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Growing up CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Part 1

A healthy parent-child relationship is not easy, but what more when both parents are deaf? Listen to an inspiring story that shows how parents’ actions have more impact than their words. It’s a story of two brothers whose not-so-typical childhood shaped and changed their faith, preparing them for their life’s purpose. This episode includes sign language interpretation.


Making Changes: Growing Up CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Part 1

Brother Ronnie: And you know what, there is even one specific moment that I remember which is, the minister is giving—he’s wrapping up the lesson, he’s getting very spiritual; he’s giving the bayubay (advice).  Brethren are feeling it. And I look over at my mother, and I kid you not, she’s crying. And I don’t know why. I’m thinking, what are you hearing? What are you listening to? What were you getting from this? 

Brother Rowel: You know, again as a child…what would go through my mind is, you can’t even hear, you know. Why is this important to you? Why does it matter? You can’t even hear. But as a child seeing that, and then finally being able to understand—it’s like, ok, let me stay awake maybe there’s a reason why. 

Aliw: When I first learned about Brother Ronnie and Rowel David’s story, right away, I had so many questions. I was just so curious about how they grew up and became the people that they are now. You see, they’re brothers who are both CODA, an acronym for Child of Deaf Adults. They grew up in Georgia and are now both ministers of the gospel in the Iglesia Ni Cristo or Church Of Christ. 

Brother Ronnie: I remember asking her afterwards, like, Oh, why are you crying?

What did the minister say? And she said, “I don’t know, but I felt something. I was feeling something. And it made me feel like crying.”

Brother Rowel: When me and my brother would talk about it, we would always say they really did worship, depending on the Holy Spirit, you know.

Brother Ronnie: It’s one of the biggest lessons we ever got from them. And again, they never explained that to us. They never said anything about the Holy Spirit. They never put that into words but it’s based on the way they live, that’s how we learned it. 

Aliw: From INC Media Audio, you’re listening to Making Changes, I’m Aliw Garcia Pablo. Today’s episode format is a bit different. This is a 2-part series where we’ll sit down with Brother Ronnie and Brother Rowel to see what it was like to grow up CODA and how that shaped their faith. This 2 part episode is so layered as you will see and feel. It’s about the struggle of growing up CODA, love for their parents but also the frustrations from the perspective of two young boys whose lives were filled  with setbacks and struggle.   Let’s listen in…

Aliw: Hi, Brother Ronnie, Brother Rowel, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. 

Brother Rowel: Thank you, Sister Aliw.

Brother Ronnie: Thank you so much.

Aliw:  We’ll start off by asking, what would you say? At what age, would you say that you realized that your home life was a little bit different from the rest of your friends in school or wherever?

Brother Ronnie: It didn’t really hit me all at one time. It just kind of, eventually, I understood that our situation growing up is very different from other people. Like, for example, when we would go to the grocery store, and we’d help our mom pay. You know, we’d give the cashier the money, or if we have questions, we would talk for our mother. Same thing with going to the doctor’s office—my mother would want to tell the doctor something and the doctor tells us to tell our mom and we’d tell our mom. And then even when he came to school. The teachers are telling us okay, I need to talk to your parents, which have home phone numbers, I can call them. They call us later on, and I’m the one answering the phone. So, it was a gradual thing, I don’t think it was a specific age, but, the longer or the more we grew up with our parents the more I realized it really is different from other people.

Bro. Rowel: For me growing up, I thought that everyone did sign language to their parents. I mean, yes, we had aunts and we had uncles, we had grandma and grandpa that we would speak to but for some reason, you know, of course, the mind of a child growing up, you just think, yeah, but when it comes to your parent, you do sign language. And so, you know, finding that out, noticing that about the other children, how they would speak to their parents, you know, it obviously showed me that it was different. But you know, the crazy thing

is that, yeah, I noticed it. But then right after it was like, okay, we’re just different, you know? My situation isn’t like their situation.

