USA (MNN) — There are more than 100 different people groups with two things in common. They are all Deaf people groups. And they are all completely unreached with the message of the Gospel.
Over 400 Deaf Southern Baptists gathered on July 16-21 for the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf (SBCD) where they gained a passion for these unreached Deaf people groups and witnessed the commissioning of six missionaries with International Mission Board (IMB) to the Deaf.
IMB President Tom Elliff spoke at the conference and shared his passion to see millions of Deaf around the world come to know Christ. His vision was infectious.
"How will the Deaf be [with Christ] if they don't know Jesus?" asked Aric Randolph, Deaf pastor of New Life Deaf Fellowship in Texas. "Right now, there are about 35 million Deaf all over the world. Every day, 750 Deaf die without knowing Jesus. To be His hands, His heart, and to tell His story, we must truly embrace the Deaf of the world."
Currently, the Deaf from Randolph's church are preparing for a short-term mission trip to minister to the Deaf, perhaps even in a high-risk country.
Many Deaf at the conference shared the impact of similar trips they have already taken to reach out to Deaf around the world who have never "seen" the name of Christ.
One such testimony was that of Paula Little, a member of Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church in Houston, Texas. God gave her several mission opportunities, but she ignored His call for awhile. She thought she did not have the skills needed for such an endeavor.
However, Little says, "God did not give up on me. I could not resist the gnawing need to go." Little finally went on a mission trip to South Africa where she was hosted by another IMB missionary.
Her unique skills as a Deaf person, combined with her occupation as a recreational therapist, allowed her to reach the Deaf children in South Africa in a way no one else could have. She played basketball with them and invited the kids to join her at a sign language Bible storytelling session in the park.
Many of the Deaf South African children invited their friends to go along, and soon a crowd was gathered–many exposed to the Gospel message for the first time. After Little returned from the trip, the IMB missionary told her that God had moved through her, and 19 Deaf people had come to Christ.
This along with many more testimonies placed a burden for unreached peoples on the attendees at the conference. At the end, 75 Deaf took the Embrace challenge, committing to lead their churches in becoming advocates for an unreached people group.
Bob Barker, Deaf pastor of Story One in Plano, Texas, says, "We came together and, in a show of unity we prayed for our new IMB Deaf missionaries and embraced the challenge to see more go to the harvest fields."
Please pray that those who attended the conference would spread their passion for the unreached Deaf into their churches and communities, that the name of Christ would be shared. If you are interested in learning more about the Embrace challenge, you can click here.