U.S. Region Holds First Deaf Youth Camp

Washington’s Sunset Lake welcomed a group of young people and specialized staff.

Heidi Baumgartner, North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner
U.S. Region Holds First Deaf Youth Camp
[Photo: North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner]

Shakira loved Deaf Youth Camp. This was the very first time she was able to have the camp experience. Being deaf, she didn’t have any options until now.

Working with partners in the Adventist Deaf community, Sunset Lake Camp, a Seventh-day Adventist campground in Wilkeson, Washington, United States, hosted its first Deaf Youth Camp in the summer of 2022 in conjunction with the Adventurer camp for ages 8 and 9. The children came together for all the activities.

Specialized staff supported the Deaf Youth Camp experience: Duane Talley, who directed deaf camp at Camp MiVoden in the 1990s; Esther Doss, North American Division Deaf Ministries coordinator; Nohelani Jarnes, Washington Conference Deaf Ministries coordinator; Jeff Jordan, a deaf pastor from Tennessee; along with skilled interpreters and a deaf girls’ counselor.

“Shakira shared a cabin with girls who could hear but did not know how to sign. She was worried about how awkward the whole week would be. But sweet friendships were forged as the young girls loved her and learned how to communicate with her,” Doss said.

She loved the activities, made new friends, and shared that she did indeed grow closer to Jesus. 

Deaf ministry and outreach have a lot of challenges, such as communication access, that are unique to the Deaf community, leaders explained. “How difficult it would be for a deaf child to attend a summer camp without being able to communicate with anyone? How would camp staff share Jesus to a person who relies on sign language?” they asked.

Doss said, “Our deaf crew was incredibly impressed with the camp staff. They were incredibly kind and confidently met the task of working with those who are deaf. We just loved them.”  

Many deaf Adventists today will tell you that they knew very little about God as children, even those who grew up in Adventist homes.

In July, for example, a deaf lady, whose father was an Adventist pastor, chose to be rebaptized. Even though she had been baptized as a young girl, she understood very little about who God is and His desires for our lives. She eventually studied the Bible with deaf members and was amazed at the precious truths she had missed.

“This story has been repeated in the lives of many other deaf people. This is why we have deaf camp. There are many deaf youth who have no idea about God, let alone the plan of salvation and Jesus’ soon return. We must reach out to the deaf youth in some way. And summer camp is one way to make a difference,” Doss said.

The deaf staff are excited about returning to Sunset Lake next year, July 2-9, 2023, along with Shakira, who wants to bring her friends and help the Deaf Youth Camp grow.

The original version of this story was posted on the North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner.

Heidi Baumgartner, North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner

Heidi Baumgartner, North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner