- THE CHRISTIAN DEAF CENTER (CDC)
- THE CHRISTIAN RECORD DEAF MINISTRY DEPARTMENT
- ADVENTIST DEAF MINISTRIES (ADM) LATER RENAMED THREE ANGELS DEAF MINISTRIES (3ADM)
- GOSPEL OUTREACH (GO)
- THE GENERAL CONFERENCE “OFFICE OF SPECIAL NEEDS”
- The History of Seventh Day Adventist Interpreters’ Conference
THE CHRISTIAN DEAF CENTER (CDC)
The Christian Deaf Center, as it was later called, started in around 1980 on 260 acres of land near Alpena, Arkansas. There were five main leaders and families: Tom Fromm (property owner/doner), Don and Kathy Griffith, Arthur and Alyce Griffith, Clarence & Beatrice Kohler and Brother and sister J. M. Metzger. The goal was to start a Lay Training Center for Deaf who wanted to learn how to be a special spiritual help and blessing in their local deaf congregation, etc..
Unfortunately Don’s wife, Kathy and Ton Fromm were both killed in a tragic car accident in March 1980. Formal classes began in 1982 with the arrival of John and Alberta Blake from McBride, BC., Canada. Some of the students over the next three years included: Lavona Moran, Randy Ragland, Pablo Alejo, Ron Tendrich, Jerry Carmack, Carmen McRoy, Allison Frasier, along with David and Judy Blake. Nancy Bachelor was a certified teacher and also joined in the teaching staff.
CDC was an independent supporting ministry that gradually became more closely associated with the organized church. Thompson Kay, Director of Deaf Ministry at Christian Record, and Don Hevener the Arkansas Louisiana Conference Educational Director, were appointed to be on the CDC board.
John and Alberta Blake stayed for three years from 1982-1985, and David and Francisca Trexler came in 1985 taking their place. David took over the video department and was also one of the teachers.
However, most students were unable to pay any tuition. Though the students and faculty grew some of their own food on the fertile land and had their own firewood, there was no adequate amount of steady income. Teachers sacrificed and only received small stipends. There were some donations. However the school had become quite dependent on one of the faculties’ relatives for periodic significant donations. Finally, donations did not match expenses, and it seemed best in 1986 for the school to close. The land was sold and the net balance of funding went to The Christian Record Deaf Ministry Department. When the school closed, Don Griffith, the last CDC Director, joined the staff at the Christian Record. Don became an assistant to Thompson Kay, Deaf Ministry Director at Christian Record.
THE CHRISTIAN RECORD DEAF MINISTRY DEPARTMENT
As the 1980’s were beginning, Ministry to the Deaf was showing some signs of life and growth. There had been considerable talk of starting a school for deaf children. In North America Deaf ministry was now in the hands of the Multi-Lingual or NAD Missions Department. A series of 16mm Bible studies had been produced, and home video costs were rapidly coming down making a whole new avenue open for development to spread the Word in Sign Language.
Since the Christian Record [CRS] already had one group with a disability, the Blind, it was approached with the idea that maybe they could also take on another group, the Deaf. In 1980 the General Conference called Thompson Kay to develop a Deaf Ministry Department at the Christian Record. Kay had been a teacher of the Deaf at Ohio State School for the Deaf and was then teaching at Alcy Junior Academy in Memphis, Tenn. Kay was asked to lead out in a new attempt to really grow the work for the Deaf. Never before had the SDA church ever had a department for Deaf ministry with a full time Director!
At first it seemed a great idea. The Deaf now had an official home with two staff devoted to Deaf Ministry. The department gradually grew to a total of four with Don Griffith and Max Gallimore as added staff. Many things were done for Deaf Ministry with videos, and various Easy English productions, etc.
But, the work for the Blind really occupied center focus at CRS. The blind work had the representatives who would solicit funds in the towns and cities for supporting the ministry to Blind and for the National Camps for the Blind. This was also how their wages were paid from these donations from the pubic. These representatives also visited the Blind in their homes. But, there was no one to contact the Deaf in their homes and share materials face to face with them. Or – to solicit the businesses for extra money for Deaf Ministry. It came to be felt that the yearly NAD offering for Christian Record should nearly all go for Blind work as it was especially needed to produce SDA doctrinal (sectarian) materials for the Blind. The Deaf department did have a direct mail appeal method of solicitation, but the department appeared to be going over budget.
