Attendees at the annual Deaf Camp at Adventist Alpine Village, Jindabyne, enjoyed a lift from their world of quiet isolation that only comes with fellowshipping with their peers, according to Lee Dunstan, who cares for the Church’s special needs service to the Deaf.
“Along with the joy that comes from getting up close to nature—kangaroos on the doorstep, emus on parade and snuffling wombats blocking your path—was the spiritual rise the group got from guest speaker Esther Doss, from the United States,” he said.
Many of our Church’s Deaf live isolated lives—physically, emotionally and spiritually—and coming from four states, separated as they are, they had the opportunity to refill all those empty tanks.
“Esther is a CODA [Child of Deaf Adults] so she was very well received by the group who consisted of the hard of hearing, deaf, blind-deaf and their companions. Her empathy, which comes from a life lived amidst the Deaf, gives her a connection that no-one else could have achieved. Her rapport with this special needs group was clearly evident.
“Many of our Church’s Deaf live isolated lives—physically, emotionally and spiritually—and coming from four states, separated as they are, they had the opportunity to refill all those empty tanks.”
Ms Doss is a full-time mum from Arkansas, where she works with Three Angels Deaf Ministry. She is also the Deaf Ministries coordinator for the Northern American Division, working closely with the new General Conference special needs ministry under Pastor Larry Evans, last year’s Deaf Camp speaker. According to Pastor Evans, the Adventist Deaf community globally is rapidly expanding—including 28 recent baptisms in Kenya—which, given that the Deaf do not attend church for the reason that they cannot hear anything, was not evident a few years ago.
It is to reach this same invisible demographic that the camps are run. And while organised by Logan Reserve (Queensland) church member Mark Davey and his SDA Deaf Church Down Under team, they are enthusiastically supported by the corporate Church’s Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI) ministry. Deaf Church Down Under provides a range of services to the Deaf, including an informative website, regular Auslan-signed services, and captioned DVDs and YouTube presentations (including Esther Doss’s camp presentations).
CSFBHI operates an audio library service for the blind. This year it funded the closed captioning of the Tell the World film for the Deaf. Each camp attendee, some of whom are not Adventists, received a free copy.
The Church’s ministry to the blind and deaf is about to undergo change, according to Mr Dunstan, who is currently working to reform CSFBHI into an organisation with a wider scope, including all forms of special need.
“We plan to have this in place by our Church’s Special Needs Day and offering next year,” he said. “We’re not waiting until then to do things, however. For example, we’re helping Sydney’s New Hope church to put their “Aussie Pastor” TV programs on air with on-screen Auslan-signed translation.* This is expensive in time and money, but as a Church we are intentional about reaching the Deaf community via the media—TV, internet and DVD—and also providing at least one venue in each state where there is a signed Sabbath worship service that the Deaf can attend.”
Note: April 22, 2017 is Special Needs Day. It is about building both awareness and the facilities for a more accessible and inclusive Church. For the Deaf, CSFBHI is seeking to build a roster of Auslan signers in each conference for deployment at significant church events, such as camp meetings. CSFBHI can also help with a funding subsidy for professional signers for such events. If you would like more information or to get involved, please contact Lee Dunstan, manager of CSFBHI: ph. 02 9847 2296; email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.