Samuel* wouldn’t talk. Nobody knew why. Friends described him as a talkative, average child when he was young, but one day something happened and he decided the world no longer needed to hear his voice.
I asked his father, “I don’t know,” He shrugged, looking anxious as he stood in his scrubs at PTC probably wishing he was back at the hospital dealing with doctor stuff that he knew how to handle instead of discussing his son’s uncanny silence.
“Asperger’s” I surmised after finding out that his uncle suffered from that social handicap. “Maybe it runs in the family.”
And life glided on with Samuel a seemingly silent spectator. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t communicate with him. Never before had I realized so strongly the truth of the statement “communication is a two-way street.”
He wouldn’t turn in his work and when he did it was full of incoherent, jumbled words as if he cut out all the words in the dictionary, shook them up, and pulled them out of a hat, writing them down as he went. But at least I knew he read the dictionary; regularly I would find words like “incarnation” and “incomprehensible.”
I wondered what was going on in his head. He was a smart student; at least I assumed as such, but there was a barrier of silence that I could not break down. He wouldn’t ask questions and refused to turn in work unless he knew it was all correct. I encouraged him to write. No matter if it was jumbled or not, at least I was getting a small window into his brain.
As the year progressed, so did his writing. I started making out sentences, ideas, thoughts, questions. And one day I realized he was making eye-contact with me when I was lecturing in class. It was a startling victory. I had never seen his eyes look at me before.
The next month he was smiling and laughing at my jokes, the next month he played a small joke on me. And the next month he was hanging on the fringes of the guys’ lunchtime basketball game.
But still he was silent.
All summer long, I prayed for him; asking God to help him break through the wall of whatever was separating him from the verbal world.
Year number two got off to a smooth start. I assigned classwork on the first day of school (What a mean teacher I am!) and I barely had time to sit at my desk when Samuel’s hand tentatively and slowly went up. Instantly I was at his side, asking quietly, “Yes, how can I help you?”
And then I heard the first sentence that Samuel had ever spoken to me, “Miss, what do I do for number 1?”
Spoken barely louder than a whisper, the victory was louder than a shout and bigger than the conquering of Mt. Everest.
But the story gets better.
One week later: class quiz time. As I asked questions, the students were allowed to raise their hands and answer verbally for the class. And there was a question that stumped them. After two wrong guesses by the talkative ones, Samuel raised his hand and looked at me.
“Yes,” I said moving toward his seat.
Quietly and confidently, Samuel answered correctly.
The class cheered, and I had to turn away before I cried.
There are no little victories in the realm of conquering fear because each person’s fear is the biggest giant to them.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!!! In Him ALL things are possible!
*Not his real name.
NOTE: This was originally posted on Sarah Moravetz’s blog on September 11, 2014. Sarah is on her second year as a student missionary from Southern Adventist University (through Adventist Volunteer Service), serving as a high school Bible teacher and chaplain on the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia. This has been re-posted with her permission.