The word of God, typed in real time

The Orlando Sentinel posted an article on Nov. 1 about the volunteers who provide live captioning during Sunday services at the First Baptist Church of Orlando. The article quotes NCRA member Ninette Butler, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Orlando, and also mentions several other NCRA members.

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A captioning ministry beyond church walls

By Margo Lucas

While captioning one Sunday morning, I noticed a gentleman who had walked in late and was trying to get my attention. When there was a pause in my writing, I glanced over and saw a big smile on his face as if he knew me. I vaguely recognized him but couldn’t place where I had seen him before.

After the service, he approached me and as soon as he spoke, I realized who he was. It had been some time since I had last seen Jim. I had briefly provided CART for him until he violated parole and was sent back to jail.

At one time he owned his own business, lived in a beautiful home in a wonderful community, and was happily married. His deafness occurred gradually. It was attributed to an overuse of antibiotics given to him as a child for ear infections, although his military tours also caused permanent hearing damage. (It is estimated that 70 percent of our military men and women return home with some form of hearing loss.). Hearing aids no longer worked for him, and he didn’t have coverage to pay for a cochlear implant. Soon he lost his business and his home, and he found himself divorced. As a deaf individual, he no longer fit in the hearing world, nor did he fit in with the Deaf community, as he had no sign language skills. He became isolated and escaped into the world of alcohol and drugs. After several encounters with the law, he was sentenced to prison.

Now, years later, here he was worshipping in church. I thought to myself, boy, he sure cleaned up well. He was sober and clean shaven with a fresh new haircut. He had on a nice pair of jeans and a collared shirt. His eyes were bright and cheerful, and his smile was contagious.

After a few weeks of attending church services regularly, he asked me if I would provide a transcript, which I did. Months later, he shared the impact those transcripts had not only on him but on the individuals he had been forwarding them to who were still incarcerated. This encouraged me to explore areas in which the captioning ministry could expand beyond church walls.

I learned many things as I tried to determine the benefits of providing a sermon transcript.

• Transcripts can be translated into other languages using text translators.
• Transcripts can be an aid to those learning English.
• Transcripts provide accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
• Transcripts can be downloaded by people who are both blind and deaf and be used through a Braille reader.
• Individuals and study groups can keyword search transcripts, as well as highlight and print the sermons.
• Transcripts can be archived and cataloged electronically for quick reference by pastors and interns.

Many forgotten people or groups could benefit greatly from a sermon transcript if it is posted on your church’s website. Incarcerated individuals do not have access to the Internet to view or listen to sermons; however, they are allowed access to written material. Check local churches and inquire if they have a prison ministry or prison outreach. Oftentimes the ministry includes volunteers who write letters to inmates. Excerpts or transcripts in whole can be included with their notes of hope and encouragement. Google the county jails and state and federal prisons, and notify the chaplain of this accessible material that can be distributed.

Often churches have ministries to reach out to people of different languages in different countries. It is more accurate to translate one language to another from a transcript than an audio format. There are inexpensive software programs such as Systran Translator ( and Promt Translator ( or Yahoo’s free version of BabelFish ( that would allow people to translate the transcripts into various languages as a wonderful resource for international missionaries.

Transcripts would make the sermon accessible to people who are hearing impaired or deaf, as well as for people who are deaf and blind and have access to a Braille reader.

Research shows that when given a choice between an audio or transcript download, people are three times more likely to choose the transcript. Most people won’t take the time to listen to a 30-minute sermon, but they will take the time to read a transcript.

If you have been thinking of becoming involved in a captioning ministry but are not yet comfortable with writing realtime, this would be a wonderful post-production way to have an influence while honing your skills and building your dictionary. This is a nation starving for spiritual direction. By transcribing sermons, you would be an integral part in reaching many forgotten people groups.

“I had such a hard time finding a church that had captioning. I went to the church I had grown up in and tried a couple of other churches with my daughter. But every time we explained to the pastor that I couldn’t hear and didn’t know sign, they responded that there was nothing they could do. So, I just stopped going. If it wasn’t for Elmbrook Church offering captioning, I would not be able to attend services,” Jim said.

I was reminded of the quote: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as you ever can.”

