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
“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.
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
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
After Little had returned to the United States,
the missionary told her that 19 Deaf people had accepted Christ as a result of
John Wyble, Deaf pastor at Living Word
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
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
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