“My interpreter moved. What can I do?” was the plea from a Deaf man calling the Silent Word Ministries videophone. SWM receives many requests from Deaf people seeking a church with a deaf ministry – with an interpreter – a church that will accept them – a church where they can learn the Bible and grow as a Christian.
The Deaf man had been attending a deaf church. The pastor left and the deaf church dissolved. The man began to attend a hearing church with an interpreter. His pastor’s messages were wonderful, and the Deaf man was learning and growing again. But the interpreter moved to a different area. Left with no interpreter, he called SWM. He does not drive and takes the city bus to church. The nearest church with an interpreter is about 2 hours away by bus. Now he sits in church and reads the pastor’s typed messages. There is no one to interpret. Somewhat isolated, he teaches a few church members sign language and probably wonders, “Will they also move away or become disinterested?”
Another Deaf man writes that he is grateful that he found a church with an interpreter. Thankfully, his church teaches trusted Bible doctrine. The faithful interpreter is now seeing fruit after many years of signing Sunday School lessons, songs, and sermons. But who will help her? Who will interpret when she is no longer able to sign? Will the Deaf there become isolated?
Many years ago one church became burdened to reach out to the Deaf community and found a limited-vision Deaf lady who lived alone. The new interpreters befriended her and faithfully signed for her. One day she told them that she now had a life – because of them. They spent nearly 20 years interpreting for her in church.
These true stories illustrate the isolation from society and from the Gospel that is normal in the Deaf community. Even as a hearing person who has been immersed in the “Deaf World” and Deaf Culture for many years, I cannot fully understand their isolation. We hearing people have many church options. When moving to a new town, it is easy to visit churches and decide which one is best for you. Deaf people have fewer choices. They must find a church with an interpreter whom they can understand.
There was a day that the deaf ministry was popular. Many churches were starting deaf ministries. There was a desire to reach out to as many people as possible. Today, it seems fewer churches have evangelistic deaf ministries. Many Deaf people have never been invited to church nor have seen a clear presentation of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of salvation. There are many areas in America where Deaf people cannot find a good church to attend or join. They are isolated from God and the Bible.
In 1966 God touched Dr. Ted Camp’s heart as a Deaf man sang in sign language, “More about Jesus would I know,” and Silent Word Ministries began. Since then, SWM has helped meet the greatest need of the Deaf by producing Bible-based literature and videos that teach “more about Jesus.” Today SWM has a 10-year Sunday School program which can be taught, a self-study Bible course program (the Deaf Bible Institute) available in print and online, Bible-based booklets, pamphlets, manuals, and videos. SWM has several free online video channels. The Silent Word Mission Board helps qualified missionaries minister to Deaf people. Let SWM help you share God’s Word to the Deaf in your area!
Several years ago a Deaf person wrote SWM saying, “I read The Silent Word Newspaper every two months when it arrives. It is my ‘church.’” Several deaf churches now live-stream their services. This has given Deaf people more access to churches in their language than ever before. But, as one Deaf lady said, video church is good, but “I need somebody to hug.”
More deaf churches are needed! More deaf ministries are needed! More missionaries to the Deaf are needed in our country and around the world. Whom should we exclude from the Gospel?
Has God called you to become a missionary to the Deaf? Come help us! Together we can help break the isolation from the Gospel faced by those who have never heard.
For more information about the Silent Word Mission Board or SWM Ministry of Helps, Contact Jon Barr by clicking here or call SWM, 706-657-8000.