Bro. Ronnie: It’s funny because you kind of forget you’re doing sign language. You don’t even know you’re doing sign language anymore. We could literally just be talking to our parents and switch over to just talking or voicing out our opinions or whatever. It’s all one language at one point so…

Aliw:  So, let’s back up a bit and give you a bit of their background. Their parents, Raquel and Ramon, were both born deaf, they met in the Philippines, got married in the Church and their mother migrated to Georgia first where the rest of her family were. We all know how hard it is to start a new life in a new country but how much more not being able to hear. Their parents both understood and signed Filipino Sign Language, but not ASL or American Sign Language. The brothers have some memory of what it was like for their mom. 

Brother Ronnie: And back then, you know, websites, chat rooms, or Skype, all that didn’t exist. So, she really just kind of stayed at home. Her life was more like just observing things. It wasn’t really a community, (or) communicating with people, socializing, or talking to people, she would meet deaf people along the way, here and there. But there was still that lack of communication because they could never keep up with each other. They didn’t have phones or whatever, she didn’t have her own cell phone at the time. So, it was more on her just watching and looking, just waiting. My father…he came along a couple of years later on…

Brother Rowel:

My parents, when it comes to them, they’re—a very good trait they have is that they’re able to adapt to a lot of people, a lot of situations, and be able to find their way through. For example, our mother, she may be speaking with someone, and they don’t know sign language, but she’ll find a way to get her point across. It wasn’t until, of course, me and my brother, (when) we came along, that’s when she started using us just to make it easier. But even before then, yes, she had our aunt, our uncles and our grandparents, but if they have to do something, they would find a way to be able to (get) by.

Aliw: So, would your mom write what she needed to say? And then just show it to people?

Brother Ronnie: Exactly. She always had a paper and pen on her. Here’s a crazy experience she had. I actually remember her telling me about this. So, I’m the firstborn. And my mother—she wanted to go visit my father back in the Philippines again. She traveled to the Philippines by herself. You know, going into an airport with me, talking to the stewardess, trying to find out what her gate is. And you know how hectic an airport can be…

Aliw: Right! 

Brother Ronnie:… And going transferring from this flight to this flight. And still, until now, it gets me, how was she able to do that? I mean, she didn’t have a cell phone. She didn’t have a—she didn’t text anybody. Because she was able to get to the airport there in the Philippines and still from there, find my family without a phone or anything.

Aliw: Yes, that—just finding those that will pick you up is so hard with the crowds of people. 

Aliw: So growing up, you saw that your parents, your mom, specifically, never used her disability as an excuse.

Brother Rowel: Even though after, you know, that process of finally understanding that they’re different. Even after that, she would always tell us, “No, I’m normal. I’m normal, I just can’t hear.” That’s what she would always tell us. 

Brother Ronnie: It’s funny even until now, I don’t think she would consider that as a disability.

Brother Ronnie:  So, she would teach us the normal things like drink water, or go clean, you know, clean the dishes, or go home apples, stuff like that. My brother’s favorite: food, you know, stuff like that. But it’s funny because my aunt’s, my uncle’s, I want to say, they don’t really know sign language like that. I want to say they don’t really know that well, but

they can all talk, they can all fight, they can all laugh, they can do everything like regular siblings.

Aliw: Their parents were simple people with humble but demanding jobs in the small town of Milledgeville, Georgia. Their dad worked as a furniture mover; their mom, she worked at the local hospital cleaning clothes. But both parents, despite being deaf and couldn’t speak, made sure their two boys were raised well. 

Aliw: Okay, so when you are in , as little boys, you know, how were you disciplined as little kids 

with you know, most parents would yell, they’d get mad? What was that for you?

