The German Adventist Deaf Community celebrated 100 years of organized work at the Grindelberg Advent House in Hamburg, Germany on August 3, 2019. The centennial commemoration took place under the theme, “Still Living With Jesus Today?”
Beginnings in Bremen
On April 11, 1919, in Bremen, Margarete Heine (later Puich) joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church through baptism. With her, the mission to hearing-impaired Adventist church members was launched in the country.
Heine was born in 1894 as a hearing child of deaf parents. To communicate with her parents, and as the eldest of six children of the Heine family, she learned sign language very early in life. At the age of 24, she learned about the Adventist faith through a church member. As a nanny, Heine looked after the Pohl family with their deaf children, Else and Hilda, and told them about her faith. In January 1920, Mrs. Pohl was the first deaf person baptized and was accepted into the fellowship of the Bremen Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At 26, Heine met the deaf Berliner Carl Puich. He was a socialist and did not believe in God. That eventually changed, and he was baptized in December 1920. Four days later, Carl and Margarete were married. The wedding was performed in sign language by Seventh-day Adventist pastor Müller, from Magdeburg.
Puich would become the first deaf Adventist evangelist in Germany. In 1921, he began to study the Bible with deaf people. His wife, Margarete, translated the Bible discussion and the sermon every Saturday (Sabbath) during the worship service.
At 35, Margarete was also sworn in as a sign language interpreter in the courts. Her interpreting activities were not limited to Bremen. She was also called to assist doctors and authorities. For more than 50 years, Margarete worked tirelessly to serve deaf people. Carl died in 1966, and his wife in 1982.
Adventist Services for the Deaf
According to Gerd Wildemann, director of Adventist Special Needs Ministries in Germany, Adventist services for the hearing impaired are currently in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, United States, and other countries.
“[Our celebration] was important, because we, as the Adventist hearing impaired community in Germany, can look back to a long history,” Wildemann said. “With events such as the 100th-anniversary celebration in Hamburg, we drew attention to the situation of the hearing impaired in our church and strengthen their faith.” Guests included deaf pastors Douglas da Silva, from Brazil, and Jeff Jordan, from the United States.
Wildemann thanked God for protecting the past, for the opportunities of the present, and for the encouragement into the future.
“We especially thank our world church leaders for their support, and we thank our hearing-impaired guests for their encouragement and spiritual instruction.”
A previous Deaf Bible Week was attended by 43 participants, 33 of them hearing impaired, and more than 50 hearing-impaired people were present at the centennial celebration.
Inter-European Division (EUD) Special Needs Ministries coordinator Corrado Cozzi said the celebration was a high point not only for hearing-impaired members in Germany but also elsewhere.
“This event fills with joy not only our deaf German friends but also all the other Adventist communities of hearing-impaired people across Europe, who are following in their footsteps,” Cozzi said.