The one thing you can never forget in Deaf ministry is the people. Programs, activities and services are all important, but the relationships you build with your deaf people and they build with each other are the glue that will hold your ministry together.
Gary Chapman in his book “The Five Love Languages” discusses how different people perceive love differently. One way people experience love is quality time together. I am convinced that many Deaf people, especially those who have experienced rejection and isolation in their youth, are desperately looking for that kind of love. They find a home in a ministry where the leaders and other members are willing to sit and talk with them beyond a passing greeting, to share in their lives and experiences.
A deaf man once told me the story of Lynn Porter, a veteran missionary to the deaf who became frustrated by her failure to connect with the Deaf in the jungle. She tried for several years with very limited success. Finally, she asked for advice. How could she get the Deaf to trust her and accept her?
The deaf man told Lynn that in order to reach the Deaf in the jungle, she needed to be willing to change the way she lived around them. She would have to be willing to visit them and eat the food they prepared, to take cold showers, and to sleep on the floor. She would have to spend time with them in their circumstances. She would have to change her lifestyle so that the Deaf could see that she cared about them and accepted them.
She would have to spend time with them in their circumstances.
That’s a hard call! But Lynn decided to go for it, and by the Deaf man’s testimony, as the Deaf began to see how much she cared about them, they began to love and accept her.
Of course, when you are working with a Deaf population that has nice homes, cars, and videophones, sleeping on the floor and taking cold showers isn’t really part of the conversation. But there’s still a moral to the story. Do you take the time to really get to know your Deaf members and visitors? Are you willing to sit and listen to their stories and remember their birthdays and special moments?
Do you take the time to really get to know your Deaf members and visitors?
Are you willing to make sure they are informed about what is going on around them, and to give them a chance to have a voice in the discussion? It’s easy for hearing people to make all the decisions before a discussion ever gets interpreted for the deaf people involved.
When we take the time to really get to know our Deaf friends and understand their joys and sorrows, we show them love. And as we find in John 13:35, that is how they will know that we are Christ’s disciples.