CHARLOTTE – Seminary has prepared Mary Beth Cantrell to provide counseling services for one of the most underserved populations: the deaf community.
It just so happens that Mary Beth belongs to this community.
Mary Beth graduated with a master’s degree in biblical studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – Charlotte when the seminary held its commencement exercises May 20 at Forest Hill Church.
She will also receive her master’s degree in Christian Counseling later this year, after which she will formally pursue state licensure to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.
Mary Beth, who has a bachelor’s degree in education for the deaf and hard of hearing from the University of Montevallo in Alabama, has been deaf her entire life. She grew up reading lips and speaking orally.
“Sign language was not a part of my communication until my college days,” she said. “In grade school, I had to sit up front in class so I could see the teacher’s lips … If the teacher turned around to the board to write while talking, I would miss what she said.
“I did not realize how much I was missing until college. I used a sign language interpreter for the first time in my college class, and I was able to see everything that was said … Learning sign language changed my life.”
In college, Mary Beth not only became part of the larger deaf community for the first time, she discovered a calling for care and support of the deaf.
“I prayed that God would reveal to me his calling for my life,” Mary Beth said. “In college, I discovered the deaf community through a friend of mine. It was a world that I had never seen before. Everyone signed, and I was speechless to find so many people that were like me. At that moment, I realized my calling.”
It was during seminary that Mary Beth refined her calling. She discovered the need for professional deaf counselors. In addition to lack of trained counselors, there are other serious and potentially dangerous barriers for the deaf community in receiving mental health care.
“Mary Beth Cantrell is representative of the 21st-century seminary student,” said Donald Fairbairn Jr., academic dean of the Charlotte campus. “While seminaries will always train clergy for parish ministry, more and more students, like Mary Beth, are coming to seminary with unique giftings and callings.”