#YFCBetheStory: Youth For Christ Deaf Teen Ministry Connects with Students to Build Christ-Centered, Life-Changing Relationships
Says West Michigan YFC Deaf Teen Quest Director: ‘When We’re Together, the Focus Isn’t on Hearing Loss—It’s Just on Being Together’
June 1, 2020
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Imagine sitting at a dinner table with a group of people who only speak German. All of a sudden, everyone starts laughing—and you have no idea why.
Imagine how isolating that would be. Now imagine that’s your everyday life.
The West Michigan Youth For Christ (YFC) Deaf Teen Quest ministry reaches out to teens experiencing this isolation because of hearing loss—with the love, acceptance, hope and grace of Jesus.
“Since 1944, Youth For Christ has had a singular passion—first to returning World War II servicemen and women, then a growing population of lost and broken and confused young people,” said Youth For Christ President Dan Wolgemuth. “Our passion—the life-changing message of hope and transformation in Jesus Christ. An unwavering message that affirms the power of God’s grace and declares the value and dignity of every young person around the world. A message of forgiveness that is propelled by God’s unshakable love. From high school and middle school campuses to juvenile halls. From military bases into the unreached environments of deaf young people. From vast rural farmland to congested street corners. Wherever. Whenever. Always with the message of Jesus.”
Deaf Teen Quest, or DTQ as it’s known by participants, gives teens the opportunity to build relationships with people who have the shared experience of hearing loss. But the ministry is so much more.
“When we’re together, the focus isn’t on hearing loss—it’s just on being together,” said West Michigan Youth For Christ Deaf Teen Quest Director Ellen Kammeraad.
Kammeraad and her team connect with deaf and hard of hearing students through a ministry designed specifically for building Christ-centered, life-changing relationships. Teams of caring Christian adults enter the world of deaf teenagers for “fun, friendship, fellowship and faith.” YFC DTQ provides a healthy peer group environment with Christian role models to help deaf teens develop a mature faith that makes a positive difference in the world.
Recently, the coronavirus crisis has posed challenges for the group, but creativity and a passion to share Christ’s love rules the day.
“Unfortunately, because of the stay at home order, we’re not able to meet in person,” Kammeraad said. “And for some of our kids, that’s like cutting off a lifeline. A lot of our kids have really awesome, loving families who they’re able to weather this storm of quarantine with. But for some of our kids, DTQ is their family, so being separated is incredibly difficult. But our leaders have been awesome about checking in with students to make sure they’re OK. A couple of the leaders even brought dinner and cookies to one of the boys who was having a particularly hard time.”
The YFC DTQ ministry creates daily connection by posting a fun question or challenge within a Facebook group, which gives all involved a chance to interact with one another as they post video responses.
“Now that ministry has switched to being online, we’ve had to get creative,” Kammeraad added. “It’s honestly really challenging to make these connections over technology, but we are trying our best. We’ve done things like, ‘Who can make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich?’ ‘Who can do the most pushups?’ ‘The Chair Challenge.’ ‘If you had $500 and had to spend it on someone else, what would you do?’ We’re also doing weekly Zoom calls to replace—not cancel—our club nights. And, of course, it’s not the same as meeting in person, but it gives us a chance to see each other’s faces, to play a simple game, to watch a video in sign language about Jesus, and just to chat and catch up.”
Kammeraad said she has been “blown away” by the fact that God is not only sustaining ministry during this time of COVID-19, but He’s providing growth for Youth For Christ as well.
“Going virtual has allowed new forms of outreach,” she said. “For example, there’s a student I’ve been trying to convince to come to DTQ for months. Every time I’ve asked her, it’s been a ‘no.’ But a couple of weeks ago when I sent her an invite to our Zoom call, she said ‘Yes, why not?’ I think for her and a lot of other deaf students, they’re just so used to being in this life of isolation that the thought of jumping out of that into a new social setting is just too scary. But to be able to meet these DTQ people from the safety of her own couch, that was the little step she needed to get involved. And since then, she’s been on every Zoom call we’ve done. Now she wants to come to club in person once we’re able to meet again. When we’re together, we have a lot of fun and we make memories, and it’s a place where they don’t have to try to fit in because they already do.”
One participant signed via video his appreciation for the close-knit DTQ family.
“I like our DTQ family because they’ve helped me with God and other things,” the young man said. “DTQ is a lot of fun to go to. I liked camp because I met new friends who are hearing and deaf. We all came together, which was cool. I want to be with more deaf people than just me, you know? I like DTQ because we’re all like a family.”
Nationally, Youth For Christ is telling inspiring stories like these through #YFCBeTheStory, an initiative to help spread the word across the nation about how YFC chapters are making a difference in their communities.
In West Michigan, Kammeraad and her team have recorded a video about Deaf Teen Quest, and the ministry as a whole is planning a Virtual 5K on June 13 to benefit all kids YFC serves: teens who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, live in inner-city neighborhoods, locked up in a detention facility, teen parents, as well as middle school and high school students. Runners or walkers can collect donations leading up to the race to help meet YFC West Michigan’s fundraising goal of $20,000. Learn more here.
Youth for Christ has been a pillar of missional ministry since 1944, when the Rev. Billy Graham served as YFC’s first full-time staff member. Since then, Youth For Christ has continued to be both a rural and urban ministry on mission, and always about the message of Jesus. YFC reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus who lead by their godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ, and commitment to social involvement. Youth For Christ operates in over 100 nations and has more than 160 chapters impacting communities across America.
To interview a Youth For Christ representative, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.