By Deaf Pastor Jeff Jordan (Collegedale, USA)
The Stoke Newington Adventist Church in London, UK, held a Disability Awareness Day the weekend of December 3, 2016. My wife and I were invited to be a major part of the special event. Sanjo Jeffrey, Disability Ministry Coordinator, did an outstanding job in pulling everything together! She has a big heart for this unique ministry that she took a class in BSL (British Sign Language) and she intends to minister to the Deaf in United Kingdom. Did you know that there are about 8.7 million Deaf people living in the UK!? But not many Deaf know Jesus Christ. A huge mission field, as we all know, everywhere around the world.
The church service was set up to be inclusive and set an example that all can give their talents in the worship service. A Deaf man, who is a lay leader in his church, signed songs in BSL, a hearing lady, whose four-year-old daughter has Cerebral Palsy, told a children’s story using creative visual aids, a newly baptized Deaf lady welcomed the congregation in sign language, a disability report was read by Sister Sanjo. Later in the afternoon a Deaf lady from the community, who is president of BDA (British Deaf Association), gave a lecture on deafness and gave a report on the lack of resources for the deaf in Great Britain due to budget cuts in the government; for example, not enough interpreters.
My main focus was giving a spiritual talk during the divine hour. I shared my testimony of how God has and is still leading my life as a Deaf person who is now ministering to the Deaf. This has opened the eyes of many hearing members. I was told that many were moved to tears when they heard my sermon. They were encouraged and motivated to continue learning BSL to “address the shortage of church interpreters and to develop relationships with their deaf members.”
Now you may wonder, how did the people understand me because they don’t sign ASL? Well, it’s easy. My wife voiced my sermon into English, and then the BSL interpreters, in turn, signed into BSL for the Deaf. A total of 15 Deaf Adventists and non-Adventists from various SDA Churches came. One of the attendees I knew was there from America and it was indeed a surprise!
Paulette Martin and Pauline Mitchell are two Adventist BSL interpreters from Sign Ministries and they did an outstanding job in conveying the messages in BSL. They said that the Deaf were inspired by my testimony and the fact that I am a pastor of a Deaf Church. They have expressed that they want the same to happen in the UK. We were thrilled to meet and counsel Garfield, a deaf theology student, who wants to minister to the Deaf!
Another main focus for us being there was to mingle and talk with people. We were able to listen and to give encouragement, from my perspective as a Deaf person, and Melissa, her perspective and experience as an interpreter. Many were greatly encouraged and blessed. We brought our two younger sons, Jared and Matthew, with us so they could experience a little of what a mission trip is like.
A couple of days later, Elder Patrick Johnson, Special Needs Director of Trans-European Division, took us to Newbold College. I was able to talk with many students and share my life with them and answer many questions. Many say that the church is silent with regard to Special Needs ministry and are happy to see progress, though slow it may be. To God be glorified!
Please pray for the Deaf ministry in the UK, a huge field of labor.