October 27, 2020

Evangelism for the Hearing-Impaired Helps Bridge the Gap of Social Isolation

Andréia Kals, South American Division, and Adventist Review

A special weekend of evangelistic programs in Brazil reached out to scores of hearing-impaired people who have experienced more significant challenges than usual since the beginning of social isolation measures. The special weekend took place in the Rio de Janeiro area from October 9 to 11, 2020.

An Additional Burden 

Social isolation has changed the routine of many people. For the hearing-impaired, however, to adapt to the new reality has seemed more challenging. While many people resort to digital platforms for work and entertainment, it isn’t easy for the hearing-impaired to find content available in Libras, the Brazilian sign language.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, close to 10 million people in Brazil have some hearing impairment, about 5 percent of the population. Despite that fact, most Brazilians can’t communicate using Libras. It is the reason many deaf people depend on lip-reading.

Elvira Espírito Santo, from Rio de Janeiro, is deaf and has faced this kind of challenge.

An overview of the alphabet in Libras, the Brazilian sign language. [Photo: South American Division News]

“Everyone’s life was affected because of the pandemic. People were told to distance themselves from other people, and for us, our options are very limited,” she said. “I felt as if I were isolating myself from God.”

To somehow counter this sense of helplessness, Adventist media in Brazil have introduced updates to provide greater inclusion, such as adding an interpreter in Week of Prayer programs and services promoted by TV Novo Tempo. Shows are increasingly including sign-language interpreters, leaders reported.

Special Weekend

Intending to assist the hearing-impaired, Adventist Ministry to the Deaf, through the Adventist Church’s regional offices in southern Rio de Janeiro, offered its first special weekend for the hearing impaired. The three-day series of online evangelism was delivered entirely using Libras, with translation into Portuguese.

“At the end of the weekend, everyone somehow involved in this ministry — the hearing-impaired, volunteers, interpreters, and family members — were impacted and felt a stronger desire to meet and worship God even under the current circumstances," said Espírito Santo. “What the ministry did this weekend was to connect us to a network in a way that helped us to see that God is the One who unites us.”

Elvira Espírito Santo said she felt supported by the special weekend program promoted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [Photo: South American Division News]

The Adventist Ministry to the Deaf is part of Adventist Possibilities Ministries, which oversees several areas addressing inclusion and accessibility. “Our main goal is to spread and show the importance that this ministry entails for preaching the gospel,” shared Adventist Possibilities Ministries regional coordinator Giselli Belinassi. “Everyone needs to understand that making our message accessible to all is essential.”

According to Belinassi, it includes breaking several paradigms and stereotypes built over the years. “We seek people’s support and tear down prejudice. You have to know to understand and understand to help. I believe that the more people know this ministry, the more they will want to participate,” she said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.