Christian Services for the Blind and Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI)—the recipient of this Sabbath’s (January 27) church offering across the South Pacific Division—is perhaps a quiet achiever of Adventist Church ministries. And because it serves a fairly narrow demographic within the Church, you may not even have heard of it.
At its inception CSFB was a ministry to those who, for any reason, were unable to read. The service supplied audio books, mostly denominational, on cassette tape. To the CSFB acronym a HI (Hearing Impaired) was added a few years later, for the Deaf, and most recently a generalised “special needs” grouping was added to include those with physical or intellectual impairments (and their families).
The mission of CSFBHI* these days is threefold: to create awareness of those with special needs, to promote a meaningful acceptance of those with special needs and to prompt to action—to give practical help for those with any form of special need. It’s about the inclusion of all in church activities and worship; for all are gifted, all are needed, all are treasured.
So what does CSFBHI actually do? For those who love to “read” it provides denominational audio books and the weekly Sabbath School lessons. To access this free service, a person must be certified as unable to read by a medical professional. Many in this group are in nursing homes, but not all.
Its work for the Deaf is largely in providing assistance—sponsoring interpreters for church services, the New Hope church plant in western Sydney, for example, which is livestreamed Sabbath mornings and replayed on Hope Channel. It also sponsors the guest speaker to the annual Deaf Camp, run by Logan Reserve church (Qld). Last November CSFBHI supplied interpreters for General Conference president Ted Wilson’s Wahroonga Sabbath service, which was live-streamed.
The Deaf are the Church’s largest unreached people group or “tongue”, as the Bible puts it. Very few are Christian, let alone Adventist. And of those who might be, they fellowship in signed Sunday churches that cater for them, where there are others who “speak” their language.
"It's about the inclusion of all in church activities and worship; for all are gifted, all are needed, all are treasured."
Someone once said to me that one day we will all be special needs people, referring to ageing, I think. But in the meantime we need to be mindful that in God’s eyes, as a result of sin, we are all broken in some way. And viewed in that way, yes, we all do have a “disability problem”. It’s just a matter of degree. We all are broken and are in need of wholeness. Only at home in heaven, when, having been changed in a moment from mortal to immortal, will we become whole.
With 27 of the 35 recorded miracles of Jesus relating to healing someone with a special need, the focus of a special needs ministry and witness is evident. So this Sabbath, in your giving, follow the example of Christ and give generously, and help CSFBHI help some of the millions living with disability.
*CSFBHI is a registered charity with tax-deductible status.