When Michele was a young girl, she saw a sign language dictionary at a bookstore and begged her mother to purchase it for her. Neither Michele nor her mother knew why she had such an interest in it since she had never been exposed to anything like it before. She took that book home and began teaching herself sign language, but after a few years her studies would eventually fade into the background. Little did Michele know that God had planted a seed that would lead her to creating a home for many and a community for thousands of people.
A few years after Michele discovered her love for American Sign Language (ASL), her best friend found out that her 18-month-old son was deaf. They immediately began taking classes and making friends who are deaf or hard of hearing. “I began learning the language very quickly and ended up going to Mesa Community College and completing the interpreting program there. It became a part of my life spiritually and in the world. It was another way I feel God was equipping me uniquely to serve Him," she said.
In 1996, Michele started attending Horizon Christian Fellowship where Pastor Miles was on staff at the time. She interpreted services for the deaf there and got involved with the Miles Ahead crusades. In 2002, she established the Deaf Ministry at Rock Church and while leading this ministry she also got involved as a volunteer for the Do Something campaigns and conferences, outreach ministries and eventually started running the annual Toys for Joy event! Life outside of her full-time job was always at church, but was God done with her yet? Far from it. In 2006, Michele opened a Deaf Foster Home.
I remember thinking to myself, if Pastor Miles can block out the negativity and the doubters and lock onto the vision that God gave him for the church, I could certainly do that for my home.
Earlier in that year while she was interpreting for a mentor training class, one story in particular about a former foster youth hit her hard. Michele remebers that, “the foster youth had to persevere through so much adversity in her life with her biological family and multiple foster home placements. She managed to graduate from high school, even with no one there to celebrate her. She got a scholarship to college and during the Thanksgiving break, having no family or friends to go to, spent the week living and sleeping in her car. It broke my heart that she never had anyone around her as a support. I couldn't seem to get that child's story out of my mind.”
Michele always thought she might open an orphanage in Mexico because she had spent many years serving at a deaf missionary house in Ensenada. However, after hearing the story of this particular foster youth, Michele felt God telling her that she didn’t need to go to Mexico. She could do something right here in San Diego. Despite God’s clear calling on that season of her life, Michele was still met with some opposition.
“Being a single woman, working full-time, and serving as much as I could at the church, most everyone tried to talk me out of it. Others said, ‘start small, just one child and see how you feel’. The spiritual cheerleaders in my life throughout all this, other than my mother, have all been brothers and sisters in [Rock Church]." At this time, Rock Church was in the middle of the Nehemiah campaign to begin the lengthy process of obtaining the Point Loma Campus at Liberty Station and Michele found inspiration in Pastor Miles' perserverance and obedience to God's calling on His life. She says, "I remember thinking to myself, if Pastor Miles can block out the negativity and the doubters and lock onto the vision that God gave him for the church, I could certainly do that for my home. If God was faithful to build a house for thousands, He would be faithful to build a house for six. To this day, I have no idea how He financially made it all happen.”
For Michele, the calling of motherhood has looked different from many of those around her, but it never changed the deep love that she felt for these children and the way that God has revealed His own love to her. She spent a lot of time in prayer before opening the home and God gave her a clear vision to make a home for healing and restoration despite the challenges she would face as a single, full-time working woman. “We all have deep wounds and scars from our life experiences, whether you're a foster child or not. The heart of our home was to be a place where you could come with all of those things and leave restored. My kids were taught to have grace and understanding for each other's struggles. To support and cheer for one another and all of our accomplishments. To stand beside each other when they felt like giving up and when life felt unbearable. Family doesn't quit on each other. I think of our relationship with the Lord and how He is always there for us. No matter what we have done, His house, His arms, are always a place of healing and forgiveness.”
In Michele’s 16+ years of service, she has learned that we can’t be sustained on anything that comes from this world. There were many days where she felt like the life she had chosen was too much and she was drowning in the needs of the children, the home, her job, her church, and more, but looking back she says she wouldn't change a thing. God didn't call us to do life alone. He blessed Michele with a community who would help her with chores as simple as doing dishes, to picking up the kids or just allowing her to have a good cry. “We can't look to others to affirm or confirm us, but to simply follow the steps the Lord has planned out for us. The Lord never fails. So anything that He has designed is not really a risk. It is a guaranteed success. We can walk confidently and boldly and what He has planned.”
Recently, Michele moved with her children to the East Coast so they could be closer to family. She is a shining example of how faithful God is to those who are obedient to His calling on their life. Michele had no idea that her fascination with ASL as a young girl would soon lead her to serving thousands of people throughout San Diego and when she reflects on all the fruit that has grown, her heart is overwhelmed by God's goodness.
"My favorite statement that I've been dwelling on the past several years has been 'today, I choose joy'. It really is a choice that we make every moment of every day. To get lost in the crazy in the negativity of the world or just stay focused on the joy that we have in Jesus and the opportunity we have to love another people while were here on this earth."
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