Daring Greatly through mission... with the courage to follow Jesus
Susan Myatt writes:
Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Reflecting back I believe God was calling me into ministry many, many years ago but I did not recognise this and ignored it. I did not consider it as a reality for a long while. Me? A minister? I’m Deaf!
Following Jesus is the biggest challenge of my life and scary too. However, there are many stories and characters in the Bible that have inspired me, in particular, Bartimaeus the blind man. He who was marginalised and an outcast from society, but that didn’t stop him from putting his faith in Jesus and following him. Bartimaeus was blind and I am deaf; different circumstances but in some ways, similar experiences.
I had struggled for years when attending a hearing church: understanding the language, following a service, being unable to receive and to interact with others all compounded my feelings of alienation and unworthiness. But God had other plans and I needed to accept and obey his calling!
I was hungry and thirsty to know more about God. I would ask many questions at Bible studies and my excitement at exploring and knowing Jesus grew, but I still didn’t think I was clever enough to accept to his calling.
About ten years ago for the first time, I visited a 'deaf church' led by deaf, where services were in British Sign Language (BSL). What an impact that made on me. The Holy Spirit was revealed and I allowed myself to open the door a tiny crack, the door that I had firmly shut, the door that was my calling into ministry.
I got increasingly involved in the deaf church and found using my first language very exciting. I learned more about my deaf culture and grew in confidence in my deaf identity. Jesus was challenging me to go deeper than I thought possible.
I was offered a place on a course at Chester University to explore theology and ministry, which was delivered in BSL by deaf and hearing tutors! God’s calling to ministry became stronger.
I attended a hearing Baptist Church as well as the deaf church, which was part of the Anglican denomination. I knew that God was calling me into ministry and I assumed I would be in the Church of England. There was already a structure in place and deaf people had gone before me to be trained and then to minister within the Anglican Church. But in the Baptist Church? This was unprecedented! Again God showed me that with him nothing is impossible. How true it is that God’s ways are not our ways. Doors opened, but I needed to trust God in order to step out into the unknown. This was risky stuff! Not just for me but for the Baptist Union as well. This is the first time they had had to try to cater for a deaf theological student, and the first time I had ever had to study at such a level in a hearing environment.
I trusted God to give me the strength and courage needed to follow his path, and with wonderful support from the students and tutors, three years later I finally graduated from Northern Baptist College with a theology degree.
I have learnt so much from both hearing and deaf. I feel God is calling me to minister both to the hearing and deaf communities and to work to bring the two groups together in mutual respect.
When people think about mission it is rare that they consider the deaf community. The Deaf are a hidden group that I feel need reaching. Most churches are not accessible to Deaf people in their first language and culture, I feel called to be a bridge between the two communities and to reduce the barriers.
God is calling me to minister to the Deaf; to share my knowledge of him and to minister in ways that are appropriate to their culture and needs from a deaf perspective. By teaching in their first language of BSL they are more able to become disciples and then encouraged to become leaders. God has empowered me, but it is his power and his glory that are the driving force.
Currently my work placement is at Rising Brook Baptist Church at Stafford and I have established a Deaf café at church. At the café we share and discuss study issues and Bible passages. We explore responses using Deaf culture and language. This can include visual prayers, dramas, and art. I am able to offer pastoral care to this group of people. Several Deaf people attend church services and two have been baptised and others have made commitments to follow Jesus.
My ministry has given me the opportunity to explore the riches of both worlds and to bring them together. Not an easy task! But it is rare that God leads us down to easy paths but he does give us his strength and courage to persevere.
My journey continues as I follow Jesus, trusting him to provide his courage, his strength, his grace and humility, to be who he wants me to be and to introduce others to him.
Susan Myatt was born profoundly deaf to a deaf father and hearing mother. After leaving school she worked in a men’s tailor shop and later trained and practised as an assistant accountant. Susan taught British Sign Language level one and level two at Tamworth College for 12 years in the evenings. She has two grown up sons and still lives at Tamworth.
She graduated from Northern Baptist College in 2015 and currently has a work placement at Rising Brook Baptist Church at Stafford. When not working, studying or socialising Susan enjoys photography, sewing anything crafty. She is also an avid science fiction fan!
Watch Susan in conversation with Glen Marshall, one of her tutors and a Co-Principal at Northern Baptist College.