Henry lost his hearing when he was 12 years old after a life-threatening illness. Suddenly everything about Henry’s life changed. He transferred to a school for the hearing-impaired and learned to communicate in sign language.
Henry adjusted well to his new school, but he had grown up in the hearing world. He wanted more than a job; he wanted to continue his education. The school’s teachers helped Henry to succeed.
But the public high school had no one who knew sign language to translate for him. Through patience and perseverance, Henry completed high school.
Henry found work and met a number of hearing-impaired Adventists who lived in the same city he did. They formed a small group that met in Henry’s home for worship on Sabbath. The group grew, and Henry needed guidance leading them. The local church leaders couldn’t understand sign language, so Henry turned to the Internet. There he met a Canadian Adventist pastor who worked with the hearing-impaired. The pastor sent Henry materials and DVDs that he could use in his ministry.
A local Adventist church learned about Henry’s group and invited them to worship with their congregation. The church had no one to sign for them, so someone wrote down sermon notes, and Henry signed for the hearing-impaired worshippers.
Then they met an Adventist woman named Witness, a special-education teacher who knew some sign language and agreed to interpret for the hearing-impaired. The group grew.
The president of East African Union was surprised to learn about the hearing-impaired believers. He has helped establish work among the hearing impaired in several regions of Kenya.
Five volunteers joined the work to help identify areas with large deaf populations. The union selects churches that can accommodate the ministry for the hearing-impaired and support the volunteers as they reach out to those who haven’t yet heard God’s good news in a way they can understand.
Henry has heard God’s call and is studying for the ministry at the Adventist-owned University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, in western Kenya. Two other hearing-impaired young people and three who can hear are also preparing to work among the hearing-impaired in eastern Africa.
Henry and his fellow hearing-impaired students have found a warm welcome and lots of help to complete their studies.
The group has two interpreters. One is Monica, who was studying to become a teacher when she met some hearing-impaired Adventists. They had no interpreter, so she took classes to learn sign language so she could help them.
When she finished college, she returned home and located some hearing-impaired people in her community. She started working as a volunteer evangelist for the hearing impaired. She started with a group of six, which grew as word of the ministry spread.
Monica taught sign language, and two members have learned enough to interpret for worship services. Monica went in search of others to invite to the Adventist church. The number of worshippers has grown to 28. God has since called Monica to study theology at the Adventist University of Eastern Africa. She interprets for the hearing-impaired students while she attends classes.
Work among the hearing-impaired has moved forward, but many challenges remain. Awareness of the plight of hearing-impaired people is still low in eastern Africa. The task is big, but resources are small. They lack locally produced materials to help the hearing-impaired grasp God’s love and the message of hope it brings. Some areas still have no worker.
Few hearingimpaired people have access to higher education. The church is working to identify and train hearing-impaired volunteers to work with others who cannot hear. Who else can understand their needs as well? Romans 10:14 (NIV) says it best: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
The Adventist University of Eastern Africa prepares young people to serve God in every ministry, including that to the hearing-impaired. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help strengthen this university to reach even more people with God’s love.