Signs of Joy

Six years ago, Dan Kregel, executive director and CEO of West Michigan Youth for Christ in Grand Rapids, Michigan, learned that Ellen Kammeraad, a staff member’s wife, had a big idea. 

Youth for Christ (YFC) targets at-risk youngsters ages 11 to 19, with the West Michigan YFC being one of 140 chapters across the United States. Kammeraad knew YFC offered a program called Deaf Teen Quest (DTQ) h which provided sign-language interpreters for teens who are hard-of-hearing and deaf. She wanted DTQ to be part of West Michigan YFC. 

So, in 2018, they launched their own chapter. 

“It started with a handful of kids, and it has grown over the years. We’ve seen lots of kids whose lives were transformed by the gospel,” says Kregel. 

According to Kregel, 3–4% of American teenagers are deaf or hard of hearing. “They are one of the most isolated groups of teenagers known.” 

Moreover, too few families with children who are deaf learn American Sign Language, he noted, adding that “churches aren’t always providing deaf ministries for these kids.” 

DTQ leaders are all fluent in American Sign Language, says Kregel, and meet with students on the first and third Tuesdays of the month during the school year at First Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan, for an evening of games, fellowship and discussions about the gospel. In the summer, participants can attend a camp where every camp leader knows sign language.

My favorite activity in DTQ is going to camp,” shared Angel Moore, 17, who describes herself as deaf. It has been so much fun. I’ve met so many people and learned more about God.” 

Kregel says most high school youth group events are typically loud with music and chatter. 

“When you walk into this place, however, it’s almost silent until somebody signs something that’s funny, and they all laugh,” he observes. “We’re teaching them what it means to follow Jesus and bringing joy into their lives.”

Gail Allyn Short
Gail Allyn Short

Gail Allyn Short is freelance writer in Birmingham, Alabama. She leads a nursing home ministry and teaches a Bible study class for new believers at Integrity Bible Church.