A tribute to my deaf father, who found Jesus in jail

Eric Ollie Epps before he got saved.

By Eric Jordan Epps –

Eric Ollie Epps went to jail at 21 years old for fighting. Incredibly, he wound up in a cell with his father-in-law, Robert Ramirez. Robert gave him a Bible.

That’s how Eric got saved.

“My journey with God was a battle, but I still stood strong with God,” Eric said. He’s been blessed and happy to have God in his life, he says.

One more thing: Eric is deaf.

And he is a single parent. I’m his son.

My father grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He was born deaf but held out hope to hear one day – either by a miracle of science or by a miracle of God.

Deafness meant loneliness. He was cut out of conversations much of the time. Thanksgiving was the holiday where he felt left out the most.

Deaf Christian
The author and Eric Ollie.

“It was as if the hearing people had more power,” he admits, through American Sign Language.

Finally, at age 25, Dad accepted his identity and stopped insisting on being healed.

“God made me who I am,” he says.

One of many children on his dad’s side, Dad grew up living with his mother. But when his mom ran into trouble with the law, she moved to Las Vegas and took 13-year-old Eric with her.

At age 17, he met my mom, Kassandra Ramirez. Her brother was deaf, so she knew American Sign Language. Dad moved in with Mom when he turned 18. He was partying, smoking weed, and fighting.

Then Mom got pregnant, and I was born. When I turned two, they moved from Temecula, California to Las Vegas.

That’s when my dad found Jesus. Of the fight that landed Dad in jail, he doesn’t like to disclose the details, but says, “I won.”

Hearing God when deaf
He’s deaf, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hear the word of God.

However, he potentially faced a five-year sentence in the judicial system. He felt broken and scared.

By God’s providence, he was put in the same cell as his father-in-law, Robert Ramirez, who had been arrested for theft.

Ramirez was reading his Bible when his son-in-law entered the cell. He shared from his Bible with Eric and encouraged him to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

He accepted the truth and began to follow Jesus.

Amazingly, the charges against Eric were dropped and he was released after two weeks in jail.

Dad wanted to clean up his life and leave his unsavory Las Vegas friends and the temptations of the city.

Mom stayed behind in Las Vegas and their separation led to divorce, the saddest part of the story.

Being deaf was only one of Dad’s immediate problems. He had to find a legitimate way to pay the rent and the bills. For a time, we lived without hot water and electricity.

“I would secretly use a long wire to the laundry room to provide light in our apartment,” Dad confides.

He donated his blood for the money to provide food at the table, and often shopped at the 99 Cents Store.

how reach deaf for ChristBeing raised by a deaf father did not seem different to me. In fact, it felt normal. Except for one thing: I could always yell without getting in trouble and play video games at full volume.

When my dad enrolled me in pre-school, I talked like a deaf person, with the typical mispronunciations of a person who has never heard how to modulate pronunciation by hearing others.

My teachers were patient with me. Now I’m in high school, and my high school teacher says I’m the best student!

I was raised in the church. When I was 12, I decided to get baptized. My dad is persevering in the Gospel. He is currently trying to adopt my cousin, Ariana, because her dad passed away. “I wanted to keep her in the light and away from the darkness,” he says.

I thank God for my dad. I was surprised when interviewing him for this article to find out that he also thanks God for me.

He said that without his son he would not be who he is today. He matured since he had a child and felt that he had a purpose. “It felt strange when my son called me ‘dad’ because I never had a dad to call on nor did anyone label me as dad,” he said.

My dad is my inspiration. “Look forward to the future;” he says, “there is always hope!”

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

Read more about God’s move among the deaf: Deaf missionary to Africa. And disabilities: Church that specializes in ministry to people with disabilities, One in four families have a child with disabilities: How is the church reaching them?, Should special needs couple be stopped from having kids?

About the writer of this article: Eric Epps studies at Lighthouse Christian Academy near the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.