All posts by High Point Church

A Silent Dividing Wall

by Linda Sey

Over the past several months, we have learned about various ‘dividing walls’ we can work to tear down and focused on the ‘9 Minute Golden Window’ of opportunity to meet and connect with others on Sunday mornings. Previously, we also learned the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community is a largely unreached population spiritually (~2% Christian), due in part to the general lack of equal access to communication within many churches. Furthermore, we announced that due to an ongoing and explicitly requested need, High Point Church would begin offering a monthly interpreted ASL service and will seek to add more interpreted services as those willing to do so come forward.

The dividing wall of hearing loss is largely silent and invisible. Because it isn’t as visually obvious as a wheelchair, prosthetic, or red and white cane can be, this disability is often all around us, yet often goes unnoticed. The world of deafness often leads to isolation, exclusion, loneliness, and feeling invisible, even as one who is deaf is surrounded by a crowd of people, be it friends, family, coworkers, or fellow churchgoers. Those with significant hearing loss learn to laugh, smile, and nod along, often mentally spinning their wheels to do an immense amount of detective work, guessing, and bluffing, to appear to fit in and understand what is being said or what is going on. Conversations with their hearing counterparts are often limited to the most superficial, concrete, “small talk”, since anything deeper leaves both parties at a loss as to how to bridge the language barrier, or ‘wall’.

The good news is, with a little education and intentional effort, these ‘walls’ aren’t so impossible to break down after all! This blog post focuses on two pragmatic ways YOU can actively break down walls for our Deaf/Hard of Hearing congregants at High Point Church.

THE GOLDEN WINDOW

Particularly on ASL interpreted Sundays (first Sunday of each month, second service), but ultimately ANY place or time you find yourself within proximity to someone Deaf/Hard of Hearing, you can use the following strategies to communicate with them as much as you would with anyone else, even if you don’t know or are not fluent in sign language:

  • Use your smartphone or tablet to type back and forth with each other, with no need to actually send the messages if not desired. Just show the screen to each other (for your part, you can use speech to text if you prefer)
  • Use a direct messaging app even while face to face (Facebook Messenger, Skype Chat, Google Hangouts, etc)
  • Use good old fashioned pen/paper to write back and forth (the church pews always have paper for sermon notes and spare pens available)
  • When available, utilize a Sign Language Interpreter. Just approach them and let them know you would like them to interpret your conversation.
  • Keep a small dry erase board handy, write back and forth, and easily erase for more space.

CAPTIONING NEED

We live in an age where creating and viewing videos is as common as the air we breathe. Technology is wonderful, and allows us to access more than ever before. However, when such videos do not have reliable captions/subtitles, this creates yet another dividing wall for Deaf/Hard of Hearing individuals. Try this challenge: Select your favorite upcoming tv show episode or newly released movie (one you haven’t already seen), and mute the sound. Watch for at least 5 minutes, and see how much you understand, and how much you enjoy it. Then for the next few minutes, randomly unmute for just a second or two at a time, allowing for a word or syllable to break through. Pretty frustrating, right? Mentally draining? Confusing? Boring? If the device’s sound system was permanently broken or malfunctioning, you would likely give up on it altogether and look to replace it. It wouldn’t be worth your time. This is what those with hearing loss face all too often. There are many increasing laws mandating captioning/subtitles for most of society, however, those laws still have their limits. And they certainly can’t regulate every individual video created/posted by the individual user.

There are over 100 empirical studies which have repeatedly confirmed that consistently offering captions/subtitles helps far more people than just those with hearing loss. Exposure to captions/subtitles increases literacy for all, from early childhood through late adulthood. Those without a native English background can better understand and process when they can both hear and see the information. Additionally, people who are visual learners have the information processed in a way that connects better for them, rather than solely auditorily. And of course, that random distraction or background noise that caused you to miss hearing what was just said is not as big a deal when you can read it on the screen and quickly get caught up. Research also shows that both attention to and retention of the content increases with the addition of captions/subtitles. A lesser-known benefit is that videos with captions/subtitles are much more searchable by browser search engines, since the text is what search engines go by. So if you want your video (or podcast) more easily found by the general population, adding captions is a great way to boost visibility!

