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Though deaf, WorldChanger says plenty

DUNCAN, Okla. (BP)–D Street was a center of commotion: A group of students had replaced the quiet of the morning with the sounds of a home under renovation.

One student, however, didn’t hear it that way.

James Knottel, the 18-year-old from First Baptist Church West in Lawton, Okla., came to Duncan to take part in a World Changers project with more than 200 other teenagers. Knottel is no ordinary teen. He is deaf.

World Changers is a ministry of the North American Mission Board that provides students and adults with opportunities to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others through construction and ministry projects. In Duncan, 265 students and adults worked on 21 worksites during the week of June 13-18.

“My first day I was clueless,” Knottel recounted.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was scared.” He even wrote his group leader a note saying that he wanted to go home. After some encouragement, though, he decided he would persevere.

The next morning, the WorldChangers crew working on the D street house — calling themselves “the Dandy Sanders” — made their way to their jobsite for the first time. Knottel hesitantly walked to the front door with the rest of the crew to meet the homeowner, Lisa Jungheim.

Knottel’s uneasiness turned to joy: Jungheim also was deaf and her entire family knew how to sign. Knottel went from being a student who couldn’t communicate well to being the only student who could effectively interact with this family.

After meeting the Jungheims, Clifford McGhghy, the Dandy Sanders crew chief, said, “The first thing I noticed [about James] is that he would talk all day long, but I told him he had to go to work.” And work he did. Knottel and others on the crew replaced 10 windows and scraped and repainted the exterior of the house.

Though Knottel’s World Changers experience taught him what it takes to paint a house and how to replace a window, that wasn’t what most affected him.

“I now understand that I need to be satisfied with what I have and what God has blessed me with,” he said. “I need to be satisfied in whatever my situation is. I need to help people, to help my city. I want to build up that city to build up the Kingdom.”

After serving for a week at World Changers, it became clear to Knottel that God was calling him to mission work fulltime. When he saw a map of the places in the world where the Gospel has yet to have taken root, he was ready to go.

“I can’t use my deafness as an excuse to sit at home when that side of the map was so dark,” Knottel said. “If I stay focused on God, I know He will help me.”
Scott Stephens is a student missionary and missions communications specialist serving with World Changers. For more information about World Changers, visit www.world-changers.net.

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  • Scott Stephens