In America and throughout the world, we are being introduced to terms that are unfamiliar to us. Just as in the days after the terror attack on September 11, 2001, we are hearing of and learning about all kinds of new restrictions and a “new norm.” One of the words we have learned is not a new word, but we are learning a new way of thinking about it. It is the word “ISOLATION.” In speaking with Deaf people during this challenging time, I have learned the Sign for “isolation.” As I was thinking about the situation we are all facing globally, I was encouraged with the efforts being made to reach people where they are – restricted to their homes.
For the first time in my lifetime, church leaders are scrambling to provide good Bible content for the people of their churches who cannot physically come to church. These leaders are doing a great job of considering how people must be feeling – stuck in their homes without fellowship and personal contact. Via social media, messages are being provided not only on Sundays but also throughout the week. Internet capacity is strained and data systems are struggling to keep up with the additional content being shared, because we all realize the impact of being “isolated.”
As I was preparing to do the same thing for the Deaf of our community, the thought struck me: Deaf people have generally lived a life of “isolation” as the norm in their lives for a very long time. Many Deaf across America and around the world have little or no access to good Bible teaching and preaching. Oh, good churches are actively teaching and preaching, but they are doing it without interpretation for the Deaf, who are often forgotten and ignored. This even happens with good, Bible-preaching churches! Missionaries go to foreign fields to reach people in a different nation, and forget about the Deaf people that need to be reached there as well.Deaf people have generally lived a life of “isolation” as the norm in their lives for a very long time. Click To Tweet
What is the answer? The answer simply is that we need to increase our vision for the Deaf of our communities. We need to realize that, for Deaf people, the vehicles for receiving information are their eyes. Many Hearing people think that providing closed captioning is the answer. While that is a blessing, and is better than nothing, it can be boring and is often not as accurate as it should be. Imagine how you would feel if you always had to get the information your pastor is giving you through watching words scroll across a screen. You would lose the passion of his voice. You would lose the humor of his stories. You would not get any sense of the urgency of his message.
Sign Language is the bridge for conveying information to and communicating with every Deaf person. If we are going to effectively reach this group of people in our local churches, someone needs to make the effort to learn Sign Language and gain the skill level necessary to accurately communicate the pastor’s message for the Deaf. They deserve to be able to enjoy the ministries of our local churches! They deserve to be “INCLUDED,” not “ISOLATED.” For this to happen, we need to do what many have been doing today across the world in response to the pandemic: “We cannot do things as we have normally done them.” When it comes to ministering to the Deaf, how can we improve? How can we extend our normal way of doing ministry to include those who are ISOLATED?We cannot do things as we have normally done them when it comes to ministering to the Deaf. Click To Tweet
While many Hearing people are flocking to social media outlets for the first time to stay connected, Deaf people have lived in this arena for years. It is important that we continue to use the resources God has given us to make sure that the Gospel reaches the whole world! Jesus gave us the challenge in Mark 16:15:
“…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” - Mark 16:15
The phrases “All the world” and “every creature” include the often-forgotten Deaf in our area. What a joy it has been to see many Deaf preachers and leaders step up during this time of “isolation” in our world. What an incredible testimony to see Hearing interpreters standing beside their computers, listening to their pastor and Signing for the Deaf to be able to get the message. We want to make sure that the Deaf in our area know that Valley Forge Baptist is a church that loves the Deaf. We want to do more than talk about it; we want to prove it with our actions! Valley Forge Baptist is a caring church!