Local ministry brings Word of God to the deafBookmark this
We can close our eyes to imagine living without sight, but it is much more difficult to disconnect from our sense of sound. Hearing is so integral to our experience of the world. It is almost impossible to comprehend the lack experienced by those diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing.
Emma Faye Rudkin identifies firsthand, because she has been profoundly deaf since a high fever robbed her of almost all hearing by the age of three. Like many deaf children, she battled not only to learn language, but with self-image and despair. Although she was raised in a Christian home, Emma Faye felt broken and rejected by God. She tried to hide her “ugly” hearing aids and was ashamed by others’ perceptions of her disability.
“Deaf teens often struggle with depression,” she says. “They feel overlooked and disconnected from people — like they are just floating by. Without the ability to communicate, they feel unknown and unloved.”
Emma Faye’s parents aggressively pursued all modalities that offered promise to help her navigate in a hearing world. She started speech therapy at age three and pursued it for 10 years. All that time, she practiced in front of a mirror for hours with a speech therapist to form her sounds correctly. She learned to read lips and used the latest hearing aids and technology to boost her ability to respond to auditory cues. By age 14, Emma Faye was tired of missing out on truly living. She signed herself up for Camp Travis, a Christian camp. She was hurt and angry and tired of living that way.
That experience changed her life.
“I started viewing life through the lens of Jesus and His love that changes everything,” she says. “God showed me that I am not alone in my personal struggles, but that everyone has a battle to fight.”
At the age of 16, Emma Faye felt God had impressed a dream on her heart to establish a national platform for the hard of hearing and deaf during another camp experience through Young Life.
This led her to pursue the dream of competing in the Miss America system. Emma Faye had started taking piano lessons a couple of years with this idea in mind but after camp, she knew it was time to go to the next level by adding in music theory in preparation for honing a talent to compete in local pageants, eventually adding guitar, ukulele and kick drum.
In February 2015, she won the title of Miss San Antonio, setting a precedent as the first-ever winner who was deaf. She regained the crown in 2017, becoming the first two-time titleholder since 1923.
She notes it is amazing how a crown and a sash opens open doors. Emma Faye parlayed her newly found voice of celebrity to launch the nonprofit organization, Aid the Silent, that same year. Every time she competed in a pageant, she noticed her ability to grow awareness and resources for the ministry increased exponentially.
Aid the Silent was designed to enhance the quality of life for deaf and hard of hearing children and teens. Emma Faye created programs that concentrate on four areas: deaf resources, education, awareness and ministry.
“We at the Ear Institute of Texas proudly support Aid the Silent because not only do our values align, but so do our hearts. The work Aid the Silent is doing in the deaf community and for their families is heaven sent. Mother Teresa said, 'This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.'
We encourage you to join us in giving to this worthy cause.”
Ninette Jackson CFO, Ear Institute of Texas
with Emma Faye Rudkin, Executive Director, Aid the Silent.
Deaf education directs funding to those who are walking through life with the kids, like teachers — who often make extra time for deaf students. Aid the Silent helps schools to afford the resources to help a deaf student. One such tool is a frequency modulator (FM). FMs clarify a teacher’s voice and sends the sound directly into a child’s hearing aid, cutting distraction and increasing comprehension.
“We help families with funding to allow access early on,” Emma Faye says. “Early intervention is the key. The prime time for speech development is until 7 years old. They can be so behind their peers if parents don’t — or don’t know how — to take initiative,” she explains.
Another issue complicating things is that deaf and hard of hearing communities often divide into two separate, and sometimes conflicting, camps. There are those who sign only versus those who use technology and speech. Because Emma Faye can communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) and verbally, she bridges the gap as one of the rare advocates for both sides.
“No matter what you have decided as a family, Aid the Silent wants to come alongside you and provide anything you need,” she explains, adding that kids feel especially isolated when they can’t communicate with their parents. “Sometimes children will learn ASL at school, but their family doesn’t know how to sign with them. We can help them learn together.”
Raising awareness is another arm of Aid the Silent. Emma Faye speaks at several hundred events a year, sponsors an annual 5K run and created the Good Vibrations Music & Arts Festival. The event, which won the Best Charity Festival of the year in 2017, is deaf and HOH accessible. It’s an all-day music festival attended by several thousand each year, bringing together the deaf, hard of hearing and hearing worlds in a new way with efforts that enhance music through live captioning, ASL interpretation, t-coiling, vibrating backpacks, a sound wave wall and an LED dance floor that syncs to the music.