Bro. Rowel:  I’d say it’s very, you know, it’s one thing to get loud. Especially as a kid, it’s one thing to hear your parents get loud, but to see it, like to actually see it because they’re

all, it’s all visual with them. It’s all facial expressions. And so when they’re mad, like you could you could put a wall in front of us. And you could tell by our voice, you’re mad, but then seeing it face to face? Oh, it’s scary. It is. But you know, I will say this, you know, not trying, you know—of course, we weren’t angels growing up, we were boys growing up playing around here and there. But I’d like to say that she didn’t—both my mother and our father—they didn’t really have to discipline us too much. But I feel like that’s because our mother really put the fear of God in us. My mom would always tell us, I may not be with you, but God sees you. You know, she would always say that.

Brother Ronnie: I have to add to that story because I know exactly what my brother’s talking about. When he says (that) my mom said that God’s watching you—it’s because, again, my mom is visual. She’s visual. She can’t tell me what it means to hear. She can’t explain that to me. So, when she would tell me my brother, God’s watching you, I remember specifically she said, “God,”—this is a rough translation from sign language—”God has big eyes. Always watching.”

Brother Rowel: Yes. 

Brother Ronnie: And you know what? It actually makes sense. It’s not wrong. I mean, God is watching us. And as a young kid, I think that was actually perfect. 

Brother Rowel: And so yeah, you know, especially as a kid growing up, we’re like, “Hey, God is always watching us.” We don’t want to do anything bad. We don’t want to do anything, you know that that’ll get us in trouble. And so, the times that we did get in trouble, yeah, she it was very scary, you know, seeing that people get scared because their emotions are there. But you know, God is good. And, you know, he really used our parents to really put the fear of God in us. 

Aliw: How old were you, would you say, when your parents, your mom, started to give that analogy to you that God has big eyes?

Brother Ronnie:  It’s something she would tell us very pretty often. So often, it’s like, what you said, I would always remind myself that, when something’s about to happen, or there’s an  opportunity for some mischief. But, in the back of my head, Oh, hold on now, God’s watching. God’s watching. So, I can’t remember when she first told us, but it was, literally, a life lesson.

Brother Rowel: It was always constant. Always. It was almost like a bedtime story. She wouldn’t read stories. She would remind us, “Hey, before you go to sleep, remember, God’s watching you, wherever you go.” 

Aliw:  As we begin talking about their spiritual upbringing, I began to wonder, how did their parents worship when it’s only been in recent years that the Christian Society for the Deaf was established in the Church of Christ?

Brother Ronnie: You know, the story she would tell us is (about) our great grandmother back in the Philippines. We just know that somehow, some way, she was able to instill in her that our faith is important. Our membership in the Church Of Christ is everything. Because she would always tell me stories, like she’s almost bragging. She said, “In the Philippines, we walk to the chapel, we wake up very early: 2 a.m. We get up, we get ready. And we go to the chapel. We’re always at Church.” To see her so excited, and so—she was so proud of it, the fact that she was such a strong member. It really laid a foundation on me and my brother, of course too to think that, okay, this is something important. We’ve got to pay attention to this. 

I became 12 first, my brother, a couple years later. And I started to think, how does it benefit her? The worship services, the Bible studies? Because on top of worship service, we also went to Bible studies. And I would think, what is she getting from all this? Obviously, she’s not hearing anything. And when it came down to I know, she’s not lip reading or anything. So, what exactly is so important about this? And yeah, that kind of led to me and my brother kind of getting a glimpse of interpreting back then just a little bit. 

Aliw: So, at what age were you starting to sign for her in worship service?

Brother Rowel: In worship service?

Brother Ronnie:  It’s actually..never in a worship service. 

Brother Rowel: It was always after the fact. It was always after— that the parents would always ask us, “Okay, so what was the lesson about?” It really pushed us to try because just like what, what my brother mentioned, you know, seeing how important it was to them, you know, those times wherein we’re not able to answer. You know, and then seeing the disappointment on their face, you know, it hits and it hurts. And so, those moments like that, even that was a teaching moment for them, teaching us— “hey, pay attention in the worship service. Listen, so that you can help me out, too.”

Brother Ronnie: You can only imagine, though, from an eight year old, in the adults worship service. She’s asking, and you can’t keep saying, “Oh, it’s about God. It’s about Christ. It’s about God has big eyes, Mom, who’s always watching you.” You know, you can’t always keep saying that, so… Yeah, it definitely was a lesson learned, like them always asking us what the lesson was about.

