“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Proverbs 29:18
Where a vision is given by God, often the people prosper through obedience and faith.
I just returned from an incredible Deaf Missions conference of 450+ people connected with the Christian Deaf community: Deaf Christian Leadership Conference and Christian Interpreters Conference. We are now fully engaged in the Fourth Wave of Deaf Ministry. There has been a Christian revival in the Deaf Community over the past twenty years since I signed these words below about “Deaf Time”; which has come about by the willingness of diverse parts of the Christian body caring for each other and serving the Lord in collaboration and friendship. We truly are better together, than any of us trying to “go it alone”.
Though not directly connected with this conference, I do believe at least some part of this current revival in Deaf World has roots in a gathering of 39 participants in February 2001 at Country Lake Christian Camp just north of Louisville, KY. From across the country and denominational spectrum, youth ministry leaders came together to worship Jesus, “major on the majors”, love each other in Christ, and become willing to collaborate, encourage, and support each other. Some of those friendships and networks continue to thrive and produce fruit today.
In 2004, I published Deaf Diaspora and want to share a direct quote from that book. I believe God gave me a glimpse of his future blessings to come to us simply by how we care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We continued our annual Deaf Youth Ministry conference for twelve years. This is how the world knows we are Jesus followers, how we love each other.
“At the inaugural Deaf Teen Ministry National Symposium in 2001, I closed our meeting together with the words, “It’s Time.” Repeating these words and tapping my watch, I expressed a deep sense of the beginning of a revival across our land. It was an awesome awareness of God’s vision for reaching his people at this particular juncture. The time is now. It is Deaf time. It is the Deaf turn for a revival that redeems both individuals and a community for Christ. The impact of the national symposium on our lives was huge as God brought us together to experience Christian community from across the country and the denominational spectrum. We are God’s people and we are called to work together for his purposes. We cannot delay. We cannot remain separate. The Evil One has kept us weak by keeping us divided. To become strong, we must be willing to come together. But we are no longer orphans in a storm. We are family. Together, we become the church, and the gates of hell cannot stand against us.”Bob Ayres, February 2001 at the inaugural Deaf Youth Ministries National Symposium
By responding to God’s vision of reaching Deaf teenagers with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are able to enjoy being part of the impact of God’s Spirit moving in this world. We may be riding the Third Wave but God is the creator of ALL the waves throughout history. He was reaching the Deaf community long before any of us were alive and He will continue long after we are gone. Now, at this particular point in time, we must respond to the changes in our world with wisdom and intention. We must find new ways to share an old story to a new generation. We are the Body of Christ; He has called us and the time is now.
It’s Deaf time.
It is time for a new vision for reconnecting the Deaf community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot turn the clock back to an earlier day when most Deaf gathered around the schools for the Deaf; they are a scattered people. With God’s help, we can create a new way for Christian Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing adults to invest their lives into the lives of Deaf teenagers. It is a new day! The time is now.
The teenage years are the most important ones for making lifelong (and eternal) decisions. A person with an idyllic childhood may destroy his or her life by making bad choices during the teen years. A person with a horrid childhood may come into a personal relationship with God and flourish. After high school, relatively few people accept Christ. It is those who are teenagers now who will reach the next generation of Deaf young adults with the gospel. The spiritual hope of the Deaf community lies with those who are now children and youth.
Hearing teenagers have enjoyed excellent quality youth programs for many years. In the past, Deaf teenagers had some opportunities. Now, there are few, painfully few, ministries specifically for Deaf and hard of hearing teenagers. God has spoken; God has signed.
It’s Deaf time.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples… if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NKJV). It is love that changes the heart of the lonely, the mind of the confused, the strength of the weary, the soul of the isolated; it is love that defends the faith and teaches it to a new generation. God calls us as a community to reembrace the spiritual legacy that once was integral to Deaf-World. God is pursuing the Deaf individual and no longer will being Deaf become a barrier to understanding the greatest gift given to humanity.
It’s Deaf time.
Now, finish, now.
The time is now; we cannot delay.
Deaf time, now.
Excerpt from Deaf Diaspora: The Third Wave of Deaf Ministry (iUniverse, 2004), p 122-123.