In January, 1996, it was voted to set up a special General Conference committee – chaired by Dr. Calvin Rock – to have a thorough look at both the Blind and Deaf work at CRS. A formal report was prepared which came up with a recommendation that CRS close the Department and that it be moved to the North American Division. It suggested that impetus for deaf work should now be carried on through the various Divisions and that North America could show the way. The committee recommended 4.5 budgets for some type of a deaf organizational structure under the North American Division.
However, when the Union Presidents got together to discuss the recommendation, it was turned down with the thought that it was not time for the NAD to be adding on their level, but to be cutting. Before this decision was actually made, the CRS board had already voted to close the department. The NAD pled for more time, but more time only firmed up the decision to close the department. In its place, it was decided to have an NAD Deaf Ministry Committee. It would solicit deaf ministry projects from the Conferences. This committee would then recommend how much deaf funding would go to each project. Fortunately, the NAD did say that they would keep supporting deaf work with the same amount of funding that they had been sending to help pay Kay’s salary at CRS.
By the end of 1998, both Kay and Trexler’s work had ended, and the CRS Deaf Department permanently closed. But, God also guided into a new way of doing things!
This new development really threw the NAD deaf community into serious discussion. They pled for an organization like Christian Record to produce materials and lead out in work for the Deaf. But the request seemed to fall on deaf ears. So, in desperation, the NAD SDA deaf community decided to start a supportive, but independent ministry. This ministry was to carry on as much of the work as possible that CRS had already been doing.
ADVENTIST DEAF MINISTRIES (ADM) LATER RENAMED THREE ANGELS DEAF MINISTRIES (3ADM)
As described in the story of the Christian Record Deaf Department closing at the end of 1997, this was like a bombshell for the NAD Deaf SDA Community! What now?
As all this was happening, there was an online committee meeting regularly to discuss the making of a full video evangelistic series. When this news came, that video project went on the back burner. The important issue then became what to do about losing a Deaf Ministry office.
A Nov. 24/97 meeting, in Maryland, was called by Elder Vasquez to discuss the future of NAD deaf ministry. A committee was set up to prepare a proposal to be presented to the NAD – including the Union Presidents. However, the proposal for a special department or agency for the deaf at the NAD level, was turned down.
The idea then developed of starting an independent, but supporting organization to carry on leadership and production of materials for the Deaf. An interim board was set up to plan and organize this newly proposed organization. In the mean time, after being dropped, Kay was determined to continue deaf work and for some time did what he could without salary from his own home.
Finally in Sept., 1998, a separate and fully functional non-profit Deaf Ministry organization was started. As donation funding grew, a small office was rented in Lincoln and Thompson Kay hired as Director. Before too long, David Trexler became his Associate Director.
However, Kay, a ‘Hearing man” had been in charge of deaf ministry for over 17 years. Gradually a strong sentiment arose at the Milo Camp meeting to have a deaf person in charge of this new organization for Deaf Ministry. A large banner was made and displayed across the dining hall. It called for a new leader to be chosen for ADM who was deaf. The ADM board met there to discuss the situation. It was thought that Kay might continue with ADM, but in a different position. However, in 2001 Kay felt it wise to resign. He started another organization called “TEAMS”. It would work for those with reading challenges, etc. Kay would also continue working with Deaf.
Several months later, in 2001, Jim Hovey took the leadership, but felt that the office should be in Phoenix, AR. The office was moved there and in 2005 ADM moved into a lovely office building built for this purpose by the Apache Junction SDA church – right next to their church.
Jim Hovey was a very capable administrator and solved many practical challenges. He and his wife, Bunny, traveled extensively.
Jim worked very hard carrying on a work fairly similar to what Kay had done earlier at ADM and CRS. However, in due time, Jim’s health suffered and in 2007 he felt it best to resign.
Hovey continued briefly part time and George Belser helped while a search was made for a new leader. David Trexler was asked to take the leadership and after very careful consideration, later in 2007, David and Francisca decided that the offer would be accepted. However, the office in Phoenix was closed and moved to Trexler’s home in Maryland.
One of the main ADM activities has been having display booths at the largest public conventions of public deaf gatherings in the USA. From coast to coast they have been attending many of these, making many new friends, and giving out hundreds of packets of SDA materials for the Deaf with a new sharing DVD each year! They have also had success in reaching out to non-SDA Deaf through their www.deafbibleschool.com web site with the God’s Way and Amazing Facts lessons online! A number are being baptized!
