A Preacher’s 11-Year Experience in Serving the Deaf (II)
By Elsie Hu, September 09, 2017 06:09 AM
Eleven years ago, a sudden prayer request opened the world of serving the deaf to Brother Zhao, a third generation Christian from Wenzhou. THe first installment on Zhao's story talked about his faith journey, the foundation of the Ephphatha Fellowship in his hometown, and its development.
In the article, Zhao shared how to serve the special group from his 11-year experience.
The preacher stated that his church and he when they started the deaf fellowship. By chance, sixty deaf people came to the church. It seemed the time to found a special fellowship, or they could not be nurtured. He learned that people need to grasp an opportunity God places before them and keep it with efforts.
The needs of the deaf
"When you are with the deaf, first you need to pay attention to some aspects of their life. With the formation of their dependence on you, suggest they have an independent and self-supporting attitude and teach them some study and life skills. Second, encourage them to be integrated with hearing people. It's quite important to shape their characters and let them stay hardworking. Then offer practical help to them. Sometimes the deaf have problems hard to overcome, like relationship issues --- there is a high divorce rate among the deaf; I met a couple who wanted to divorce after a quarrel and it was hard to persuade and talk with them. What's more, the tough employment issue --- generally speaking, they are incompetent and live beyond their incomes. Living a miserable life, they lack discernment, easily failing prey to pyramid schemes. The church can instruct them with general social knowledge and offer warnings and encouragement that God favors and blesses the deaf who live by their own effort and hard work."
Zhao said that currently, the deaf struggle to survive in society. For example, they hardly interact with hearing people because most of them live in poor conditions with limited education and this restricts their development and ability to work. The majority of deaf work, but a portion live off their parents, losing the goal of independence.
In addition, the parents of the group mostly have inadequate communication with their children, since they only speak simple sign language.
A teaching of consuming attitudes is also required. Furthermore, they have faint legal awareness, not understanding the meaning of "law".
Zhao stated that it is urgent to help them return to society and their families live independently with dignity. The church must help them acquire skills to make a living and obey the teachings of Jesus.
"For this, five years ago, several entrepreneurs in our church said that they wanted to make a contribution and launch a fundraising campaign to develop the ministry. They wanted to help some people with hearing disabilities set up their own business and guide them."
For instance, they offered an interest-free loan of 5,000 yuan to a deaf brother for his startup. If his business failed, he didn't need to pay it back; conversely, if the loan was paid it would be saved as a startup fund for the next deaf person.
He recalled that some deaf members were inspired to sell street food like beef balls, Taiwanese scallion pancake, and sushi.
"Their food will win the appreciation, recognition, and market of hearing people if the deaf believers stick to their original brands. It is a pity that the deaf entrepreneurs lack long-lasting motives at times and always change their mind on impulse."
Zhao added that the way to help the members in their daily life is to be their interpreters. A sign language teacher or a sister accompany sick deaf brothers or pregnant deaf sisters to the hospital. For deaf seekers, the fellowship staff solve their practical matters in their life and become their friends, encouraging them to attend Sunday evening services in the church.
Regarding the key point in the ministry work, Zhao replied, "One must open his or her heart and not pretend when with a deaf person. Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ' (Matthew 18:3). So you must express your care and love to a deaf person with an open heart. Let your love be felt so he or she will accept you. The deaf have a natural gift --- God closes one door, but He opens another for them --- they have sensitive hearts. Some of them are so sensitive that they can easily discern your inner world and know what you are thinking or going to do by looking at your eyes. In addition, they can perceive whether you really care for or love them. Plus, a ministry worker for the deaf should have clear spirituality and real souls, being the same inside and out. We need enough burden and love of their souls that they can be moved. Approach matters little, but the life we live can have a great impact."
About the deaf ministry
Zhao shared that it was essential to learn sign language to run a ministry for the deaf.
"Though I have served in the ministry for 11 years, my sign language is not good because my position is as a promoter, connector, and coordinator. Our church has a team and we discuss how to offer help and teaching to the deaf."
"In the ministry, God has given me sufficient grace ... A group of people walk the path of the ministry and God has risen up many members who have the burden to help the deaf. However, there are things beyond ordinary people when we serve the deaf. You need expressions when communicating with a deaf person, sometimes very exaggerated expressions with sign language... Nonetheless, I think that the servants of Christ need to serve lowly people humbly and the deaf are like orphans and widows in need. When we serve lowly people, we serve Jesus. This is a hugh opportunity and grace God has given us. At times the believers don't agree with them because they live a different lifestyle from hearing people from time to time and have some bad habits, so they are unacceptable to some believers."
The ministry plans to plant two new groups annually and to assist local churches to found ministries for the deaf, said Zhao.
"Now the number of deaf people in China exceeds 27 million. The souls living in silence are many, but there are not enough intercessors and servants."
- Translated by Karen Luo
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