In 1976, the USA celebrated the Bicentennial, Apple Computer Company and Microsoft were incorporated, NASA’s Viking 1 Lander spacecraft arrived safely on Mars, and I began to learn sign language. – Okay, my learning sign language wasn’t historic, but it did happen, and I got involved in a new deaf ministry in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The “Deaf World” Has Changed – Since then, much has changed in the “Deaf World.” Communication went from telephone TTYs to the current videophones, social media, online video chats, and distance learning. Gatherings changed from monthly Deaf Clubs to meeting online. Many people have become interested in learning sign language, and ASL classes are available in many cities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 helped lessen discrimination of Deaf people and open the door for better access to sign language interpreters. Interpreting, which had been mostly by family members or friends of Deaf people, became a paid profession with certification and a Code of Professional Conduct. Deaf churches, which had been rare, became available in many larger cities.
Change Can Be Slow – Over the years Deaf awareness has slowly and steadily increased. Learning sign language has now become popular. Even with all the educational opportunities provided by the ADA, many Deaf people still read English as a second language. When asked, many (or most) Deaf people tell me it is hard for them to read and understand the Bible, or even a Gospel tract. Deaf ministries seem to be smaller than when I learned sign language. Many church interpreters now fear signing when highly educated Deaf people are present. But, there continues to be a great need for more deaf ministries and deaf churches. Deaf people still need the Word of God.
Changing the Changing Deaf World
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations…” – Matthew 28:19
“Nations” is not limited to countries. It also includes people groups within all countries… and includes Deaf people. It is NOT the goal to change Deaf people to become the same as hearing people. (In several ways Deaf culture follows Biblical principles – caring for the disadvantaged, seeking the good of others, etc.) But all people should have the opportunity to follow Christ. All Christians should change to be like our Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). As Deaf Christians learn more about Christ, they mature spiritually and have the same blessings as other Christians.
Deaf Ministry Resources – The SWM mission statement is, “But We Will Give Ourselves… To The Ministry Of The Word — To Deaf People Worldwide” — (Acts 6:4). We help churches with Deaf Awareness in missions conferences and special weekend meetings. The SWM Deaf Bible Institute is a correspondence course for individuals and classes. (Idea: Leaders can teach the DBI weekly to their Deaf group.) SWM 3-day ASL Institute training is available each summer in three locations (SilentWord.org/ASLI). SWM area-wide deaf ministry Fantastic Saturdays are conducted in many areas to teach and encourage many deaf ministries at one time. The SWM “101 Booklet Series” is helpful for new signers and new deaf ministries. A wide variety of Bible-based literature and videos produced at SWM is available at SilentWord.org/store.
SWM Can Help – Are you Deaf and want to learn the Bible? Contact SWM. Are you hearing and wanting to learn about sign language and deaf ministry? Contact SWM. Are you a deaf ministry worker needing help? Contact SWM. Are you a pastor wanting to expose your church to the USA and foreign mission fields of the Deaf World? Contact SWM. SWM resources are here for you. It is our joy to share our hearts with you. We are here to serve.
You can learn more contact Jon Barr by clicking here.