Aliw: Was it eight, I mean, was that the youngest you can remember when your mom started depending on you to explain to her what the lesson was about in the adult worship service?

Brother Ronnie: I would say even younger. I would say even younger. 

Brother Rowel: I’d say if I can, just a personal experience. I have a clear memory of, you know, I don’t know how old I was. But obviously, I was young. And I remember being, you know, sitting beside my father, and I keep trying to lay on his lap. And then what he does is— my dad keeps waking me up and he tells me, stay awake. Listen. You know, again, as a child, I’m like, honestly, what would go through my mind is, you can’t even hear, you know, why? Why is this important to you? Why does it matter? You can’t even hear. But you know, as a child seeing that, and then finally being able to understand, you know, it’s like, okay, let me stay awake. Maybe there’s a reason why. But yeah, that was, you know, just what my brother said, we probably can’t think back to a specific age, or even a bracket, only because that’s what we’ve, you know, we’ve been having to do, ever since.

Aliw: So, did that mean you would attend children’s worship service ? And then adults’? 

Brother Ronnie: That’s correct. 

Aliw: Wow. So then you’d tell them too, what you learned in CWS, as well. 

Brother Rowel: Of course.

Aliw: As I listen to Brother Ronnie and Brother Rowel reminisce on their childhood, I can see it in their eyes. Hearing each other reflect on what their childhoods were like, they, too, are in somewhat disbelief on the  spiritual responsibility they both carried as young boys. But there was one specific instance that really woke up Brother Ronnie; that this was not just about translating. 

Brother Ronnie: You know, there was a—just from my experience—It’s funny how it is because, just to give you an idea, my mother would ask us constantly now, it’s not just at the ride home from Church. I remember being at the gas station, and she would ask me, “Hey, what was last Sunday’s lesson about?” And I wouldn’t have anything to say. I’ll be completely honest, back then, I was still young—even as a teenager, you know, every little phase here and there, (I’d be) paying attention, and even my faith growing; it was still growing. It was still really young back then.

But there was a particular moment when at Church, there was a visitor, and the visitor was deaf.  A sister had met a deaf guest, and she brought him to the Church. Obviously, there are no interpreters. One of the choir members found this or found me. I was walking by myself and she said, “Hey, come upstairs, there is a deaf person there. They’re asking if someone can help relay to him the Bible studies, what the Minister is preaching about.” The minister—so there’s preaching, and I’m just at a blank. To the point where he’s talking and he’s preaching and I’m just trying to spell out “B-i-ble” I was so slow, I couldn’t keep up. 

And you know what, it hit me that I don’t even know what he’s talking about, the minister. And I’m not gonna—I’m not exaggerating. I was in high school. I wasn’t a little kid anymore. I don’t even know what the Minister is talking about right now, what the topic is, I don’t understand it. And I remember after that Bible study, I said sorry to the visitor. Sorry, I had a hard time. He said, “it’s okay.” And walking down the hall after that, I felt so low because I was like, wow, I really disappointed this guy. I really wasn’t able to relay the words of God to him. And in my mind, I was thinking, is this what I do to my parents every single week? Is this what I’m doing to them? I’m not giving them what they’ve been yearning for and begging for and wanting every single time, which is to hear God’s words? 

That’s when for me, I realized, you know, it all connects now. And I really have to pay attention. I really need to start learning now. Because not only did this person— I’ll be honest, we didn’t see him after that, and I felt bad about that. But even more so with my own parents. They never even get to hear the lesson, but they’re always asking us. That really left the imprint on me. It really made me think twice about that.

Aliw: I could tell this experience really affected Brother Ronnie. It’s almost as if he, along with Brother Rowel, started to understand how much their parents trusted and depended on them, when it came to their faith. Still, they looked to their parents as their examples; their role models on how to take care of their relationship with God, and the time they spend with Him.  