A great blessing for 3ADM has been the close working relationship between Debra Brill [NAD Ministries Director] with the NAD Deaf Ministry Committee [NAD-DMC] together with Three Angels Deaf Ministries. The NAD-DMC regularly contracts with 3ADM on different types of projects such as special witnessing video productions, the Quarterly Mission Magazine (The Deaf Messenger), etc. The NAD-DMC does not involve itself in paying the salary of anyone working for 3ADM. But, this close relationship has been a blessing to all for it supports projects to be carried out by 3ADM.
The limited donation base of 3ADM has never allowed the hiring of a full time secretary or full time assistant. But for some years, it has allowed Esther Doss to work part time with 3ADM. 3ADM continues to be run by its own board composed of deaf individuals, or those ‘hearing’ now involved in Deaf Ministry in their own area. 3ADM continues in 2018 to be a great blessing to SDA Deaf work in North America. At times 3ADM has also been able to be a help in work overseas with missionary trips. Their regular “Signs of God’s Love” yearly DVD has been a blessing not only in NAD but overseas as well.
GOSPEL OUTREACH (GO)
[This account is a copy of the section in the main history in the Canadian Sub-division ]
Before officially retiring at the end of 2005, Blake became involved in Deaf Ministry with Dorothy Watts, Associate Secretary of the Southern Asia Division. She had first asked for financial help with a pastor who was too deaf to pastor. Funds were found. Then, Blake wondered – if a guarantee were made to sponsor a regular full time pastor for the Deaf with 50% of his salary – could she find the other 50%. It was not long, and two workers were started on this basis, and Dorothy found stipend funding for a third as a lay pastor.
Blake wanted to get others involved in this mission endeavour. He asked Thompson Kay and David Trexler if they would like to go and investigate the deaf work in India. They agreed, going in 2,000. In 2002, Blake finally got up his courage to also go, taking Elder Jeff Jordan with him. They found work starting in various areas in India, and visited a new church just being built for the Deaf at Thanajur – paid for by an SDA member from British Columbia.
Funding had been raised in Canada to bring the number of deaf workers in India to seven, but the financial load became fairly heavy. Blake had been having a display booth each year at the Alberta Conference camp meeting. Sometimes when there was no one at his booth, or nearby at the Gospel Outreach [GO] booth, he would get chatting with those manning the GO booth. One day he asked if GO might like to help with workers for the Deaf. He was told to “ask”. However, he delayed until the financial burden of the India project was getting rather heavy. So, finally he asked. GO came up with a sponsorship of 5 workers for the Deaf in India.. Later, on a call to thank GO for their help, a request was made which resulted in another 5 workers for India.
When Blake ‘officially retired’ at the end of 2005, he asked Gospel Outreach if they would be willing to start a department just for ministry with Deaf. Already they were sponsoring 13 workers for the Deaf in India. Again Blake was told to “ask”. The request was made and a quick answer came back, yes.
Gospel Outreach operates its deaf department by paying a stipend to the local Conference (or mission or section) who agree to supervise and train the Lay Bible Workers. The rate is not high – usually only about 50% of the basic salary of an ordained minister. Since a pastor also receives various other allowances, the stipend works out closer to one third of what a pastor would receive. This presents many challenges.
Pastor Blake is one of about 18 “Regional Directors”, most of whom have a distinct territory like Andra Pradesh in India, or NE Africa, etc. However, the Muslim ministry and deaf department cover a whole range of countries in many parts of the world.
Blake is responsible to attend the Regional Directors meeting held in
the Spring and the Fall. While there, he is asked to also lead out in doing a 26 minute TV program to be released on 3ABN, HOPE and LLBN satellite networks. He supplies a basic outline of questions the interviewer is to ask, and provides commentary on perhaps 20 slides and 2 or 3 minutes of video clips. The normal GO budget allows for one long overseas trip each year. Currently in 2018, there are approximately 50 workers for the Deaf which includes 6 in a teaching capacity. The balance usually are “Lay Bible Workers”. Because of their unique specialty, they really function more like “Lay Pastors for the Deaf”.
As of 2018 the 50 workers are divided between: The Philippines-7, India-16, Kenya-8, Ghana- 4, Uganda-2, South Sudan-2, Zimbabwe-2, and one each in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Congo, Nigeria, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burundi. God keeps opening doors to new areas!
