After years of struggling with self-doubt, a Filipino woman finds purpose in translating Scripture into sign language.
Jenny’s brothers taunted her mercilessly.
She grew up hearing things like, “You’re not part of the family. Our mom found you in the garbage!”
Jenny, the youngest of 11 children, cowered in humiliation as her brothers laughed. Sometimes her mother laughed at her too, leading Jenny to internalize the lies that she was short, ugly, and worthless.
In reality, Jenny’s appearance and height weren’t much different from other Filipino preteen girls. But when everyone around her found beauty only in fair skin, her darker complexion felt like a curse. Speaking English was also seen as a measure of worth in the Western Visayas region where she lived, but Jenny couldn’t speak English. All of this made her an easy target for cruel teasing.
Seeds of Hope
At a very young age, Jenny began attending Sunday school, and a Compassion International home group provided the funds needed for her to attend a Christian school.
She often heard about God’s love, but she believed it was for other people, not her. Self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy plagued her. Despite a constant influx of Christian teaching, she spent years on the threshold of salvation without crossing into a personal relationship with Christ.
But all that changed when, in high school, Jenny attended a revival camp.
Jenny listened intently as a speaker read Scripture. Tears streamed down her face, but it didn’t matter to her if the 200 or so people around her saw. She felt God telling her it was time to experience his love for herself.
Feeling drawn by the Holy Spirit, she approached the stage. Kneeling, she prayed. “Forgive my sins. Please live with me and drive my life.”
She eventually became valedictorian of her high school class, and with a rare financial aid extension from Compassion, attended a local university.
Still Not Enough
Jenny graduated with a degree in secondary education and passed her teaching exams. But as she looked for jobs, she still couldn’t shake her feelings of inferiority.
While she tried to muster the courage to present herself well, her insecurities made it difficult. She felt short and unattractive. Finding work proved difficult, and she grew discouraged. She didn’t think she was enough.
“If you graduate from a well-known university, you have the edge,” she said. “But I am from the province. I was not the first choice.”
After a few years, a church friend told her about a receptionist job with SIL Philippines, an international translation and linguistics organization in Manila. Fluency in English and experience with Microsoft Excel were listed as requirements, but Jenny applied anyway.
Finding Purpose in God
Imagine her surprise when she was called for an interview! They had chosen her to be among the 15 possible choices.
She had mixed feelings: “Normally if you apply for a job, you are praying that they will hire you,” Jenny said. Instead, she prayed in fear, “No, no, no, please! This is an English-speaking organization. I can’t make it. I don’t have proficiency in email clients or Excel. Oh, Lord, this is bad!”
But God was working. The hiring manager called her again; now she was one of just six candidates left. And, as you might guess, she was chosen for the position. She accepted the job and set herself to the task.
Yet, Jenny found herself hiding in meetings because her childhood wounds followed her. She’d sit behind taller people or in quiet corners out of the way. Anything to avoid being noticed. But her friend Ann did notice!
When Jenny explained her feelings of inadequacy, Ann responded with the kindness and love that can only come from God. Ann helped Jenny see herself as God saw her—fearfully and wonderfully made. While Jenny’s insecurities didn’t magically disappear, she grew to trust God more and more. She submitted her fears to him and began to accept Ann’s compliments.
Soon, SIL promoted Jenny and assigned her a new task: assistant to Geri, a missionary who translated God’s Word for the Deaf. So Jenny, who once spoke only one language, was now learning English and sign language.
Now Jenny works as the orientation and training program coordinator for SIL’s Global Sign Language Team. Her first awkward days of work at SIL seem far away. She has now led trips to Thailand and other countries to help support efforts to reach the Deaf all over the world.
When Jenny meets a Deaf person in her travels, she can communicate with them. “By God’s grace, the Deaf say, ‘Jenny, you know how to sign!’ I am so thankful,” she said.
Specialized schools for the Deaf are often financially out of reach, and in many places, discrimination against Deaf people is the norm. How fitting that God has positioned Jenny, who has overcome her own feelings of inferiority, to reach these underserved communities.