Aliw: So, this is a good time to point out that getting to worship service was not an easy feat for this family. When they were growing up, the closest local congregation was South Atlanta, which was 2 hours away from the small town where they had lived.

Brother Rowel: We grew up in Milledgeville, Georgia. 

Brother Ronnie: So our worship service in South Atlanta was on Sundays at 10am. Okay, so, Saturday. Saturday—my parents would tell me and my brother that night, “Okay, guys, get your clothes ready, get your Church clothes ready, get your after-Church clothes ready. Get your Church choir stuff ready for CWS and all that.” So, okay, we get ourselves ready. Then, on the next day, we woke up at 3am- 3:30 a.m very early. And they will tell us Okay, everyone, we’re going to be leaving around four or 4:30. So we get up bright and early, get in the car or the van. And we drive those two hours to get to the chapel around 6 or 6:30 a.m. And like I said, the worship service was at 10 a.m. You know, some people may say that’s a little early. And I will tell you the truth, me and my brother thought the same thing. We thought that was extremely early. But you know what’s funny, they always told us,  “We have to,  we have to be early.” We’d always ask, “Why. Why are we early?” But they never told us why. 

Brother Ronnie:  (Then) there was another year when we were driving to the chapel, the tire (blew). But the fact that we left early we’re able to get the tire fixed and still make it to the chapel early, because my parents had this mindset that it’s  the worship service – prepare the best possible way, nothing will ever stop us from worshiping God. And the funny thing is, they never said any of that. They just did it. They just were the best examples for us at that time. So after years and years of that, even till now, I find myself, Okay, worship services. 8pm. Gotta be there at 2 p.m.


Brother Rowel: It’s true, because I’m the same way. Worship Service is at  7:30, we’re going to be at the Chapel by  four o’clock. With our parents, they really did lead by example, every single time. They didn’t have to say it because they showed it. And that’s what we were able to take with us.

Aliw: So, I’m curious, how were you able to pray as a family?

Brother Ronnie: Our mother,  when we were younger, specifically her, she would get us together – It was always 7pm at night. Every 7 pm, at night, she’ll get the family together, me, my brother, and my father. And she’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna have our family prayer, just watch me.”  And we watched her pray. And she did really well. She prayed for everything. She thanked God, she asked, to (Him) to give us our needs, what we need in this life, prayed to Christ, and then everything in the name of Christ. She did it all. 

Brother Ronnie: At that time, it’s kind of whatever,  when you’re an eight year, a ten year old. It’s nothing, it’s a  normal thing for us. But now,  when I think about it, like wow, like, that’s how important it was, that we had to pray. And that she made a way that we still had a family prayer or a family devotional prayer every single night.

Brother Rowel: Towards the time when we were, you know, of age, it was almost like a worship service for them.  We would have family prayers, and it would only be me or my brother praying, and they would just  bow their heads, close their eyes, and that’s it. And then when we’re done with the prayer, we’d tap them on the shoulder. And they’d be okay with that. I guess it was almost,  we trust what you’re saying, and we know that you’re praying for the family. And so if you’re able to pray to God, then I know that you’re praying for us as well. And so even if…even though they weren’t joining in the prayer, for me personally, just knowing that,  it’s very humbling. 

Brother Ronnie: But for them back then, there was no set way on, for example, the correct way to do a prayer in sign language. My brother said they would close their eyes. Nowadays, the deaf are told to keep their eyes open, so they can see what’s being signed. But back then, you know, they tried to do their best just to make sure that we still maintain that function, which is a family devotional prayer. Until now, that still gets because, again, they adapted. They didn’t want it to be that there’s a reason why we can’t be a normal family; a normal Christian family – doing what we’re supposed to do. They didn’t want any excuses, we made sure we did what we had to do.