One of the most exiting stories is what has happened in Kenya. Back in 2006, Henry Kamau found Blake’s www.deafhope.org web site and began to write asking for help with a local group of Deaf – mostly not of our faith. Many emails followed, and now Henry is the Coordinator for Deaf Ministry in Kenya. There is also a small elementary deaf school near Kisii in western Kenya. In August 2016, a large Kenya Inter-Union camp meeting was held for the Deaf at
Kisumu. There were more than 300 Deaf with a baptism of about 70 Deaf. The camp meeting was well attended by about 25 interpreters, various pastors and Conference leaders. Both Union Presidents came and gave their support.
In 2018, another camp meeting was held in Kenya with between 400 & 500 deaf attending. Plus over 25 Gospel Outreach and Global Mission Pioneer workers for the deaf also came from about 11 African countries. They attended a special training session in the “Story Method of Bible Teaching” headed by Pat Gustin from Gospel Outreach. Elders Jeff Jordan, Thompson Kay and John Blake were also there participating in the meetings. Dr. Larry Evans, the General Conference “Special Needs” Director was a key speaker at the Camp meeting that included Deaf, Blind, as well as those with various disabilities.
Elder Paul Muasya, now the East Central Africa Division Special Needs Director, has given wonderful and timely support for most of the last 9 years. It shows what the Lord can do when laymen and the organized church can blend their efforts together. There would likely be little work now for the Deaf in Kenya, or even other areas of Africa, were it not for Elder Paul Muasya and Henry Kamau!
THE GENERAL CONFERENCE “OFFICE OF SPECIAL NEEDS”
As described in the main historical section, the General Conference now has a special “Office for Special Needs” which concentrates on working with: the Blind, the Deaf, those with either physical or mental challenges, widows, Orphans and ‘Caregivers’. Really, a huge mandate, but being run so well by the over-worked, Dr. Larry Evans. For some years he has been observing Deaf work. He has seen not only their needs, but the broader picture of all special needs. Dr. Evans made a proposal to the GC President, Ted Wilson, and in 2016, a new office of special needs was begun.
It was wonderful in August, 2016, in Kenya during the East Central Africa ‘Special Needs Advisory’ to see a gradual excitement grow with the special needs and other leaders attending. This emotional peak grew as the leaders actually watched the Deaf sign singing, or one of their leaders preaching in sign language, or the talks and contributions from other handicapped individuals. Eyes were opened, so to speak, to see a whole group of people that are so needy — people whom we have often failed to adequately minister to and include in the basic planning and fabric of the church.
Dr. Evans badly needs more help in his special department, but a wonderful start has been made. This new ministry is beginning to really be felt around the world on all levels of our SDA church organization. We may praise the Lord for this!
The History of Seventh Day Adventist Interpreters’ Conference
By Nohelani Jarnes, Director
Many of the ASL interpreters that are working in interpreting ministry in our Adventist Churches are individuals who either are signers, are learning to sign, see the need for interpreting and want to interpret or,
in a very few cases, are professional interpreters with a heart for ministry. Prior to 2009 two Adventist CODAs (Child of Deaf Adults), who are also both interpreters, saw the need to improve upon the skill level of
those individuals who were already signing in our churches. Knowing that there were no workshops or conferences that catered to our needs as interpreters in the Adventist church, these two ladies worked together to create a workshop that was tailored to the needs of those interpreting Adventist religious content. In 2009, at the Western Deaf Camp Meeting, held on the campus of Milo Adventist Academy, Rosalinda Davis and Esther Doss accomplished just that: a conference for Adventist Interpreters and signers with a heart for ministry.
Over the years, the director of this conference has changed hands to Nohelani Jarnes, but the goals have remained the same – to provide a conference for Adventist Interpreters/signers to come and improve their skill level and interpreting abilities. The conference gives training on
basic signing for those who are still acquiring the language as well as more advanced instruction to those who are already practicing interpreting. We use sermons and religious content as training
material as well as invite Adventist Deaf to advise and teach alongside us. While secular interpreting facilities often hold workshops on Saturdays preventing those who keep Sabbath holy from attending, we spend Sabbath with our Deaf family learning about God together. The most unique difference between our conference and other interpreter conferences is that we put God first in everything we do.