A Preacher’s 11-Year Experience in Serving the Deaf (I)
By Elsie Hu, September 09, 2017 05:09 AM
Brother Zhao from Wenzhou has served in the Ephphatha Fellowship of Yueqing for 11 years. The fellowship leader, Zhao shared some stories and experiences with CCD.
The faith journey of Zhao
A third generation Christian, Brother Zhao didn't know what Christian faith was when he was a child. His father fell seriously ill when he was 16. His family and church believers prayed to God to heal him, but it was a stupid idea in his eyes.
The turning point in his faith journey was a nightmare. At 19, he dreamed that he was sinking into a deep sea and seaweed was twisted around his head, like an invisible hand dragging him into the dark sea. Out of a fear of water and feeling suffocated, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Then he swam hard and eventually came to the surface... At that moment he was awakened and started to think about the meaning of life. Since then he has read the Bible and joined in church Bible studies.
Shortly afterward, he followed his neighbor and left his hometown for trade in Xi'an. Despite the slack business lasting for two years, he read the Bible every day and laid a faith foundation. After nine years in Xi'an he returned to Wenzhou and started a small-scale factory. Meanwhile, he served in his church's choir and youth fellowship, gradually becoming a bi-vocational preacher.
The deaf ministry started with a prayer request
In 2006, a deaf man from Guizhou worked in Zhao's father's workshop. He lived with his partially deaf elderly brother and theri 70-yea-old father who was deaf and sick. However, he didn't realize that the deaf could be preached to.
One day, a prayer request for reaching the deaf with the gospel was passed on to Zhao on QQ, a popular instant messaging service in China. With curiosity, he asked the sender how to preach the gospel to the deaf. A sister with the surname of Huang answered him and gave him the phone number of Teacher Zhang, a leader of a deaf ministry.
Then Zhao invited Zhang to evangelize his father's deaf employee. Zhang and three deaf sisters described the scenes in sign language including God's creation, Adam and Eve being tempted to eat the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the deliverance of men. About a quarter later, the deaf man nodded his head and wanted to accept Jesus.
Zhao was quite amazed at his conversion and shared it with a leading elder of his church the next day. Zhao proposed to hold an evangelistic meeting for the deaf. More than 20 deaf people attended it. Although the church failed to communicate with them since nobody could use sign language, most of them converted to Christianity.
Serving the deaf fellowship in difficulty yet with joy
About 40 deaf people came on the second evening and over 40 prayed the sinner's prayer on the third.
A few days later, Teacher Zhang and the sisters went back to their church. The burden of nurturing the deaf converts fell on his shoulders, but he couldn't speak sign language or know anything about their culture.
He let them watch Genesis DVDs with Chinese subtitles. However, the problem was that they understand sentences in an upside down way, compared with normal people. Then he bought illustrated Bible storybooks for them. It was an effective and attractive way because the deaf loved seeing photos and basically understood the stories.
That period was a tough time for Zhao. The number of the deaf fellowship decreased to five from sixty in the beginning. A few newcomers joined in it in the next weeks. During the meetings, the members watched Bible videos and enjoyed fruits.
As time went on, Zhao slowly came to realize that God gave his flock to his church so he had to continue with faith and his best efforts even though the fellowship was in its infancy.
Teacher Zhang sent a deaf preacher named Lin Wanli to help him. The preacher led the fellowship to gather, study the Bible, and grow in spirituality for half a year. Considering that the deaf community loves to stay in groups, "hearing people" play a role in assisting and leading them. Zhao worked as Lin's assistant to save more time for Lin to be with the members.
During Lin's pastoring period, a deaf woman from Shanxi came to attend the fellowship's gathering. However, the deaf brothers were afraid to approach her due to her former connections with the underworld and the bad temper. Afterwards, she worked in Zhao's factory and became a Christian. Guided by Lin, she grew rapidly and turned gentler. Later she got married to Lin. Similar to them, more than ten couples met in the fellowship and became wife and husband.
With the spiritual growth in the deaf members, the attendance stabilized and transformation took place in their lives and values. Meanwhile, the church's hearing people were blessed through the weak group.
The fellowship has a total of 60 deaf members and about another 40 gather in two different churches near their homes. The majority of the over 100 people are believers. Five deaf preachers and a few full-time workers serve in the fellowship. It also tries to connect and share with other church pastors serving the deaf, learning from the more experienced churches through the Internet.
To be continued...
- Translated by Karen Luo
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