Brother Ronnie: If I could add to that, even if we just did a prayer, that’s one thing, but the worship service, that’s just another field. I do remember this. I remember looking at the minister,  and looking at my dad, and looking over trying to see my mom. And I’m telling you, their eyes were glued to the Minister. Again, I have to tell you, they don’t speak, they don’t read lips—they don’t do any of that. But their eyes were glued on the minister. Now we know, there could be any reason for someone to not pay attention, even doze off a little bit, (and) not focus on the worship service. And it can be whatever to them. But for them, what I learned was (to) never take it for granted. Never take it for granted. 

I mean, for them,  they want it so bad—to hear the lesson. So bad. And for other people to take it for granted and not listen. Take advantage of the fact that we have ears and we can hear the words of God like that—no struggle at all. When for them, back then,  there was no interpreter. There’s no formal training for sign language, so they couldn’t get the entire lesson like we’re all blessed to do. Yet, they’re focused. Their eyes are there, fixed on what the minister is saying. 

Brother Ronnie: And you know what, there is even one specific moment I remember which is the Minister – he’s wrapping up the lesson. It’s getting very spiritual,  brethren are feeling it. I look over at my mother, and I kid you not, she’s crying. And I don’t know why. I’m thinking, what are you hearing? What are you listening to? What are you getting from this? I remember asking her afterwards, like, Mom, why are you crying? What did the minister say? And she (said), “I don’t know. But I felt something. I was feeling something. And it made me feel like crying.”

Brother Rowel: When me and my brother would talk about it, we would always say they really did worship, depending on the Holy Spirit. 

Brother Ronnie: One of the biggest lessons we ever got from them. And again, they never explained that to us. They never told us about the Holy Spirit. They never put that in words,

but just based on the way they live, that’s how we learned it. 

ALIW: For over 18 years, their parents worshiped with no sign language interpreters, and yet, they would leave extremely early to make that 4 hour drive back and forth to each worship service. Then during the 95th anniversary celebration, their prayers were answered. They saw an interpreter on the big screen, Sis Rose Guillermo, from  Bellmore, New York. 

Bro Rowel: And the moment my parents saw that—it was a huge venue, huge—but the moment that my parents saw that there was a sign language interpreter on the screen, they did everything they could to find (her). It was like at that moment, they didn’t want to settle for just seeing them on the screen. They were like, No, I’m going to find where that sign language interpreter was. And I’m going to sit right there. And that’s what they did. They looked  all over. 

Brother Ronnie: Let me re-emphasize that. We lost our parents that day. 

Brother Rowel: We did. 

Brother Ronnie: We didn’t know where they were. 

Brother Rowel: I think it was like a 10,000 theater venue. It was a crazy situation. Because when they finally found her—Sister Rose at the time, she didn’t know that there were any deaf brethren. She was honestly signing because her parents were there, who were not members—

Brother Ronnie: Let’s put it like this. My brother mentioned that there were no deaf members. But when she met them, this is where the story just got –  it was just beautiful.

Go on, my brother, so she said that they just met, and then she met my dad and then what happened?

Bro. Rowel: So, mom and dad, they go to her. And, after speaking with sister Rose, after the fact she’s telling us, “I saw them come up and they just sit down in front of me.” Maybe like, you know, obviously a few feet, but they sat down in front. And they waved at her. And sister Rose is telling us, “At first, I’m like, “Okay, hello.””

But then after that, she goes, “Are you deaf?” And my parents are like, “Yes! Yes we are.” So then from that moment on, it just  sparked and the Holy Spirit just came in. And for them, it was just so overwhelming because, again, they’ve been waiting for this for so long. And as I mentioned earlier, they weren’t going to settle. Even from where they were sitting, they could easily see the screen and the sign language interpretation was there, but they weren’t going to settle for that. If they could be right there and they could get it face to face, they would. And that’s what they did. 

Bro. Ronnie: If I could add, just to put it in the context. I was 18 at the time; I, specifically, remember, I just turned 18 that year. So, we can safely say that for 18 years, this is the first time that they’re hearing the lesson. The first time that they’re hearing the words of God in 18 years—from the last time—they probably had a lesson back in, from the interpreters in the Philippines.

