. My mother came up to me and said that it was mine, and she told me how Elder Crawford had gotten my departure date mixed up in September and came a day too late. She said that he wept when he learned I had already left.
I took the book back to school with me. I read it and knew that it was true. I have loved that book and the message it contains ever since.
Years went by. I married Lloyd, and we moved to San Jose. We tried to go to church, but we were treated as nonpersons, so we stayed away. One day it was made known to me that a man and his wife were coming from Vallejo to work with the deaf. A few months later we moved to a new address and a young man called on me. He said “hi” with his hands and told me he was our ward teacher. His name was Melvin Hill.
He and his wife took an active interest in us, and we started going to church again. One day on impulse I showed him my Book of Mormon. He saw the name inside and said, “That’s my brother-in-law!”
So Elder Crawford’s sister and her husband did come, as I had been told just eight years earlier. Sister Hill had indeed been on a mission to the Spanish-American people, and they did come from Vallejo.
Through this couple the deaf people got a branch of their own. There have been many difficulties, but we know God is over everything and that he will see us through. It is a comfort to know that he loves every one of his children. We will not give up the fight.
Editor’s note: Since this writing, Sister Hendricks successfully underwent an operation that has restored 20 percent of her hearing.