September 13, 2016 | Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, Mexico | Abdiel Hernandez/IAD Staff
Dozens of the deaf persons from across North Mexico met for a four-day event to learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s commitment to assisting them in their spiritual growth.
Church leaders and members interested in ministering to the group met for the Deaf Congress at the La Morita campgrounds in Montemorelos, Mexico, Aug. 10-14, 2016.
“We wanted to learn more about the different ways we can reach this special group of people,” said Pastor Adan Dyck, personal ministries and Sabbath school director for the church in North Mexico and main organizer of the event. Dyck, who has been developing the special needs ministries in the territory, said that training the group, including the sign language interpreters, to reach others with the gospel was one of the objectives of the congress.
Francisco Javier Diaz de Leon, leader of Adventist Deaf Ministries in Mexico, in his sermon done in sign language, challenged the Adventist Community to get involved in any hearing impaired groups to support their ministry. Diaz also challenged the group of hearing impaired to be actively involved in evangelizing others since their influence is greater than people without hearing challenges. Interpreters were challenged to recruit church members and train them to serve as sign language interpreters.
Special Needs Ministries Director for the Inter-American Division Pastor Samuel Telemaque said the event was crucial in sending a clear message to shift and change the thinking of people toward the ministries.
“The Church must make salvation available to all people,” said Telemaque. “God gives gifts to everyone, those persons with abilities and those with disabilities. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”
Deaf persons were shown to see a new understanding of themselves and those who are the caretakers, that service is equal as themselves, added Telemaque.
The group, who were mostly made up of church members, received literature, videos, and other resources. They were also provided with free medical services, nutritional assessment, clinical analysis, and medical check-ups by the La Carlota Adventist Hospital in Montemorelos.
Church leaders are interested in assessing the number of deaf individuals in all of their churches. So far, they know of some 71 deaf persons across congregations in North Mexico, yet they want to increase their efforts to work closely with conferences and missions overseeing thousands of congregations to account for all their members with hearing impairment.
“It would be a real blessing to have all our district pastors on board with our strategy to identify and minister to our deaf individuals who currently attend our Adventist Churches,” said Dyck.
Church leaders are talking about a two-week intensive training event for Master Guides to strengthen young deaf persons to work in reaching others with the same needs.
Recent national census statistics show that out of the more than 5 million people with disabilities in Mexico, 12.1 percent, or nearly 700,000, are deaf or are hearing impaired.
Out of that group, 30 percent do not know how to read or write, which affects their economic situation.
The challenge is great, said Dyck, but one the church wants to meet.
New coming Special Needs Ministries Director in North Mexico Pastor David Maldonado said the deaf ministry is not new but it needs to be reinforced at all levels of the church to reach current members and non-believers.
“We want to bring awareness to this need for a strong Adventist Deaf Ministries across every church and small group in the territory,” said Maldonado. Identifying the deaf membership is of utmost importance, he added, as well as appointing someone in each conference and mission to oversee the deaf ministry.
Once many of the key strategies are set in motion, reaching many in the communities with those needs will follow.
“We want to have all available Adventist literature, devotionals and other materials available for this special group,” Maldonado said.
Adventist-operated Montemorelos University will assist the church in North Mexico in producing Adventist Hymns in sign language. “Our delegates loved signing with the video projected with hymns during the congress, and it was wonderful to see their joy.”
The entire Sabbath program at Montemorelos University was carried in sign language through the institution’s local television channel. University officials committed to carrying every worship service in sign language from now on.
The event brought leaders and members to engage and fellowship with deaf people as they took part in a special communion service and activities together.
Maldonado explained that more than 60 university students registered to learn sign language with a sign language expert on campus.
The church began producing the Faith of Jesus Bible lessons in sign language to make available for church members to share. Leaders hope to complete the 20 bible lessons by next June when they expect to gather more than 500 deaf persons from across Mexico for a first event of its kind in the country.
“We are serious about reaching the deaf across our cities, communities, and streets who need to learn of the love of Jesus,” Maldonado said.