Being deaf in the hearing world is very different for me spiritually. According to Mission Frontier, “It has been reported that out of an estimated 250 to 300 million Deaf people in the world, only 2% of them are Christians.” This is a massive problem because hearing people are not communicating with deaf people about Christianity. For most deaf people American Sign Language is their primary language, but it seems as if hearing people don’t want to learn sign language.
Raised by hearing parents I was introduced to Christ as a baby and went to a Catholic school named St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf. I learned English, and my parents bought me hearing aids. Conversely, my friend Brett Crews, who was born deaf, communicated to me through sign language the first time that I met him. He learned how to speak English verbally in the fourth grade. In high school, he told me he didn’t like going to church. According to Three angel Deaf ministry, “It’s been estimated that fewer than 6% of American churches have any outreach to the Deaf at all. Most of those who do try something generally restrict their “ministry” to a volunteer signer who’s had perhaps a few months of sign language classes, attempting to interpret worship services. The ministry was started and carried on by people who love the Lord.” This demonstrates the church is not doing a successful job of including deaf people in the church.
When I was in high school, I found going to church challenging as well because I could not follow along with the pastor. Part of this was due to the church I was attending not having excellent monitors or sound equipment. They also did not do a good job putting what they talked about on the projector screen. Now I go to a church called The Crossing in St. Louis where they have outstanding tech people. They put words on the screen often and they have ASL interpreters for deaf members. Some churches don’t have that, and this can be difficult for the Deaf Community to follow along.
I went to a few different churches growing up, and I did not have a strong faith because the pastors did not do a good job explaining things. My family was Catholic when I was in the third grade, and at that church, I could not follow along because they had no screen that projected the words they were saying. My current professor, Lori Gaffner, from Greenville University told me, “we need to get captions on our videos during chapel that we put on YouTube, also for an ASL interpreter for deaf people who understand the language. The world is failing at sharing the gospel we need to do a better job.”
Things can improve for the deaf community, but we need to increase efforts for deaf people to know Christ by removing barriers that hinder them from learning more about His message.