Meet Nancy Watson. Nancy has been interpreting Gene’s sermons for 8 years. Before that, she signed at Eastside for another 19 years – 27 years in total. You may have noticed her beautifully signing the sermon at the 9:30 Sunday service in the third row to the right side of the auditorium. But what you probably didn’t know is that she also teaches a beginning class in American Sign Language at Eastside on Wednesday nights in The Block at our Anaheim campus from 6:00 to 8:00 PM with her husband and technical support, Joe. The class is offered to anyone interested and is completely free of charge. There are normally around 20+ people attending. She teaches in the fall, winter and spring, taking a break for summer.
When you talk to Nancy, the value she places on ministering to the deaf is palpable. There were no deaf in her life when she started learning to sign from her then mentor, Stacey Taback (now Whiseheart), but in her many years in the language, her relationships with the deaf have flourished.
Nancy shared her favorite quote from Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind:
“Blindness separates people from things;
deafness separates people from people.” – Helen Keller
So, why would people want to learn sign language? Nancy explains, “It’s a beautiful language. There are so many wonderful people who are deaf you would never have the opportunity to know if you didn’t know the language.”
In the nearly three decades she’s worked with the deaf, both at church and as a professional interpreter in the school system, Nancy has gained deep insight. “The biggest struggle for the deaf is the lack of socialization with the hearing community. Isolation results when there is lack of communication with those who don’t know your language no matter what the language.” Nancy believes that if more people knew Eastside offered an interpreted service, more deaf would attend and ultimately form a community group within our church. This has not yet happened, but her enthusiasm is not dampened.
And it’s understandable when you hear one story about Nancy. After serving in this vocation for more than a decade, her son learned that his daughter, now 15-years old, was deaf. Nancy, with her years of training, was the first to notice it and has since become a champion and mentor to this wonderful granddaughter. It’s impossible not to see God’s providence in the lives touched by Nancy and that her ministry is amongst one of the most precious, hidden gems at Eastside.
Next time you see Nancy, tell her hello and share some words of encouragement for her, thanking her for the ministry she performs faithfully, quietly and with a generous heart. Perhaps she’ll be willing to teach you a sign or two to greet our deaf friends next time you see them.