HOW TO START A DEAF MINISTRY?
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all in Christ Jesus” — Galatians 3:28
As Christians, we want full participation in the body of Christ teachings based on our gifts and talents. The deaf community is a scattered population without a voice. It is the intention of this ministry to bring together the hard-of-hearing, D/deaf disciples (Deaf-strong ASL, very involved in the community. deaf-hard of hearing, oral etc.), and those who are willing to learn ASL to help with the work toward a common goal to service the Lord. Deaf people are not concentrated in one specific geographic area; they are scattered all over the world. Our goal as church ministers is to teach and present clear information about a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Let us be very clear about this one topic, the deaf community avoids participating in the hearing world community. If we attend a hearing community conference, it is likely that most of the audience will be from the hearing community; very few deaf individuals would be present unless there was an interpreter present. A deaf brother shared this feeling when he said, “finding a deaf person to baptize someone is like throwing a pin into the grass and finding it.” Searching for a deaf individual is just that, Matthew 9: 26 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Training A Deaf Young Christian
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Just like us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, we were spiritually young. For a deaf member, a long period of training is needed to help him or her grow to know Christ Jesus. As baby Christians the church offers many opportunities for such learning: Bible Studies, Bible Talk Groups, meeting with disciples to confess and share our struggles, seeking advices, break bread, serving one another, are biblical standards,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
So we need to be patient when training a deaf disciple to build a relationship with the Lord first, then with us.
Matthew 28: 18-20
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Deaf individuals’ thoughts are processed differently than hearing individuals. Deaf people rely primarily on visual cues and in other non-verbal cues, not in verbal memory. Deaf people think visually. The language is developed differently than hearing people. Even if the individual is Deaf-Oral, that is, when the individual has some degree of hearing and some fluency of speech, he or she will not be able to hear or understand all the content and meaning of speech, deaf individuals process language differently than hearing ones. For hard of hearing individuals learning English is a difficult endeavor. God has created Deaf people to express and receive language visually. We see this in the New Testament
Luke 1: 22
“When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.”
Luke 1: 59-63
“On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”
ASL and English
American Sign Language (ASL) is a beautiful language. English is the primary language used in the United States. ASL is the third most used language used in United States. The difference between ASL and English can be described as the comparison between watching a sunset and hearing one described. ASL is like watching a movie and reading a book. ASL is art; English is literature. English offers a beautiful description of the winds. ASL is experiencing the wind itself.
It’s a great pleasure to start a manual for hearing disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to start a new ministry. Jesus has various ministries in the Kingdom of God such as Marriage, Singles, Campus, Teens and Pre-Teens. Now we are about to start a new ministry added to the Lord Jesus’ Kingdom: Deaf Ministry.
Deaf Ministry is Grateful!
In the Los Angeles Church of Christ, the Deaf Ministry is very grateful for so many Deaf brothers and sisters who sacrifice what they had on the East coast and moved out to Los Angeles to start this ministry. What started off with one deaf brother ended up with twenty deaf brothers and sisters. Talk about faith! The hearing brothers and sisters gave up everything they had: home, job, friends, church, etc. to come out and establish a future Deaf Ministry.
“Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
If There Is Any Motivation…
If a hearing disciple wishes to help establish a Deaf Ministry (God will bless him/her!) it is recommended that prayer be sought along with seeking advice from a Minister before making any commitment. Proverbs 16:3 reminds us “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Without having any zeal, commitment, or doing spiritually well, plans will not be successful. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11)
- If you do not know ASL, there are a few ideas to share and recommend. It is a theory that if a group of hearing brothers and sisters are interested in this vision, they would enroll in a local American Sign Language class. By doing this, communication would be a success by sharing God’s Words. Deaf individuals rarely ever participate anywhere without any communication.
- It’s a huge recommendation for the hearing disciples to participate and be involved within the deaf community. There are special events through out the year that are provided on the Internet, asking deaf individuals or even asking your American Sign Language Instructor.
*** Note: Brothers and sisters, do not worry about your communication just yet, but communicate with what you have learned, have a vulnerable heart.
- Invite deaf individual(s) over to your home for refreshments and socialize. Set up some kind of events such as movies (with Close Caption), game boards, swimming or anything that is active. The deaf community enjoys events that have lots of actions. Do not start talking about any subjects relating to God unless the deaf individual(s) ask. It is more important to build a trusting friendship. It is all in God’s timing when an individual(s) will attend church.
Acts 17: 24-27
24″The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
It is also encouraged not to give up on the individual(s) just because the individual(s) will not attend church. By setting your example, each individual will notice your Godly examples in actions, remember who reached out to you, they did not give up on you.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”
I do encourage them to contact the Deaf Ministry team when you need to seek further advices about this ministry. Feel free to ask any questions about this ministry that we are here to support the disciples the best as we can.
Note: Joe Cepeda wants to express my appreciation to Randy Rushing for his inputs regarding his knowledge of the subjects and suggestions about this manual.