When COVID-19 forced Adventist members to cancel the Second International Adventist Congress for the Deaf and Deaf-Blind planned for late May 2020 by the Inter-European Division, one participant got creative. She had the idea of organizing a meeting online, even for just an hour, to allow participants to exchange greetings and participate in a joint program.
“We were very sorry to cancel, but we couldn’t do otherwise,” said Corrado Cozzi, Adventist Deaf Ministries International (ADMI) liaison from the Inter-European Division (EUD) church region. “The online event, however, was a challenge that we took up and considered carefully,” Cozzi said.
Finally, the EUD ADMI team thought it would be a good idea to organize a special event with audio-visual technical support.
Deaf people from other regions were also invited to attend. The event took place on May 31, 2020, and was transmitted online via video conference and also livestreamed on ADMI Europe’s Facebook page.
More than 220 participants attended, “and it was amazing to see all of them dialoguing with their friends, crossing the screen without disturbing the rest of the audience,” Cozzi shared, describing the experience.
It is something that can be done only if one speaks with one’s hands, in line with the motto of the event, “Through My Hands.”
The program was hosted by two deaf persons, Jitka Moravcova and Geoffrey Zobries. The two dialogued together, commenting on the program and coordinating interactions.
The program included brief speeches to keep attention high.
Larry Evans, ADMI liaison for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, invited participants to trust a God who never forsakes.
“To all that are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God,” Evans said, “the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is the nearest.”
Jeff Jordan and Douglas Domingo Da Silva, two deaf pastors, animated the event theme “Facing the Giants.” In their commentary, inspired by the biblical story of David and Goliath, they shared how important it is to trust in God to overcome every challenge and overcome one’s giants.
"The only way that we can get the victory is in a close relationship with God, with Jesus,” Jordan said. Da Silva echoed Jordan’s words as he reminded participants: “God is certainly bigger than our problems.”
Two special additions enriched the program. Hanni Wöhler, a deaf participant from Germany, recited a poem in German Sign Language inspired by the Creation week. Michael Geist, another deaf participant from Germany, presented a song visually, including a slide show entitled “Songs for the Eyes.”
The theme song, “I Am Not Alone,” was presented in Italian Sign Language by Michela Dolce.
Taida Rivero, responsible for deaf ministries in Spain, coordinated the interpreters, an essential service in an international event like this one. Rivero said she appreciated the teamwork during the event.
“Sometimes, when we participate in some service for the church, we focus on our services so much that we forget the true meaning of teamwork,” Rivero explained. “In this online conference, I could feel the true spiritual unity.”
Interpreters from different countries came together, putting their hands in the service of God.
“It was an event marked by COVID-19, but an event that united us more as Seventh-day Adventists. It gave us hope, overcame the obstacles of distance, and even overcame the limits,” Rivero said.