Imagine not being able to hear someone’s voice, or your own for that matter. Not being able to communicate with most of the world around you. I would imagine it would be like being placed in another country where no one speaks your language, nor you theirs. Opportunities for understanding what people are saying and what you want to say shut out. Your feelings of being alone in a world you cannot hear would be frightening. Take a moment and think about being deaf and only a hand full of people in your life being able to communicate with you through signing, but all others are just a loss of connection.
For Terri Clinard Holliday of Adairville this scenario was introduced at a very early age. Not because she herself was hearing impaired, but because God showed her years before she knew herself what He was going to use her for… to communicate His word to the deaf.
Holliday grew up in Adairville. Her father Walter Ray is a regular in the town and it’s normal to see him walking and talking to those in the community on a regular basis. But what Walter can do by communicating to the many, there are some who can only communicate to the few because of a hearing impairment.
“I can remember when I was a little girl we would go eat at the cafe on the square,” said Holliday. “Mr. Orndorff- who was deaf- used to eat there too. He lived on Church Street I think. I can remember seeing him at the cafe eating with a friend of his who was also deaf. I used to watch them talk with one another and thought how fascinating it was. I thought someday I want to be able to speak to them, in their language of signing.”
It wasn’t until years later, after a degree in Architectural Design from Western Kentucky University and a job in Nashville that Holliday was once again pulled by God to revisit His plan for her.
While attending Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Holliday got her first taste of what she was meant to do with the rest of her life. She began teaching Sunday School, and in her class met a student who had Down Syndrome. He was non-verbal but could communicate with signs he learned to use. Because Holliday wanted to talk to him she began taking sign language classes from an interpreter in the Sunday School class for the deaf. It didn’t take her long to learn and eventually became so fluent in the language she moved to the class for the deaf to help out.
“Being able to sign for me opens up a whole new world of communicating with another culture,” said Holliday. “Most who are deaf do not look at it as a disability. Instead it is a different culture, with a different language spoken. Being able to communicate in that culture means the world to me. I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to speak to others and to share His word.”
Holliday spent 30 years away from Adairville having found a home in South Carolina with her husband Dr. Darrell T. Holliday, Jr., who is a Professor of Business Administration at Coker College in Hartsville, S.C. She met her husband in a signing class. He is also an avid signer.
The Adairville native recently moved back to her hometown last year to be closer to family. She and her husband purchased and renovated her childhood home and both sign services at Adairvlle Baptist Church on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m.
Holliday hopes those in her community who are hearing impaired feel welcome to come and worship at Adairville Baptist Church on Sunday mornings. She wants them to know there will be someone there who can speak to them and give them God’s word in their language.
Holliday’s most current project is opening a business in downtown Adairville. She wanted a place where people could come and gather together and communicate with one another while sipping on a hot cup of coffee or tea. A hodgepodge establishment mixed with antiques and local art. A friendly open door of sorts called the Grapevine. The store is located next to the diner on the square. She anticipates opening May 3.
“I came back to Adairville because I love my hometown. I wanted to not only utilize my signing, but also give back to Adairville,” said Holliday adding she wanted to offer new life to one of the store fronts. “I want to encourage people to come out and talk with one another. Communication is important.”
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.