Why Reach the Deaf?
Do you work with the Deaf? Maybe you’re Deaf yourself, and you have a burden to share Jesus with other Deaf people. Or maybe you are hearing and you met someone who helped you understand that EVERYONE needs a chance to “hear” the truth. We all have a story. Here’s mine.
I grew up in Peru, South America, in the middle of one of the most unique situations you could imagine for an American child.
In 1998, my parents surrendered to go to Peru and work with Deaf children and adults. We lived in Sunny South Florida, and we had a life and friends there. Yet away we went! After only eleven months raising funds, my whole family moved to Lima, Peru in December 1999. I was just ten years old.
For the first few months, I sat next to my mom in Deaf church and listened as she interpreted into my ear. I didn’t understand much, but that didn’t last long! No one around me, except for my own family and a few other missionaries, knew more than the most basic English. There was nothing for it but to learn to communicate!
And learn I did. It took time and practice, but before long I was hanging out and getting into mischief with the Deaf boys my age at Efata. We played soccer, made up jokes in sign language, wrestled together, talked about the girls we liked, got on each other’s nerves, and generally grew up together.
As we grew older, I saw the real challenges and barriers faced by my Deaf teenaged friends as they tried to navigate a hearing world. At the same time, I began drifting away. Our interests diverged. I pursued music, web design and college planning. My deaf friends had nothing in common with any of those things; they were focused on soccer, woodworking, and storytelling.
One of my greatest regrets is how we began to drift apart. If I had just made a little more effort to keep my world wide enough… Still, I never forgot the most basic lessons I learned as a boy.
- Deaf people are intelligent, caring, people who can learn and grow. They care deeply about relationships, and they want to communicate.
- Deaf people are often marginalized or ignored by family members and hearing friends. Many deaf come to expect this from the hearing, and so they prefer relationships with other deaf friends.
- Most Deaf people have shared life experiences that create a Deaf culture and worldview – something to be appreciated and respected if we hope to build relationships with the Deaf and lead them to the Lord.
- Deaf people face huge barriers in communication and education. Deaf children need specialized teachers and work to develop reading and writing fluency. Deaf people of all ages need interpreters and materials in their own language.
- Just like hearing people, Deaf people need someone to bring them to the feet of Jesus.
God has worked in my life over the years, and as I matured, I learned how much common ground I really do share with these oft-ignored people. I love Sign Language, I care about the future of Deaf children, I appreciate a good story, and most of all, I want to reach people with the Gospel.
Everyone is placed on this earth for a reason. Deaf or hearing, God has a plan for your life. I hope you believe that. Maybe that’s why you are reading this post. You believe God wants to use you to share his love with the Deaf world.
Everyone is placed on this earth for a reason. Deaf or hearing, God has a plan for your life.
If it is, Cody and I are here to grow together with you. If you will subscribe to this website, every week we’ll be sharing something relevant and useful, such as articles on specific areas of deaf ministry, interviews with experienced ministers and books and tools for ministry.
We want to encourage you, and we want you to encourage us. We hope that the most useful and helpful portion of this site will be the discussion area after each article, where we can connect with you directly and learn from each other. Together, we can evangelize the deaf world.
Are you with me? Let’s make a difference for Christ.
Missionary Joseph Kotvas