According to Plan

Have you ever felt drawn to something that seems absurd at first, but makes complete sense later on?

Today, we’re excited to share Natalia’s testimony, the second of two stories highlighting FAIR’s Hands of Faith mini-appeal, focused on developing resources to reach the deaf community. She’s a member of the El Redil Church in Medellin (Colombia) where Fellowship International missionaries Claudia and Diego Cardona minister to the deaf population in the city and surrounding area. It’s a story about one woman’s journey to faith, and how what seemed like a failure, was exactly according to God’s plan.

“My name is Natalia Gómez Ruiz. I married Julio Cesar Arango on March 23rd of this year. The Lord gave us a beautiful daughter, Julieta Arango Gómez who is five years old. I have been attending El Redil church with my daughter for four years.

“My story with sign language began in 2012. The vast majority of hearing people who learn this language are relatives of the deaf or pursuing university degrees in special education. I did so as a result of not being able to pronounce the letter Z in English (or so I thought at that time!). I decided to learn a language in which I did not have to speak, so I arrived at ASANSO (Association of Deaf People of Antioquia) and started my studies. As was usual for me, I quickly dropped out.

“However, God had a plan for me.

“Three years later, my cousin Meche invited me to El Redil del Estadio church. Although I knew a little about Christianity, I had never attended a church consistently. I remember that Sunday as if it were yesterday. I arrived at the church carrying my one-year-old daughter. As I nervously walked inside… the first thing I saw was a poster at the entrance indicating something related to deaf people! I had to sit down in tears. At that very moment I understood that I had not started learning sign language because of my difficulty with English, but because God wanted me to serve Him among the deaf population. When I finally calmed down, I entered the service and couldn't focus on the praise, nor on what the pastor was saying, I could only look at the people who were doing the interpretation... I couldn't stop crying and thanking God.

“From that day, my adventure in the church and the ministry to the deaf began. I participated in every sign language course offered, I attended the retreats and meetings without even caring that I did not understand very well. God was guiding me more and more in His direction. He placed in my path people like professor Beatriz Rincón who is deaf, Natalia Sandoval (who was with me when I was learning Worship) and Eliana Zuluaga (who has been and will continue to be my teacher). I was learning at a fast pace.

“Now I see that God has given me the ability to serve among the deaf in many ways: in worship, in preaching, teaching hearing people about deaf culture, or in counseling. Just by listening to these people, who struggle by not having anyone to talk to about their realities, I have been able to preach the Gospel since the deaf community usually do not even know who Jesus is. One of the most warming experiences has been serving the Lord by guiding moms in the parenting of their children.

“This whole process has also impacted my personal and family life. We have been able to see God's grace in many ways. One of them is my marriage, since my husband is not a believer and did not want to get married at the beginning of our relationship. Also, seeing my toddler doing sign language is the sweetest thing, playing at being an interpreter. 

“A year later, I continued my studies at ASANSO and I started seeing job opportunities. This was incredible because even though I did poorly in the selection process, I was hired nevertheless! I currently work as an interpreter in the educational field and have served in companies, interviews, medical appointments, and court. This has been wonderful, as I have had the opportunity to gain more experience and feel more confident interpreting in church.

“For the first time in Medellín, a professional university program in Interpretation and Translation (Colombian Sign Language - Spanish) was launched. Many people showed up and God blessed me with the opportunity to start studying.

“I hope to continue hand in hand with God, serving Him among the deaf. Every time I walk in front of the audience, the only thing I do is give my hands to Him... so that He is the one who speaks through me.”

— Natalia Gomez, Redil Estadio (Medellin, Colombia)

It’s so encouraging to hear stories like Natalia’s, where pieces of God’s plan are clearly visible. God used what Natalia saw as a failure, and turned it into a call to faith and to serve the deaf. There are many reasons that the hearing members of El Redil Estadio church learn to speak Colombian Sign Language. Foremost is the desire to see the deaf people in their community come to believe the Gospel.

You can help bring the Gospel to life for deaf Colombians through FAIR’s Hands of Faith mini-appeal.