USA (MNN) — Last weekend, the SoCal Harvest Crusade event took over the Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. JR Bucklew went with the Deaf Bible Society, and said over the event’s past 27 years, the throwback method of evangelism to engage people with the Gospel has been effective.
“If you remember the old Billy Graham crusades, [they] come into a stadium, invite everyone in the community, there’s worship music, there’s a Gospel presentation, and that’s what it is. They’re sort of reviving that old crusade approach to evangelism, and over the last few years they’ve made huge strides and they’ve had great attendance.”
This year’s SoCal Harvest featured musicians such as Phil Wickham, tobyMac, Skillet, For King & Country, Chris Tomlin, and Hollyn. The main Gospel message was presented by Greg Laurie.
“The SoCal Harvest Crusade started around 1990 with pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie out of Southern California. This year they’re celebrating their 27th Harvest Crusade. They’ve been able to engage an attendance of over 5.6 million people with their numbers showing over 476,000 professions of faith.”
Four years ago, the Deaf Bible Society was first invited to attend SoCal Harvest and engage deaf individuals at the event.
“While we were there, it was amazing, we had 30 deaf people gathered outside the stadium so we could present the Deaf Bible app to them, and this was right after we had first launched the Deaf Bible app several years ago. It only had American Sign Language at the time. It was really exciting to see the energy…around the Gospel,” says Bucklew.
“Since then, we have been back one more time to promote the Deaf Bible app, and last year, for the first time, Deaf Bible Society provided the live stream of the sign language interpreters for the Harvest Crusade. Deaf Bible Society is all about access and we talk about our vision of deaf people being engaged and having access to the Word of God in their sign language.”
SoCal Harvest has gone above and beyond to make sure deaf attendees have easy access to the Christian conference so the Gospel message is uninhibited.
“What was also exciting was seeing how Harvest was very intentional to setup a specific section that every year they set up above the first base dugout, and they’ll have multiple interpreters standing on the dugout translating the entire event into American Sign Language to try to make it accessible to the deaf in the community.”
Historically at SoCal Harvest, they had 100 to 200 deaf people per night come to the event. Last year, thanks to the Deaf Bible Society’s streaming services, over 1,000 people were engaged online with the Gospel presentation, worship, and speakers.
This concept of access — to conferences, concerts, speakers, and even the Bible — may sound simple, because it’s something many people take for granted.
But to see organizations partnering with deaf ministries to engage every single person in their local community — including deaf individuals — is an encouragement for deaf outreach.
Bucklew emphasizes, “That’s what excites us about this event. We found a partner in Harvest who is supportive of access, who wants to see their local deaf community engaged with the Gospel. Two hundred thousand deaf people in Southern California, and less than 0.01 percent of them frequenting a Bible church. This is a major unreached, unengaged people group right here in our own backyard.”
Mike Silva International is another example of a ministry Deaf Bible Society has partnered with to reach deaf people in various communities. Bucklew says the initial partnership with Mike Silva International was eye-opening.
“With Mike Silva International, an evangelist who goes all around Latin America hosting crusades and pastoral training and events, we were able to partner with them at an event on Colombia. Their whole team, their eyes were just opened to the needs of the deaf. They had said [in the past], ‘We’ve gone into this city and this city and this city, and we made the Gospel available. We reached the whole community, we had, you know, 50,000 people turn out.’
“And we had to say, ‘But because you didn’t have interpreters, because you didn’t give away sign language Bible content, you actually missed this many people.’ So for the first time in this city where they were in Colombia, there were over 12,000 deaf people in this city. They were able to provide resources and access for them.”
If you’re wondering what more the Church can do to reach deaf people, Bucklew says a great way is to partner with a deaf ministry, like the Deaf Bible Society!
“What we really need in the Church is to say we have a people group who are not being reached with the Gospel in what we would consider a pretty reached and engaged country: the United States. [We need to] start to ask deaf ministries and deaf organizations and say, ‘What can we do to partner with you? What can we do to make our resources accessible and usable by the local deaf community? What can we do to reach them with the Gospel?’”
You can also remember the deaf community in prayer. “Start praying that God just make you more aware to your local deaf community, and then pray and see how God would have you be involved — whether it’s to be an advocate for access to information and deaf rights, [or] to be an advocate for organizations like ours, Deaf Bible Society, who are working to put Bibles in their hands.”