Signing a Brighter Future

English IV Dual Credit Profile Assigment

Written: October 26, 2016


Not everyone is called out into the mission field, but the few who are have to be diligent, patient, and Christ-focused. Zackary Shaikh meets all these qualities and more. He was preaching by the age of 12, and doing mission trips by the age of 15. The one that he has been doing the longest and has changed his life and perspective the most is Camp SummerSign.

Camp SummerSign is a camp located at the Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church and it is for children ages 6-17 who are Deaf or are siblings to a Deaf child. Staff members interact with the children in their own language, ASL (American Sign Language), and teach them about Jesus. Zackary learned about Camp SummerSign through his BCM director at Bethel University, where Zackary currently attends as a Ministry major. He knew it would be a challenging mission trip, since he barely knew anything about the Deaf culture, but he was ready for anything that would come his way.

Zackary first went to Brentwood in the summer of 2013 and immediately fell in love with the camp. He knew this was what he would be doing for a while, and he did. After three summers, he is now fluent in ASL and looks to even becoming an ASL interpreter one day alongside being a pastor. It was a challenging transition of learning ASL at the beginning. Watching everyone sign so easily made him think, “I can’t do this.”  He even stated that he told everybody he was on a mission “shrimp,” as he preceded to actually sign the word “shrimp” instead of “trip.” He has come a long way, now preferring ASL to English. Unfortunately, he does not know enough people who sign in his area to be able to sign daily. At most schools and colleges, there are classes for Spanish, French, or Latin. However, barely any schools offer ASL and Zackary hopes that it will be offered in the near future.

Becoming more aware of the Deaf culture, Zackary learned a lot. Most Deaf people are very blunt, and very few know English phrases. In ASL, English is not directly translated. ASL has its own sentence structure. For example, in English you would say, “ I love you.” On the other hand, in ASL, you would sign, “You, I love.” ASL is a unique language with its own set of rules. People who are native English speakers think in English, just as native Spanish speakers think in Spanish. ASL signers are not any different; they think in signs. The Deaf have their own slang and culture, and they do not see their disability as anything wrong. It is their life.  Just as preachers in our very own churches tell us, “Jesus loves you,” Zackary signs to his children at camp , “You, Jesus loves.”

Zackary has experienced a number of health problems since he was a child including Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and depression. While away at Camp SummerSign in 2015, he was sent to a hospital due to his health problems. His persistence really showed then as he went straight back to camp after being released instead of going home. Mission work is not for the weak. At Camp SummerSign, staff has the children for 8 hours. Keeping up with children when you are a college student is quite a task. Nothing can compete to the energy and playfulness of a child. Every week, the children and staff go on at least one field trip. That is hard enough with any child, but especially with children who can not hear. The staff’s eyes have to be open at all times, considering that even some of the staff are Deaf. Long hours and having to stay as alert as a mother over her newborn is tough, but Zackary loves it. The thrill of seeing his students thrive is like none other. He teaches them about Jesus, but they also learn to embrace their individuality. Being Deaf is not a disability, but rather a chance to see life in a whole new light.

There is a young boy at the camp who use to be an orphan in Ethiopia. He was put on the streets at the age of 4, and he was not going to be able to be adopted. Somehow, a family from America was able to adopt him. The young boy is now 11 and is flourishing in his language and knowledge. Because of Camp SummerSign and staff like Zackary Shaikh,children are growing in their knowledge, their understanding, and even their faith. Fifteen children were saved just over the past summer.  Camp SummerSign offers a chance to children who do not have the help of parents or school to immerse themselves in their own culture. They can communicate, learn, and fellowship. They learn about Jesus and have the opportunity to say what they have been wanting to say for so long because the language barriers are coming down. Camp SummerSign is not only a safe haven for deaf children, it is a chance to better the world by giving these children a brighter future.