Group of Adventist interpreters pose for a group picture while signing during the six-day training workshop to sharpen their skills to reach the hearing impaired in their churches and communities. Some 47 interpreters met in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, July 22-17, 2019. Photo: North Mexican Union

August 27, 2019 | Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico | Helena Corona/IAD News Staff

As part of the on-going efforts by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Mexico to better reach the hearing impaired in their churches and communities, a group of Adventist interpreters gathered recently for a special training workshop in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. The 47 student interpreters from across the three major church regions in Mexico met to enrich their knowledge, understand their mission and strategize to further the ministry of sharing the gospel in sign language to the hearing impaired.

“We thank God because He is strengthening His people just at this time of the end so that the great mission of preaching the gospel in every tongue can be fulfilled,” said Pastor David Maldonado, special needs ministries director for the church in North Mexico. “The church around the world is building bridges to reach the deaf community and it is important that we ensure that interpreters are trained in the Mexican Sign Language,” explained Maldonado.

The training workshop is the second such initiative which is part of the comprehensive special needs ministry effort began by the North Mexican Union seven years ago, organizers said.

This year the church in Southeast and Inter-Oceanic Mexican Unions gathered a group of their own to be part of the Second Annual Interpreters Workshop in Mexican Sign Language, which provided 50 hours of training, July 22-27, 2019, at the 27 de Febrero Adventist Church in Villahermosa.

Adventist interpreters who responded to the calling are all volunteers, said Maldonado. “They use their own resources and time to prepare and serve the deaf in their own churches and communities,” said Maldonado.

Pastor David Maldonado, special needs ministries director for the church in North Mexico and main organizer of the workshop speaks to the delegates on their important role as they share the gospel with those with the deaf where they live. Photo: North Mexican Union

According to national statistics (2010 census), there are more than 680,000 hearing impaired and 9,000 completely deaf in Mexico—about 12.1 percent of the population.

Team of interpreters

“This plan is so important because we need to have a team of interpreters that can assist us for this great deaf population we have not been able to reach yet,” said Maldonado. The church in North Mexico has accounted for 169 church members who have been identified as deaf and the plan is to continue providing the training and tools to teach and train the church in general like deacons and deaconesses, and church clubs like pathfinders so that the church can be prepared to receive and include the new members who are deaf in the life of the church, explained Maldonado.

The workshop grouped interpreters in three levels from basic to advanced. Strategies were set to provide a training plan for each level to include two workshops per year for the advance level, including online training once a week on Sunday. The intermediate group will see regional workshops to further to the advanced trained group to assist those in the basic level, explained Maldonado.

The six-day training event reviewed the use of signs and the use of sign language, ambiguous words and sentences, phrases and proper idioms, proverbs and parables from the Bible.  Interpreters took part in group session exercises and time for exchanging experiences.

Daniel Vergara was so thankful and ecstatic to have learned to sign so many words.  Vergara has been assisting a group of hearing impaired people in Guasave, Sinaloa, in North Mexico. He was part of the basic level group during the event. “I have gained so much through this training.  I just had to come to see how I can better help our deaf brothers and sisters back home,” said Vergara.

Delegates follow the signed prayer by Gerardo Calderon, a hearing impaired university student, during the worship service on Sabbath, July 27, at the 27 de Febrero Adventist Church in VillahermosaPhoto: North Mexican Union

At only 15, Estrella Ramírez took part in the intermediate group of interpreters. She studies at Montemorelos University’s preparatory school and signs during the university’s church service on Sabbaths.  “I want to be an interpreter for the deaf for the rest of my life,” she said. Ramírez thanked instructors and those in the advanced interpreters group for correcting some of her signing expressions and teaching her to sharpen her skills.

Facilitating more training

The goal is to strengthen and facilitate more training for dedicated interpreters like Vergara and Ramírez, said Maldonado.

So far the church in North Mexico has been organizing and supporting an annual Adventist national congress for the deaf for the past three years. In addition, interpreters have been invited to be part of the union’s executive meetings to help be part of taking decisions and initiatives that will reach the deaf and those with special needs across the church territory.

In his special message for the interpreters-in-training, Pastor Arturo King, president for the church in North Mexico, praised and thanked them for their commitment in to reaching the hearing impaired and those with special needs.

“What a joy it is to know that there are members who want to extend their arms of compassion and love toward persons who don’t have the privilege of hearing, but who have the privilege of learning about the love of Christ through His subjects,” said King. “We are so grateful because He has put in your heart to share the good news of salvation with this segment of the population who need our support and our care.”

Delegates to the event receive their certificate for completing the training workshop in Villahermosa, Tabasco. Photo: North Mexican Union

Expanding to reach more

Pastor King motivated the group to continue motivating their fellow church members in their home churches to also extend their arms and bring others to the feet of Jesus.

In less than two months, more than 300 hearing impaired, interpreters and church leaders are expected to take part in the fourth annual national congress for the deaf in October.

“God is giving us the privilege of working together without borders as one church because we share the same Mexican Sign Language,” said Maldonado as he spoke to the delegates. “This unity together with the renewed commitment to go evangelize the deaf community is preparing us to receive the ‘Holy Spirit’s Latter Rain’ who will help us fulfill this mission.”

Church leaders committed to provide more resources like Sabbath School lessons, hymns and bible studies for interpreters. In addition, resources will be provided to raise awareness about the hearing impaired and their needs in churches, among other things.

Plans are set to hold a third national Adventist interpreters workshop in Puebla, Mexico, next year.

To learn more about the church’s deaf and special needs ministries initiatives and activities in North Mexico, visit adventistasumn.org

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