Say It with a Sign

In the Philippines, Adventists and the Deaf community partner to learn sign language.

Paulmarc Aber Caberte and Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
Say It with a Sign
[Photo: courtesy of Zamboanga Peninsula Mission]

In September 2022, at the Zamboanga Peninsula headquarters in southern Philippines, church members from the town of Ipil held their first communitywide Filipino Sign Language training using the slogan, “Say It with Sign.” More than 40 people from 14 churches in Ipil came together for learning, camaraderie, and worship.

The majority of attendees were youth and youth leaders from local churches. Some teachers were also present during the meeting. Thirteen deaf individuals were asked to participate as resource speakers to enrich, engage, and inspire the training. Twelve of these individuals work as sign language interpreters for the Mission View Adventist church. Most of them are members of the Zamboanga Sibugay Deaf Association and the Ipil Deaf Association.

Ipil district pastor Patrocenio A. Caberte Jr. greeted everyone at the opening program and explained why he had worked to make this training possible. “The gospel is not only for those people who can hear but especially for those people who have hearing challenges,” he reminded attendees. During the program, the differently abled individuals interpreted a special song using their hands.

Carmelita Asoy, director of Adventist Possibility Ministries of Zamboanga (ZPM), delivered a message of hope about Adventist Possibility Ministries’ mission and shared ways that attendees could become engaged in supporting it. Lorena Mae Beronio, who oversees the Persons with Disability Affairs office at the Ipil church, also shared inspiring thoughts on reaching out to this group of people and how the Lord would want every single individual to be a part of God’s salvation.  

Adventist Possibility Ministries aims to improve members’ participation in fellowship and service, both inside the church and in their respective communities. Additionally, it urges church members to appreciate and understand people from all cultures and backgrounds. Hosting events for the Deaf community is an opportunity to connect with people and create connections that will help this particular group feel accepted and a part of society, organizers said.

Guest devotional speaker Cart Gladden Aguillon underscored the importance of getting involved in mission, particularly in terms of reaching the Deaf community. 

“It is our responsibility to share the gospel with everyone. The gospel is not only for a certain group of people, but the Lord made it clear that His word is for every kindred, nation, tongue, tribe, and people,” Aguillon said.

The training was interesting and highly engaging, according to Micaella Masayon, one of the participants who enjoyed playing the many games and making new friends within the Deaf community. Cristina Turno, another participant, said she had no regrets about signing up for the program because it was a worthwhile use of her time. “Being able to interact with the Deaf community through basic sign language made [me] feel wonderful,” Turno said.

Most of the training is facilitated through one-on-one, face-to-face interaction between the students and sign language instructors. Students were instructed on how to interact with the deaf using basic greeting signs, survival signs, and approach techniques that bridge the communication gap and establish positive connections between the Deaf community and the public.

Ipil Adventist Possibility Ministries also elected officers at the event, with the goal of developing an organization that adheres to the holistic needs of the Deaf community in the area. Leaders hope these officers will advocate for people with disabilities and encourage them to discover their worth in the eyes of God and the world.

The newly elected officers concluded the training with a program. The sign language students demonstrated their knowledge by performing a brief Bible drama in Filipino Sign Language. The Deaf community enjoyed this drama because it helped them grasp the Bible stories. Gerry Faustino, president of the joint fellowship of the Ipil district, delivered a moving speech about the need to use our hands to serve the Lord. All participants were awarded certificates of completion, and all deaf teachers were given certificates of gratitude and the chance to be acknowledged for their commitment to lead and to teach during the event.

Clyde Santuyo, one of the deaf teachers, expressed his appreciation for the training, which helped him feel a sense of equality in the community. “I feel that the hearing community stands by our side and treats the Deaf community equally,” Santuyo said.

Leaders now hope more people get involved in this ministry and that the ministry will keep growing with a clear focus on mission. “This has opened avenues for the Deaf community to learn more about God and have greater access to God’s Word,” they said.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.

Paulmarc Aber Caberte and Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review

Paulmarc Aber Caberte and Edward Rodriguez, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review