High Point Church often creates short videos to highlight upcoming events, share testimonies, make announcements, and more. Church staff have very limited time and resources for adding captions to all those videos. There are two ways you can assist with this.

First, if you are creating a video, please plan ahead for additional time in the creation and editing process and create the captions/subtitles upfront. If each person making a video takes ownership of this, it will be far more efficient than one person doing all the captioning of all the videos for everyone after the fact (which is nearly impossible with our current resources). From a technological standpoint, is is also a more simple and efficient process to caption upfront, before a video is published/finalized, rather than adding them afterwards.

Secondly, HPC is seeking volunteers willing to be asked as needed to add captions/subtitles to videos that others have created. You don’t need to have prior experience doing this. High Point will gladly provide the training and tools necessary to do so. If you can type and navigate a computer, you can quickly and easily learn. You can likely even do this from home! This is a tremendous need, so if you are at all interested, please contact High Point Church (info@highpointchurch.org) or myself, and we will talk it through with you in more detail.

For more on the topic of why Sign Language interpretation is so important, check out Linda’s previous article: Why Sign Language Interpreting at High Point Church.

Note: High Point Church is still in need of more ASL Interpreters and has a stipend available for those interested. Please continue to spread the word!

The Origins and Ironies of Thanksgiving

Imagine someone from a galaxy far, far away coming to America in late November and thinking we worship the turkey goddess—or the football gods. When strangers do cross our path—that is, refugees or immigrants, international students, the homeless—would we invite them to a Thanksgiving meal and explain its meaning?

For Thanksgiving two years ago, my wife Sue and I invited a family of seven Iraqi refugees to share our Thanksgiving meal. Their big question, as Muslims and newcomers to America, was this: “Is Thanksgiving a Christian holiday?” I answer, “No, it is not uniquely Christian; all grateful hearts may participate.”

However, there’s a rub as we thank God for the grub: Some may not be feeling so thankful this year. To get in the right mood, a gratitude journal helps. This accords with the research of Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons, who conducted a psychological study with three control groups: One group journaled weekly about things they were “grateful” for, one about things that were “hassles,” and a third group about “events” that were unremarkable. After just nine weeks, the gratitude group reported better well-being, better health, and increased optimism than the other two control groups.

For another take, I invite you to consider the origins and ironies of our Thanksgiving holiday. Centuries ago, the Pilgrims faced squalor and hunger in Europe, along with the fear of being assimilated into the Dutch culture of the day. Hence, they came to America, “the land of opportunity,” to build a better life.

Most immigrants at our southern border, as well as those in Spain and North Africa coming from sub-Saharan Africa, and those in Germany fleeing from the Middle East, tell similar stories of hope for opportunity and a better life.  (I personally heard many of those Spanish, North African and German stories in 2016, 2017 and just a few weeks ago.)

But in making this 400-year-old cross-continent parallel, I sloughed over a crucial difference. The Pilgrims of 1620 were met by the local Indians, who moved from hostility to hospitality. During their first New England winter, being short of food to start with, nearly half the immigrants—indeed, 14 of the 18 wives—died!  Nevertheless, they set aside a day of thanksgiving out of human resilience and undaunted hope. Wow! I want that, don’t you? Persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians, those Pilgrims reaped a bountiful harvest the following summer.

The surviving Pilgrims then declared a three-day feast in November of 1621, to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. We traditionally celebrate this event as the first Thanksgiving in America.  But rival claims for “first Thanksgiving service” are made by Virginians as early as 1619, by the Spanish in Texas as early as 1565, and by French Huguenots in Florida—all before the Pilgrims arrived. Never mind that the Indians had such fall festivals long before. How ironic.

At Thanksgiving in the Gruen household, or in phone calls made that day, I ask, “What are you particularly thankful for this year?” Eight shares later, I conclude we have much to be thankful for—good health, good jobs, good friends, good kids, three wonderful grandkids. I take mental notes, gather pics that fit, and prepare my “dear-all, what-a-wonderful-year-it’s-been, count-your-blessings” annual newsletter. Some of you get that. Many of you do the same thing—focus on the positive, and not just in newsletters.

But for families grieving the loss of a loved one this season or suffering through a bad year, your letter—if you send one at all—will differ. You better acknowledge the giant “turkey” in the room. Don’t let some yahoo like me force you to share one thing you’re grateful this coming Thanksgiving. Don’t dance at the office Christmas party or sing joyous carols all night just to please other people. In acknowledging your grief or apathy, go ahead stuff the turkey and enjoy all the trimmings—it is comfort food, after all—but don’t stuff your feelings.

You can grieve and be grateful. In 1863, amidst our bloody Civil War, President Lincoln saw fit to issue the proclamation creating the day we now celebrate. Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation came at a time of spiritual crisis for him personally and for a divided nation. Personally, he’d just buried his 11-year-old son, Willie. “The severest trial of my life,” said Lincoln. Now, as we are again polarized and losing loved ones to health crises and acts of violence, it will help to turn to the first Pilgrims and Lincoln for enduring reasons to be grateful. Our forebears invite you to give thanks in word and deed, in all circumstances—that is, in life and death, in abundance and want, in sickness and health, amidst great adversity and diversity, remembering both wrath and mercy, victors and victims, grieving family and joyful friends alike.

Rev. Dietrich Gruen is Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus and Bethany Presbyterian of Randolph. He is also the Benevolence Coordinator at High Point Church and former member of the Global Missions Team at High Point Church.

Carrying One Another’s Burdens: Lessons From Málaga, Spain

A group from High Point Church traveled to Málaga, Spain and North Africa for a 10-day trip where they provided women’s health education and reusable menstrual hygiene kits through Days for Girls and worked with Diez42, a community center serving refugees and immigrants.

The following article was written by Dietrich Gruen, one of the members on the trip.

“I can never carry anyone else’s bag,” Sue said, apologetically, after Ty grabbed hers and schlepped it across one more interminable airport terminal. Then she rebounded playfully, “But I can help carry their baggage.”

Carrying another’s “too heavy” baggage or burdens—that fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2,5). That also typifies our 10-day vision trip, October 23 – November 2, and, dare I add, life together here at home. In Málaga (Spain) and North Africa, we educated women on menstrual health and provide free reusable menstrual pad kits made by “Days for Girls.” Six groups of 20-30 women across four cities and two continents delighted in receiving our home-made-with-love kits. Others caught the vision and will offer the same education and kits to yet more people in weeks to come.

Why do this? you may ask. In 140+ countries where Days for Girls operates, girls who can’t afford sanitary pads may be forced to stay home from school during their menstrual period. Missing five days a month, every month for years, means they fall behind the boys and don’t graduate. Not graduating, women are systematically held back in society. Our reusable menstrual hygiene kits help alleviate this huge burden—at least for 3-5 years, if properly cared for.

Hunger is another obvious problem, which we help with. The European Union is lifting this burden for refugees, but they need partners on the ground to help distribute the food, track distribution, and extend other resources. Hence the founding of Diez42—a city-wide community center living out Matthew 10:42, “giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.” Volunteers from area churches and seven NGOs unload the semi-trucks and vans full of food one day; then, for two days, we host 200+ client families among the refugee community.

Refugees in Spain depend solely on this free food—up to 63 lbs of produce per family every week. Without proper documents, refugees can’t find work to buy food—except in the greenhouses, who force desperate refugees into hard farm labor for low pay—then string out that process of documentation for three years.

How to survive during that 3-year waiting period is a burden too much to bear for some: While we were there, one hopeless woman threw herself off a 3-story building on the same block we are working. Such suicide attempts call attention what else these collaborating churches and NGOs provide besides food: social services, job training, sewing classes, English conversation, counseling and prayer. Many suffer “secondary trauma” from getting hands and heart so involved in the lives of these hurting people.

