Isn’t it a good feeling to know that the deaf too have received the gospel? Yes, our hearts rejoice and we praise the Lord for extending his call to the deaf too in Ghana.
It was in the month of June 2006 edition of the Ministry Magazine when I read an article captioned “A hidden ministry” by late pastor Arthur W. Griffith. The article expressed a passionate call into deaf ministry. When I read the article, I was moved and deeply touched in my soul. In the next month’s issue, Ministry Magazine gave me the privilege to publish my response letter. I never knew that was going to be the beginning of a ministry which has grown to become a whole ministerial department in the Central Ghana Conference of SDA in Kumasi, Ghana.
A short letter and the beginning
The short letter in response to pastor Griffith’s article reads:
Your articles on ministering to those persons with disabilities have rightly hit the nail on the head! I have personally heard the headmaster of the Ghana School for the Deaf (Jamasi) reiterating the need for Seventh-day Adventists to incorporate sign language into their pastorates. This [headmaster] wished his deaf students could have a part in this message. Our institutions stand for one thing: mission. In her article, “Including all—omitting none” (June 2006), Charlotte L. V. Thoms closed by saying, “Disabilities is a ministry whose time has come.” Arthur Griffi th, in his article “A Hidden Mission Field” (June 2006), also added, “The point is simple. As a church, we can do much more to reach this important segment of our population. It’s great that we send missionaries all over the world to reach various groups. But we mustn’t forget those groups who are right here among us, and that includes the deaf.”
These writers are speaking the same tongue with Christ, “ ‘Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage’ ” (Matthew 22:9, KJV). Both the gospel and the church’s mission are all inclusive. Let’s gather them.
Shortly after the letter was published, I received an email request from one Pastor John Blakes of the Aberta Lake Conference in Canada. He was interested to help start deaf ministry in Ghana. Pastor John Blake happened to be a colleague of late pastor Arthur W. Griffith.
A correspondence began and our conversation was blessed by the Holy Spirit. We found Harrison Osei-Antwi, a deaf friend whom I have noticed for a long time coming to church and always isolated on the back seats. I never noticed how he was hearing what was preached at church and he never stopped coming to church every Sabbath.
My encounter with Harrison introduced me to the deaf culture and their various challenges. How naïve I have been to the sensitivity of his presence in the church? Little did I know that he was completely shut out of church though present each Sabbath. We grew up together in the same hometown but there was a big gap between us because of his deafness. A lot of deaf people suffer from this condition. Harrison has already told me that he’s been worshiping with some deaf groups on Sundays and he feels sad the Adventist church has no ministry for the deaf.
The training and gathering
I introduced Harrison to pastor Blake who began to send some DVD’s and basic Adventist books to Harrison. Harrison began to learn and also shared the videos with some of his colleagues at the Jamasi Ashanti School for the Deaf. One day he invited me to meet his audience and to my surprise, the teachers have gathered all the deaf students about 200 of them, and Harrison spoke to them about the love of Christ. All the teachers too were present listening. It was really an inspiring sight.
I and Pastor Blake continued to nurture Harrison in so many ways until Harrison became well informed about his call to begin an Adventist deaf church. This was going to be the first Seventh-day Adventist deaf church in Ghana. Pastor Blake solicited a stipend support for Harrison from the Gospel Outreach Ministry in collaboration with the Central Ghana Conference. A second hearing deaf worker in the person of Kenneth was employed to supervise Harrison. Pastor James Amoah, the Executive secretary devoted his time to overseer the ministry.
Harrison began gathering his scattered Adventist deaf friends. Some have left the Adventist church to other churches where they sign for the deaf. Others have retired from church already. Few others, just like him, suffered isolation in their various churches. They all came from here and there. Amazingly, a ministry was born and a church was planted.
Harrison has been employed as a full time conference worker. His church is growing each day. Some have accepted Christ through his ministry. Harrison has managed to send his church to an annual camp meeting of the district churches. They sing and receive all the blessings as Kenneth and pastor Henry Afoako (Harrison’s co-worker), help to do the interpretation for the people. Many of them share testimonies about how happy they are to feel a part of the larger Adventist church. They have also come to enjoy the social experience with one another as deaf brothers and sisters in the Lord. Harrison’s recent evangelism “Health and Salvation through Christ” was organized for both the deaf and hearing. Four deaf and two hearing were baptized after the campaign.
The challenges and a call to support
There are more deaf people to reach in Ghana. But Harrison cannot do it alone. They need more workers, volunteers and dedicated people around the world. They also need financial support. Though Harrison continues to minister to the deaf in his region, there are many challenges to overcome. There are both spiritual and economic challenges as well. Some of his church members live kilometers far away from their usual Sabbath meeting place. They spend a lot of money to worship with their friends. And since most of them suffer social stereotypes for being deaf, they find it difficult to meet some basic economic needs to make their lives better. All these affect their spiritual commitment. Harrison sometimes uses his own money to assist some of them. But he can’t do it alone. He too has his own economic challenges to battle with.
The prophet Isaiah wrote “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book…” (Isaiah 29: 18 KJV). Christ still opens the ears of the deaf to hear his loving message. Christ does the call, and our job is to welcome them. We must not forget that the deaf hear by the signs of the hand. Let us be earnest to sign with our hands by our generous support because we know that our actions would be much louder in the ears than our words. Your generous support can be sent through the General Conference, local conferences or directly to the Central Ghana Conference of SDA, Ghana.