This past weekend I had the privilege of witnessing one of the most beautiful events I have ever seen. Baptisms are always wonderful, and I particularly appreciate it when they're outside. This particular baptism took place in Upper Saranac Lake, at Camp Cherokee, a place very dear to my heart, which was another factor in the specialness of the occasion. But the best part about this sacred event was that the lady getting baptized was deaf. And blind. She is also one of the sweetest people I've ever met.
Winnie Weisgerber Tunison has been deaf since she was born and blind since she was forty. She been married for forty-three of those years to John, an incredibly kind gentleman with a terrificly dry sense of humor to boot. Winnie is not only sweet, she's also very sharp. When I talked with her, she told me a little bit about her experience going to Gallaudet College (where she graduated summa cum laude) and about how she checks her Facebook account with her Braille laptop. She has two daughters and several grandchildren around the country, and she enjoys visiting them when she can. Green is not her color, although she likes yellow, she signed, and she particularly loves butterflies and orchids.
Butterflies represent freedom and sensitivity, she told me through an interpreter. They are free to fly wherever they please, and they also gain information about the world around them through their antennae, or feelers. Orchids are fragile, costly, and beautiful. They require special care, but they reward dedicated caretakers with delicate blooms that are highly prized for their rarity and beauty. Winnie can relate.
Winnie's primary connection to the outside world is through her hands. She not only speaks through them, but she can also hear and read. By placing her hand on the hand of someone who is signing, she is able understand what they are saying with remarkable accuracy. It was through her fingers that she learned about Jesus and about His soon return, and after studying for some time, she decided she wanted to be baptized.
Winnie couldn't see the sunlight flashing on the water or the flower petals that were sprinkled in the lake; she couldn't hear us singing Shall We Gather at the River; but then, that isn't what it was about, really. Winnie was testifying to the metamorphosis of her heart.
May I be as responsive to the Spirit's call, as open to His penetrating light, and as sensitive to His touch as Winnie is.