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Deaf Baptists embrace unreached Deaf peoples
John Folker, Baptist Press
July 29, 2011

Deaf Baptists embrace unreached Deaf peoples

Deaf Baptists embrace unreached Deaf peoples
John Folker, Baptist Press
July 29, 2011

TOCCOA, Ga. — The Deaf should be in the multitude when, as

the Book of Revelation depicts it, every language, people, tribe and nation

will worship the Lamb around the throne, says Aric Randolph of New Life Deaf

Fellowship in Fort Worth, Texas.

But, the Deaf pastor asks, “How will the Deaf be there if they don’t know

Jesus?

“Right now, there are about 35 million Deaf all over the world,” Randolph

notes. “Every day, 750 Deaf die without knowing Jesus. To be His hands, His

heart and to tell His story, we must truly embrace the Deaf of the world.”

New Life Deaf Fellowship is planning a short-term mission trip — possibly to

the Deaf in a high-risk country. “We go to let them know about Jesus. We go so

they can know Jesus as Savior. We go to let them know they, too, can be in

heaven,” Randolph said.

International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf, shares how Christians are to be Christ’s heart and hands to tell His story to unengaged, unreached people groups. Danny Bice, pastor of Moore (Okla.) Deaf Fellowship, interprets in American Sign Language.

More than 400 Deaf Southern Baptists gathered in Toccoa,

Ga., July 16-21 for the Southern Baptist

Conference of the Deaf (SBCD) and to witness the commissioning of six

International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries to work with the Deaf.

IMB President Tom Elliff shared his burden for the millions of Deaf around the

world who have never “seen” the name Jesus, challenging Deaf Southern Baptists

to embrace a specific Deaf people group from the more than 100 unengaged,

unreached Deaf people groups around the world.

Jim Dermon, the SBCD’s president, echoed Elliff’s sentiment. “If we are willing

to learn more about Deaf people groups, to visit them, to learn their needs and

desires, and to pray for them … that will lead Deaf to accept the Lord Jesus

Christ,” Dermon said. “If we embrace the Deaf in other countries, it will

affect what we do here in the U.S.

and we will see a multiplication of Deaf churches throughout the world.”

Steven Nance, a Deaf member of Parkwood

Baptist Church

in Concord, talked about his

short-term trip to the Dominican Republic

to reach Deaf children there. Now praying that others also will go there, Nance

reminded conference attendees to pray for missionaries who are serving

throughout the world to reach the Deaf.

Paula Little, a recreational therapist and member of Woodhaven

Baptist Deaf Church

in Houston, told how a trip to South

Africa changed her life. She had several

chances to go abroad but kept ignoring God’s call. “I am focused on America!

There’s not enough mission work being done here,” she recounted.

But, Little said, “God did not give up on me. I could not resist the gnawing

need to go.” She thought she did not have the skills needed to go on a mission

trip, but the moment she decided to go, she felt at peace. When Little arrived

in Johannesburg, she was met by a

Deaf IMB missionary and taken to her home. Little, expecting to see a hut, was

surprised to see that the missionary lived in a regular house.

While in South Africa,

Little played basketball with a group of Deaf Africans, and God used her

abilities as a recreational therapist to connect with the Deaf athletes. Little

invited the Africans to join her in a nearby park where Bible stories were

being told in sign language. These Deaf began texting their Deaf friends and

soon a large group had gathered. Many understood the gospel message for the

first time.

After Little had returned to the United States,

the missionary told her that 19 Deaf people had accepted Christ as a result of

her trip.

John Wyble, Deaf pastor at Living Word

Baptist Church

in Lynchburg, Va.,

had gone on several mission trips. A turning point for Wyble was when he and

his wife Denise went to the Virgin Islands and

encountered hundreds of Deaf who had no access to the Gospel in their heart

language. Wyble asked Terrence Jones, pastor of Grace

Baptist Church

in St. Thomas, to allow him to use

the church building to meet with the Deaf. Jones was astonished at the number

of Deaf who came each night to see Wyble teach. At the end of the week, Jones

understood that the Deaf did not need to be objects of ministry but were a

nation to be reached.

The Wybles are leading Living Word to embrace the Deaf peoples of St.

Thomas, sharing a vision with Jones to see a Deaf

church planted in St. Thomas that

will initiate a Deaf church-planting movement throughout the Virgin

Islands.

At the conclusion of the IMB-SBCD commissioning service, 75 people went forward

and made commitments to lead their churches to embrace the ends of the earth.

The IMB’s “Embrace” challenge encourages churches to make a lifetime commitment

to an unengaged, unreached people group.

Bob Barker, Deaf pastor of Story One Plano (Texas), said, “We came together

and, in a show of unity, we prayed for our new IMB Deaf missionaries and

embraced the challenge to see more go to the harvest fields.”

To learn more about how a church can embrace an unengaged, unreached people

group, go to call2embrace.org.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Folker is the International Mission Board’s Deaf affinity

group liaison.)