Sue Thomas was amazing. She spoke at Bethlehem Sunday evening, March 15, about the global needs of the deaf. She is totally deaf, but can read lips. She had her dog, Levi. He tells her when someone is at the door. He will not let her stay in bed when the alarm is sounding. He tells her if the phone is ringing. The phone conversation involves a kind of typing device.
She spoke clearly and with remarkable variation in pitch. She went deaf at one and a half years of age for no apparent reason. Her mother thought she was being rebellious and disobedient until the awful truth came out. She learned to talk from speech therapists who spent years with her in front of the mirror shaping letters with their mouths and letting her put her hands on their throats to feel the vibrations.
There are 21 million deaf people in the United States. Fifty million in India. Over 250 million world-wide. And virtually no one is sending missionaries to them even though they are cut off from all normal means of hearing the gospel. Yes, even reading, to a large extent.
In most cultures they are social outcasts. Even in America, the average deaf person has the reading ability of a fourth grader. The obstacles to overcome in learning to read are tremendous.
The typical signing of a pastor’s sermons is not reaching the deaf. The concentration required is too great. The concepts are not shot at their level. Too much is missed. The atmosphere is all tailored for the hearing. Massive churches like MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (8,000 members) sign to little groups of twenty or so. The overwhelming population of 21 million is virtually untouched.
What about deaf churches? Won’t work. What do you do for the family members who can hear? Do they go to different churches?
What then? Sue says we are just beginning to dream on any large scale. A church that has a vision and a hope should call together burdened people and begin to pray. Pray and study for several months if necessary, until the vision crystallizes.
At my house, after the service on March 15th there were about 25 interested people gathered to ask questions of Sue Thomas. Some of them and some others of you will feel led to pursue the dream of an outreach and ministry to the deaf at Bethlehem.
May I invite you to a planning meeting at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, April 5, in the conference room? Noël and I would like to encourage you and get things rolling if the Lord is in it.
Listening for the Lord’s call with you,