Inter-American Division staff, with
ASeventh-day Adventist leader in Mexico used a sign-language sermon to encourage hearing impaired attendees of a four-day conference to actively share Jesus with the deaf community.
Francisco Javier Diaz de Leon, leader of Adventist Deaf Ministries in Mexico, told participants of the Deaf Congress in Montemorelos, Mexico, that their influence among their peers was greater than that of people without hearing challenges.
He also called on the Adventist community to support hearing impaired groups and sign-language interpreters to recruit and train fellow church members to use sign language.
He was echoed by Samuel Telemaque, special needs ministries director for the Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division, whose territory includes Mexico. He said the conference aimed to send a clear signal to church members to change their thinking toward deaf outreach.
“The church must make salvation available to all people,” Telemaque said. “God gives gifts to everyone, those persons with abilities and those with disabilities. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”
Local Adventist leaders are assessing the number of deaf worshippers in Adventist churches in north Mexico. So far, they know of 71 deaf people, and they have appealed to local pastors to identify more.
“It would be a real blessing to have all our district pastors on board with our strategy to identify and minister to the deaf individuals who currently attend our Adventist churches,” said Adan Dyck, personal ministries and Sabbath school director for the Adventist Church in north Mexico and the main organizer of the conference.
Recent national census statistics indicate that nearly 700,000 people, or 12 percent of the 5 million people with disabilities in Mexico, are deaf or otherwise hearing impaired. Out of that group, 30 percent do not know how to read or write.
“We wanted to learn more about the different ways we can reach this special group of people,” said Adan Dyck, personal ministries and Sabbath school director for the church in North Mexico and main organizer of the event.
To that end, church leaders plan to create a two-week training program for deaf Master Guides to strengthen their work in reaching others with similar needs.
Adventist-operated Montemorelos University will assist the church in producing Adventist hymns in sign language and has pledged to carry every worship service in sign language. More than 60 university students have registered to learn sign language with a sign language expert on campus.
The church in north Mexico has begun producing video “Faith of Jesus” Bible lessons in sign language for church members to share. Leaders hope to complete the 20 Bible lessons by June 2017, when they plan to gather more than 500 deaf people from across Mexico for the first national conference of its kind in the country.
“We are serious about reaching the deaf across our cities, communities, and streets who need to learn of the love of Jesus,” said David Maldonado, special needs ministries director for the church in north Mexico.