One of our own, Adrienne, gets too close to the action and a pallet of food lands on her toe. Upon seeing this, a former nurse jumps out of the food lines to address the toe with cleansing, cauterizing meds, gauze and bandages. Others provide footrest, support and companionship. We all pray for healing.

Caring for Adrienne, head to toe, provides a microcosm to see the Body of Christ in action. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:12,24-26). Hence, a lost toenail for one is felt by all. A body abused in sex trafficking causes us to cry out to God in shared pain. A refugee who loses her housing or his job and fears deportation—that stirs us to intercede and act as one. There are no little people, no unwelcome people in the faith communities we observed. Not just the Christians caring for Muslims, but the Muslims hosting us. We are the stranger in their midst, and they made us feel so welcome.

God hears and provides someone to carry the burden every time we cry out to him—Tori as a nurse for Adrienne, Ashlyn to sub for Adrienne as lead presenter, Lynn with meds and other first aid for one and all; Anon to diplomatically and heroically stop one fierce brawl that broke out between clients; Ty, Mark and Kory to safely navigate narrow passageways and scary roundabouts; Laura to keep—and flex—our schedules on time. Exhaustion, physical and emotional, is common to our team and bonds us in many ways, in prayer and support.

Where we see God is working, we join in common cause there to help lift burdens. Such burden-bearing bears witness to Christ in a world of hurt. And not just in Málaga or North Africa, but also
here at High Point Church, though our small groups and deacon’s care ministry. When one part suffers, we all suffer. When we part rejoices, we all rejoice.

For more, you can also read Dietrich’s interim ministry reports:
Report from October 28, 2019
Report from October 31, 2019

Rev. Dietrich Gruen is Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Columbus and Bethany Presbyterian of Randolph. He is also the Benevolence Coordinator at High Point Church and former member of the Global Missions Team at High Point Church.

Photos taken by Sue Finley of Tree-Hollow Cottage Photography (https://thcphotography.zenfolio.com).

2019 Dominican Republic Team Updates

We have a team in the Dominican Republic this year, with a focus on relationships and spiritual growth. They are spending time doing child sponsorship visits, teaching Vacation Bible School to kids, holding Teen Chats, and doing prayer walks in the community. They do all this while, most importantly, sharing the Good News of the gospel of Jesus. Pray for them, and check below throughout their trip for updates as the team invests in the Dominican Republic!

Continue reading 2019 Dominican Republic Team Updates

Why Sign Language Interpretation at High Point Church?

by Linda Sey

Hearing loss and deafness are largely invisible and isolating disabilities. Those with hearing loss learn at a very young age to mimic, nod, and laugh along, often completely lost as to the details, if not all, of the dialogue darting around them at breakneck speeds. They laugh at jokes they don’t hear (and therefore don’t understand), they nod yes in feigned understanding, wanting to fit in and be accepted, or thinking sincerely they truly did understand, because in reality, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’

“But, deaf people do speech therapy, talk, and learn to be really great lip readers, so it all works out in the end, right?!” Contrary to popular belief, the English language, at best has only 50% (and at worst, 30%) of the phonetic sounds formed and made visible on the speaker’s lips. This means ‘I love you’, ‘olive juice’, and ‘elephant shoes’ appear identically on the lips, as do the phrases ‘you have talent’ and ‘you have salad’.

Continue reading Why Sign Language Interpretation at High Point Church?

Mentoring [Engage & Equip: LIVE]

Find slides from Engage & Equip: LIVE here.


Mirror Jesus in Making Time

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Luke 6:13
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles

Jesus spent most of His ministry making time for just a few choice others; so should we as we follow Him.

Sacrifice required…

  1. Cut out
    • Use the “3 Year Hindsight” test
  2. Invite in
    • Your life = Gospel + ordinary

…and joy promised

Continue reading Mentoring [Engage & Equip: LIVE]