In the last five years, the Adventist Church has invested in developing resources and programs to meet the needs of its deaf members and others living in eight South American countries. In Brazil alone, the church has approximately 1,500 baptized members who need special resources to study the Bible and share it with others.
Data from the 2010 Census, from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), show that 5.1 percent of the country’s population has some hearing impairment, which amounts to about 9.7 million Brazilians. Of these, 2.5 million suffer from a severe hearing impairment.
“The Adventist Church wants to reach those who have hearing impairments with the gospel message,” said Edison Choque, Director of Special Ministries in the South American Division church region.
Currently, the Internet is one of the main means to reach this group. And for a third consecutive year, Adventists have invested in “Evangelibras,” an evangelistic program that is live streamed on Facebook and YouTube. The 2017 edition took place from June 14 to 17, with a focus on the sacrifice of Christ, also highlighting the relevance of family relationships.
“This whole week can be summarized as a week of love,” said this year's speaker Edgar Alvarenga Simões with the help of an interpreter. “It is the love of Jesus, who wants to save us, who wants to rescue us.” Simões, who has been trained in Inclusive Education, coordinates the Adventist Ministry for the Deaf in New Brazil, Espírito Santo.
Simões explains that his role is to engage in evangelistic outreach with the people he meets, encouraging them to have faith in Jesus. It is what other deaf Adventists have also done, resulting in decisions like the ones made by Isaías and Rayanne Felix, a couple baptized on June 17 at the close of Evangelibras. Isaías became acquainted with the Adventist Church in the capital city of Brasilia. Invited by a friend, he began to attend a church where some people knew the Brazilian Language of Signs (Pounds). Soon they began to give him Bible studies.
Isaías soon joined the Pathfinder Club, even though he kept attending other gatherings which did not contribute to his Christian walk. “I went to places which made me forget about Jesus,” he said.
Today, Isaiah has a different vision. He wants to become an example so that other people may also know Jesus. His wife, who previously did not know much about the Bible, is now a different person. “What I have learned is bringing me great happiness,” she said.
New Resources and Projects
The Adventist Church in South America has recently produced a version of the missionary book In Search of Hope in Pounds, as well as the movie The Rescue, which premiered last Easter. For next year, the idea is to have the Bible course “Listening to the Voice of God” in the same language. Next year, leaders are also hoping to offer Evangelibras for the duration of a week.
In Brazil, there are already 164 Adventist initiatives and ministries for the deaf. These initiatives are usually offered in Adventist churches across Brazil, providing support for members and visitors so they can understand the messages presented.
In Salvador, Bahia, what is considered the first Adventist church for the deaf has been launched. With 25 members, it is part of a traditional church but includes a worship program exclusively focused on the deaf.
And at the Adventist church in Mandaqui, in São Paulo, a center of influence was inaugurated with professional training courses and other activities for the deaf. The venue attracts an average of 50 people for each of its meetings.
Now the regional Adventist Church is also promoting courses to train more people to serve the deaf, said Choque. “Our motto is very clear—Every deaf discipling another deaf; each interpreter discipling another interpreter; and every ministry multiplying into another ministry,” he said.