Aliw: In the Philippines they were getting an interpreter.  There was sign language in the Philippines?

Bro. Rowel: There was,  it was more than what it was here.

Bro. Ronnie: Definitely. I want to say the same thing. It was definitely starting up. It wasn’t like what it is now but it was just ministers here and there who were learning it trying to adapt.

Aliw: Definitely before CSD was established? 

Bro. Ronnie: Most definitely.

Bro. Rowel: I don’t know about my brother, but I remember we were both in the choir. And I remember just seeing it. And to see the face, from my mother, okay. But it’s always different when you see a man cry. It’s always different. And to see the overwhelming face of my father from the beginning until the end—and the way that we describe it is, you know, they were just filled with the Holy Spirit. Like they’ve been waiting for this for so long, and they wanted it so long, and so finally, when they finally had it, they just couldn’t hold it in anymore. They just couldn’t hold it in. And for me, I’ll never forget that –  to know, especially for one who really wants it and can never get it. And then finally, when they have it; when the worship service ended, it was almost like a, please don’t go. It was like a—please stay—because that’s how much they wanted it, and that’s how much they benefited from it.

Aliw: Whew, it’s dusty here! I think that so—I’m simply moved, simply moved. I think that the fact that your parents’ love for God or their faith, in 18 years, minimum, right, po? In 18 years, it never wavered. It never weakened. It only stayed stronger. As proof, as you said, Brother Rowel, seeing your dad, you know, filled with so much emotion, in tears. It’s something he had been longing for for so long. And I think that is such a testament to the depth of their faith. I mean, anyone can have faith. But the depth of someone’s faith, that’s when it’s revealed, right?

Aliw: Brother Ronnie, what was that like for you, seeing your father be that moved, when he finally got to, you know, see or understand or fully benefit, perhaps from a worship service because now there was signing in that worship service.

Bro. Ronnie: There was one specific day I remember. I walked in, and I saw my dad. He’s sitting on the couch, and he’s kind of bent over and I noticed him signing. (And I thought), “Who was he talking to?” And I was going to tap him on the shoulder, until I got up close and I realized his eyes were closed. You know, Sister Aliw, there hasn’t been many times that I’ve seen my dad pray. There haven’t been many times.  

But one thing is, when I saw that he was praying, and what he was praying for; because praying, for them, isn’t saying words in your head because they don’t say words, right? They only do sign language – that’s their language. So when they pray, they sign out what they’re saying. And to see what he was saying, “Bless my family, bless my children.” 

Bro. Ronnie: My dad doesn’t speak too much about his faith. He does not say too much about the Church. You don’t hear him say anything much about it. But to know that no one else was at home. I got there early, my brother was still at school, my mother was still at work. But to get there and see that and just know that we’re going somewhere. I always knew my mother was strong in her faith, but to see my dad growing like that, to the point where he’s praying, not with the family but by himself, he’s just praying by himself. 

Bro. Ronnie: I really—till now it gets to me that deaf people can be regular members, too. They can learn to have the same faith as all of us. You don’t have to be like my mother, that you had this faith instilled into you like when you’re super young, growing up all the way, but you could be a brand new member, newly baptized, and you could still have that faith. It can be taught to you. You can feel it as well. So, it’s like what my mother was saying. To see my dad in that way—It really has a big impact. And it really sh ows me that when it comes to those who are deaf, they can also live a normal Christian life inside the Church of Christ, just like anyone else.

ALIW:  In our next episode, we’ll continue our conversation with Bro Ronnie and Bro Rowel David. And this time, we’ll talk about a different chapter in their lives – the ministry. How were they called, and I’m sure you’re all wondering, just as I did – how did they tell their parents ?  And how did their parents react?

Stay tuned for part 2 of this story. And if you’d like to see photos of the David family, the full video interview of this episode, log on to Special thanks to Rose Guillermo for the ASL interpretation for this episode.  

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Available downloads

Growing up CODA – Child of Deaf Adults – Part 1