Margo Lucas, CCP, CBC, RPR, CRI, is a CART provider based in Menomonee Falls, Wis. She can be reached at


Don’t let fear rob you

This morning, I was sitting in church waiting for the 8 a.m. service to begin when I noticed two women walk past me down the aisle and sit in front of the LCD monitor. I thought to myself, “I sure hope they don’t expect to see CART because I only provide that for the 9:30 a.m. service. I’m not ready; I’ve only warmed up by wrapping my hands around a hot cup of coffee.”

I practice writing the 8 a.m. sermon, stopping to brief a recurring word or phrase or to jot down an unfamiliar word that I will Google in between services. If there is an emotional testimony, I may just sit back and take it in before I start writing again.

I walked down to the two women, smiled, and introduced myself. I asked if they were expecting to use the text on the screen as an accommodation to hear the service. Terry and Debby, who I found out were mother and daughter, returned my smile and said yes. I found myself apologizing that I didn’t normally provide CART for the 8 a.m. service and explaining that it would be better for them to attend the next. But then I stopped. What on earth was I thinking? What is the purpose of my captioning ministry anyway? It’s to make the word of God accessible. Why would I deny anyone that? I love this ministry. When did fear start robbing me of what I love to do?

I thought back to the spring of 1987. I had recently moved back to Wisconsin after graduating from a court reporting school in California. A job offer was posted for a secretary/stenographer with realtime skills to work for the Honorable Judge Richard S. Brown in the Court of Appeals. I jumped at the opportunity. I had a good feeling I had passed the Wisconsin State CPR (Certified Professional Reporter) exam required to work in state courts and was awaiting results, but I was nervous, maybe even terrified; however, I wasn’t going to let fear stop me from an incredible job opportunity.

I had no previous experience. I had no computer system, no dictionary, as I was still typing from my paper notes using my manual steno machine. What I lacked in experience and skill, I made up for in sheer determination and willingness to learn. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. I just needed the opportunity. I don’t remember much about the actual interview, but it must have gone well because later that same day, I received a phone call offering me the position.

I was elated! I wasted no time finding a computer system and spending every spare minute building my dictionary. Although I considered myself a clean writer, I needed to be realtime ready. You see, Judge Brown is deaf. I needed to be able to write realtime for oral arguments in the courtroom and judicial conference calls in chambers utilizing the speaker phone.

So why this morning, after years of experience, did I almost allow fear to hinder the purpose of my captioning ministry? Fear can impede our growth if we are obsessed with what others may think of us. If our focus is on ourselves and our glory, we don’t see the glory of God working through us as His messenger to reach out to others.

Fear can also cause us to refuse to embrace change because we would rather be comfortable. If we become complacent in our work, it will lead to dissatisfaction, feeling unfulfilled, and eventual burnout. Eugene O’Neill said, “A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself . . . so long as a person is searching for better ways of doing his work, he is fairly safe.”

There are online tools, classes, and webinars that are fantastic resources. In the comfort of my home, away from distractions, I set aside time to take a course and practice. The most difficult part is just making yourself sit down and begin, but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you become engaged and how fun it is, especially when you see the improvement in your skills.

There is also a tremendous benefit in attending onsite workshops and conventions. You will come away with an immense amount of information, education, and training in a short period of time. It is rejuvenating to interact with peers giving and receiving support and sharing what works. Having several vendors at one location is a time saver, assisting you in making informed decisions on your wants and needs.

Contact your church or any local church, and ask if you can set up your equipment to practice for yourself. Search out sermons on TV or on the Web. My church has sermon videos to watch and downloads available in video and audio format on its home page at www.elmbrook. org.

Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” Have you ever watched babies learning to walk? They take a step and down they go. They get up and take another step or two and down they go. Never do they look discouraged. Never do they give up. They just get up and take another step forward, and before you know it, they’re running.

You don’t think there were days in court when I cringed at my untranslates or word boundary issues? Absolutely. But I got up, dusted off my ego, and kept working hard, always moving forward.

Don’t let fear rob you of your aspirations. Don’t let your fear deny others the opportunity to “hear” the word of God. Take that first baby step toward making it happen.

After the sermon this morning, Terry, Debby, and I had a chance to talk. They thanked me and gave me a hug, saying they truly appreciated the CART and would be back next week. I look forward to seeing them; and if they happen to come for the 8 a.m. service, that will be just fine.