“Deaf teens are waiting for someone to step into their world and know them. It changes them to think that somebody thinks they are worth knowing.”
The bands, interpreters and real-time captioning are displayed on the jumbo screen that can be seen from everywhere on the festival grounds, she says. “So often the deaf are shoved off in the corner with an interpreter. Participants realize they are loved and included.”
Emma Faye offers these life-changing resources and events as a springboard to be able to introduce people to the real life-changer, Jesus Christ.
“How can I tell them about the gospel if I can’t help with their practical needs? I come in as a humanitarian resource provider who has a relationship with people they trust. This opens the door to sharing the gospel,” she says.
She was shocked to discover statistics showing 93 percent of the deaf community has no contact with the church and that 98 percent do not truly know and accept Jesus — making them the third largest unreached people group for the gospel.
“Their parents may drag them to church,” she says, “but they are not following what is being said. Camp changed everything for me — I wanted that for them.”
Emma Faye stayed involved with Young Life after her camp experience and joined staff in 2016. Although her heart was to found a Deaf Young Life group, she had yet to locate deaf teens in the community. Emma Faye happened to see a couple of teen boys signing at a packed UTSA football game. She found they were part of the deaf magnate program at Churchill High School.
“The Ear Institute of Texas is dedicated to giving back to our community. We strive to unite and educate those with and without hearing loss. That is exactly what we get to do as we partner with Aid the Silent. Being a part of that is gratifying and reminds us that it is in giving that we receive.”
Dr. Lance E. Jackson CEO, Ear Institute of Texas
with Emma Faye Rudkin, Executive Director, Aid the Silent.
She began to build a Deaf Young Life program in central San Antonio beginning with those boys from Churchill. Emma Faye worked with Young Life through Aid the Silent funding to make everything — skits, programs, music, camp — accessible to deaf kids through interpreters, real-time captioning and leaders who could communicate with them. It now attracts teens from throughout the area — even as far away as Fredericksburg.
“Last year more than half of the Deaf Young Life group got to meet Jesus,” she exclaims. “They are so different from the angry, frustrated teens we first met — it’s like a light switch flipped.”
“Last year more than half of the Deaf Young Life group ot to meet Jesus!”
Presently, Emma Fay is collaborating with several government agencies, a local district attorney and several other local nonprofits to produce a child abuse protection organization to write protocols to help decrease abuse among the deaf population. Sadly, deaf children are often targets, because predators know these victims have trouble communicating. Emma Faye is working to give children communication tools so they have a context and words to explain their experience.
She also just returned from Moldova, where she visited several deaf schools. Humanitarian groups had donated hearing aids, but unfortunately the equipment had not been programmed or maintained correctly and was ineffective, she says.
“Their hearts were good, but the hearing aids were not benefiting the kids,” she says. “Many just thought they’d always be stuck in that situation. Once we tested and made plans to bring the necessary equipment back to the program, we could give them so much hope.” She plans to return to the country soon to expand efforts there.
Emma Faye’s next big dream for Aid the Silent is to acquire a physical building downtown to serve as a community center hub for training, audiology, conferences and Deaf Young Life. She relates a story of Helen Keller, who was once asked which of her senses she missed more. Keller was reported to note that blindness separated her from things; deafness separated her from people.
“Deaf teens are waiting for someone to step into their world and know them. It changes them to think that somebody thinks they are worth knowing,” Emma Faye says.
Emma Faye Rudkin, Founder, Exec. Dir. firstname.lastname@example.org
34910 IH 10 West, #701, Boerne, TX 78006
To learn more about Aid the Silent, visit:
Be A Light.
Visit. Go to the ministry website and learn more about Aid the Silent. Run or dance. Register for the 5K or attend next year’s music festival. Learn. Train to be a Young Life leader or open your home to youth. Pray. Ask God to give more deaf people new spiritual ears. Give. Set someone free with your gift today by calling or visiting the website.
18518 Hardy Oak Blvd., Suite 300, San Antonio, TX 78258
The Ear Institute of Texas is a community-minded practice serving the deaf community and their families. We support Aid the Silent in a variety of ways, including participating in their annual 5K run. Some of us run, others cheer. But we are all there for the same reason: love.
The Ear Institute of Texas is committed to utilizing our many years of experience in providing the latest advancements in medical technology to evaluate and treat all dimensions of the human ear. Our goal is to treat every patient as we would treat a family member — with experience and with understanding and compassion. Please call us today to set your appointment. We would love to learn that you heard about our practice through The Beacon!