Reaching Spencer

    “Reaching Spencer,” Ensign, July 2004, 65

    Reaching Spencer

    As the prelude music began, I silently offered a prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me reach Spencer today. Help me be able to sign, and help him to understand.”

    I had been called to sign in Primary for eight-year-old Spencer. He was deaf and confined to a wheelchair. A stomach tube provided all nourishment for his 35-pound body. A trachea tube pumped oxygen into his lungs.

    Spencer was learning to sign, and it had been years since I’d taken sign language classes. For the last few months I had struggled as I tried to communicate with him. When he did understand, his face lit up in delight. Other times he clapped his hands in frustration as if to say, “What are you saying? Help me understand.”

    The last few weeks had been especially frustrating. His bright, intelligent eyes had seemed to say, “Can’t you do better than this?” In turn I had studied harder, but the signs I tried to communicate with were signs he didn’t comprehend.

    Today I hoped things would be better. As singing time began, the chorister told a story of a little boy who, lost for days in a cave, had sung the song we were about to sing and was comforted by it.

    The room was quiet as she repeated the words of the Primary song. They had such a powerful message I caught my breath as I silently prayed for guidance to know how to convey that message to Spencer. Then I began to sign:

    Heavenly Father, are you really there?

    And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?

    Some say that heaven is far away,

    But I feel it close around me as I pray.

    Heavenly Father, I remember now

    Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:

    “Suffer the children to come to me.”

    Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.

    (“A Child’s Prayer,” Children’s Songbook, 12)

    As we sang the first line, I held up a picture of the First Vision. Pointing to Heavenly Father I signed Heavenly Father. Suddenly Spencer’s eyes seemed to come alive. Understanding seemed to light his face.

    Breathlessly we sang on. Spencer watched my every move. As we sang “Something that Jesus told disciples long ago: ‘Suffer the children to come to me,’” I held up a picture of Jesus blessing little children.

    As we began to sing the first verse again, Spencer signed with me. Over and over again we sang. Joy shone from his eyes as his tiny hands signed in unison with mine. Tears filled my eyes as we started the second verse:

    Pray, he is there;

    Speak, he is list’ning.

    You are his child;

    His love now surrounds you.

    As we sang the last few words, we were no longer communicating by our hands through sign but by our spirits through the Holy Spirit.

    As the last lilting notes of the piano faded, I glanced across the room. As evidenced by the tears coursing down her face, Spencer’s mother, a Primary teacher, had witnessed the answer to prayer. Spencer’s Heavenly Father loved him, and now Spencer knew.

    Illustrated by Robert A. McKay