Singing through sign
CUTLINE: Signs of Christ is an area singing group that uses sign language rather voice to “sign” songs. Among their performances was the Youth Rally in Waterloo last November. Members of the group are (front, l-r) Rebekah Shindelar, Megan Jencks, Jensen Winter; (back, l-r) Macy Winter, Emily Luzum, Destiny Blazek, Mauranda Wilkerson, Nicole Schmitt, Samantha Reicks, Kelsey Jencks, Jenna Schmitt, Jessica Schmitt, and Kay Shindelar. (Not pictured: Emily Elsbernd and Olivia Reicks) (submitted photo)
Singing through sign
Signs of Christ is a local area singing group using sign language rather than voice to sing.
“I do it because I wanted to find another way to serve the Lord,” said Kay Shindelar, the group’s advisor.
“You can touch someone and it only takes one person,” stated Mauranda Wilkerson, a member of Signs of Christ.
She recalled a man coming up to the group after their performance in April at Northeast Iowa Community College for Abilities Week. He told the young interpreters that theirs was the “best music I’ve even seen.”
The idea of Signs of Christ started five and half years ago when Kay first saw Leslie Troyer, a teacher at the Christian Academy in Floyd, sign at a women's luncheon.
A short time after that, some of the youth from their church learned to sign Creed by Rich Mullins.
They would then pass it along to the next youth group and so on, until the enthusiasm to learn more songs grew.
Shindelar asked Troyer to teach the young women of her parish to sign songs.
Troyer agreed, and Kay and her daughter Rebekah began videotaping Troyer performing the songs. They would then bring the tape to practice every Sunday night in Lawler.
Signs of Christ includes 15 girls, five of whom graduated this year. The young women range in age from junior high to high school and all are from a six-parish cluster stretching from Calmar to New Hamption.
“Anyone is welcome to join,” said Shindelar.
Group members choose the songs they want to learn and even add their own choreography.
“You feel God's presence, and it helps you grow stronger in your faith when you are signing,” said Rebekah.
“I love working with these young women. They have the enthusiasm,” said a passionate Kay. “It is always their ideas.”
Signing, however, is just one part of what Signs of Christ does.
“It’s also the community service we do,” explained Rebekah.
Every month, the group sends $35, raised through an annual kolache fundraiser, to support a boy in Honduras through World Vision.
“Working together to make kolaches all day, then being able to sell them and talk to people about what we are doing, we are able to have them support things like World Vision and have an global impact,” Rebekah added.
The other young women of the group feel much the same way.
“I like signing because it’s a different form of service, rather than just sitting during Mass,” said group member Nicole Schmitt.
Schmitt remembered performing for the Youth Rally at the Five Sullivan Brothers Center in Waterloo in front of 1,300 people.
“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she declared.
“People are very supportive. We get positive feedback all the time,” remarked Kay.
The group has even become popular enough that nearby churches and schools have asked them to come sign their songs.
The group recently performed at a church in Preston, Minn., and plans to perform for Lawler's Irish Fest breakfast on Sunday morning at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
“It's kind of like music in 3D. It is just so beautiful, it brings you so much more into the atmosphere,” concluded Kay.