DEALING WITH THE DEAF
Isn’t it a blessing to hear the birds chirping in the morning, the fresh mountain air rushing through the trees, musical instruments, a wonderful choir signing, or the voices of happy children? There is a population here in America and around the world that cannot hear those things, and more importantly cannot hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a service, on a radio or on a T.V. It would be a shame if their first opportunity to hear, would be these words, “Depart from me I never knew you.” How are the Deaf people to be reached, you may ask? Deaf ministries and Deaf churches is the answer.
And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and
they beseech him to put his hand upon him.
And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and he touched his tongue;
And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened.
And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he
And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so
much the more a great deal they published it;
And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh
both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
Deaf people communicate by their hands. This language, to further complicate things, is broken down to American Sign Language, Pidgin Signed English, and Signed Exact English (SEE). The down and dirty of these three boil down to this; ASL is very pictorial, uses the least amount of English and is the most preferred. Pidgin combines ASL and SEE. SEE is where every word is signed just as we would speak. Therein lies the problem, as the Deaf do not easily understand our communicated English when it comes to communication. If we are to reach them with the Gospel it needs to be in their language so they can understand it.
Growing up with Deaf parents (my mom was hard of hearing), I noticed one major thing and that was their frustration with communication. People would act like my parents needed to understand them, i.e. English. I am not going to debate English vs. ASL, however I am going to say that there is NO DOUBT, the Deaf need to communicate in ASL. If the Deaf people are going to be reached and DISCIPLED it must be with sign language. The other important thing to understand is they have their own culture. Here is a little background--Imagine being a young child and sent off to a Deaf School. Here they interact, communicate and have acceptance. The weekend shows up and its back to the homestead where that individual sees a bunch of lips moving, hears nothing, and doesn’t understand. Then back to school to be with other Deaf, which strengthens their culture. Now apply this to every day life and, oh by the way, church. Language and culture are both very important! Let us not allow pride to keep these folks from seeing the Gospel.
“What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that
he shall choose”
Many have often asked or wondered just how many Deaf there are in the country and the world. I will preface the statistics and numbers with the following comments, “If it were just ONE wouldn’t it be worth it?” or “If it were your family member wouldn’t it be worth it?” Depending on where you want to look for these statistics you will see from 2-10% of our population is considered Deaf. It could be said a solid 2-5% need some type of Sign Language to communicate. It has also been stated that if we took all the Deaf people in the world and put them in their own country it would be the 3rd largest country in the world.
“How is reaching the Deaf going?”, you may ask--great question! Horrible. It has also been stated, by non-denominational folks, that only 2% claim to know Jesus. That leaves 98%, if they believe that Jesus Saves (biblical salvation), that are lost and going to a devil’s Hell. When it comes to Deaf churches, there are under 20 Independent Fundamental Baptist churches in America. Personally, from our deputation of over 200 churches, there were less than 10 with a Deaf ministry. Several of those churches were in big cities with a higher population of Deaf. Let me explain briefly that a Deaf ministry is not just a hearing service with an interpreter. They need to be taught in their own language if they are to grow. Could you imagine trying to grow in a Spanish church, only understanding English, with an interpreter? What is the deal? It goes unnoticed to most. You will not know they are Deaf unless you see them signing or try to talk to them. There was a Pastor that stated, “I have knocked almost every door in this town and have not met one Deaf person.” I did not make the comment but they probably didn’t hear the knock. They can go unnoticed and therefore miss the radar as a needed ministry. Who will step up? The numbers will be small. Deaf people can be hurtful…And the list goes on and on.
A successful Deaf ministry, of course needs the leading of God, but will need some MEN to step up. These MEN need to learn sign language so they can teach the Deaf. The gap in reaching the Deaf is there are not many MEN answering the call. Women are great interpreters, singers, and communicators that are a tremendous BLESSING. However the MEN are needed to teach and or preach.
In our town alone they claim there are 3,000-5,000 Deaf people. Who will reach them? Who will help? Who will go? We are a church plant praying for others to gain the burden and calling to reach these precious souls. I personally know of several cities right now that have thousands of Deaf without a church or ministry. The JW’s, Catholics, Mormons, and Charismatics sure have interpreters and Deaf ministries. We however, are lagging with the TRUTH in reaching the Deaf of America and the World with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Will you learn, help, pray or GO? Wouldn’t you say 600,000 to 3 million Americans are worth reaching with the Gospel of Jesus?
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Pastor Dean Francini is planting a new Deaf Church in Colorado Springs, CO.