The deaf community is a vulnerable group in society, and the deaf Christians are now marginalized in the church. Many people find it difficult to communicate with them because of hearing limitations and language barriers. At present, some churches have deaf fellowships and full-time ministry staff to serve them.
Sister Dai (hereinafter referred to as Dai) is now serving in a church in Jingmen, Hubei province. She came to Jingmen in 2018 and half a year later, she started serving the deaf fellowship. As now a full-time volunteer, Dai shared with the Gospel Times, an online Chinese Christian newspaper, some of her personal insights and gains from serving the community, hoping to help those who want to get involved in serving deaf people.
Gospel Times: What things should we know about serving the deaf group?
Dai: The first thing is respect. Each of them is sensitive and vulnerable. They are a vulnerable social group who will encounter some problems in their life and work, including falling in love with someone, which will lead to their sensitive mind, so we should respect them first. Because their living habits and ways of expression are very different from ours, we must get to know them and respect their habits and acknowledge them for who they are.
The second thing is listening. Of course, listening does not mean that we really listen to their voice. It means that we need to care for them, comfort them, and provide specific help for help. As a volunteer of the Union of Volunteers, I find that sometimes our help may not be recognized by them. Why is that? For example, if someone has high self-esteem, they may not want your help.
So listening is understanding their real needs and helping them to the extent that they will accept. A hasty offer of help or the help from the perspective of what we think is good for them would not necessarily lead to good results. It could easily backfire. This can also cause secondary damage to their heart: “Is he/she despising me?”
Another thing is inclusion. During the contact with them, we may find that the word order of their speech is reversed, and their expressions is quite different from ours. For example, have rice, they might say “rice, have”; Go there and play, they may say “play, go there”. In addition, they may show some exaggerated body movements in their expression, which should also be tolerated, because they may sometimes give you different information than you think. So you should use the word order and body language that they can understand. Be part of their group, and regard yourself as one of them, so as to fit in.
Accept the “bad” habits in their lives. For example, if someone is late for dinner, they won’t want to save the meal for that brother or sister. But if you make it clear to them, they will understand and agree to do it. Many of them have not been to school, and may seldom feel the warmth in the family. That would make them lack the common sense of life. These are very small things. We point these things out in the hope that they can realize that we are a group and a family so that they can learn to care about the people around them unconsciously.
Gospel Times: What mindset should the ministry worker have toward them?
Dai: The Bible says, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love”.(Corinthians 13:13) So I personally think the first thing is love. The Bible also teaches us to love each other and love others as ourselves.
They often need help in their life and work. From trivial family conflicts to emergencies of life and death, they would contact me immediately. Because once they trust you and establish a relationship with you, they treat you like family. Then they would share and tell you everything. So it’s important to serve with love.
The second thing is patience. The person serving them also needs to be patient. I recently had two sisters from my church who wanted to serve with me in the deaf fellowship. One of the sisters was involved once, but she got cold feet. She was frustrated because she could not communicate with them (she did not acquire sign language). When she arrived early, she had to write her greetings on paper, but many of them could not read and could not communicate directly.
To serve the special group requires enough patience. On the one hand, you should be patient with yourself. You should enter this group, blend into this group, and understand their living habits, language, and so on. You should also be patient with this group and sometimes maybe you need to treat them like your children.
Finally, confidence. From my personal involvement in ministry, it takes faith from God to go from not knowing the people, to loving them and being willing to serve them better.
Gospel Times: What do you personally think the church should do to help this community, or what the community needs most right now?
Dai: Care in daily life and spiritual growth. They are the forgotten people in society. In fact, many of them are psychologically inferior and helpless. Through contact with them, we know that many of them are bearing the burden of life and spiritual pressure. Therefore, they should be given continuous support and help in their life care. Our church pays great attention to helping the disabled. Every festival, the pastor will give some gifts to them with his fellow workers to show sympathy and care.
We should also pay attention to their spiritual growth, which is arguably more important. The care and help in life can help us to establish a deep and intimate relationship with them and become friends who they can talk about everything with, but I find it difficult to help them grow spiritually. This has been a big problem that I can’t deal with. (Editor’s note: Dai wants to go to seminary on her own and get a sign Language Bible kit.) I'm trying to do things like, you know, transcribe the Bible to learn words, and establish sign language classes.
Gospel Times: What have you learned from your personal service?
Dai: First, I have become soft and loving inside myself. I had never expected such a change. Before I started doing this, I was a cold and selfish person, a proud person with a hard heart, but through serving them, I was moved to tears. I started to understand love and care, and I’m serving willingly.
Second, I have fulfilled many of my dreams by serving God. I did not expect this, since my childhood dream to be a translator, or to be a teacher. But my current service is exactly these things! It is wonderful that God can fulfill my dream in this way. I cherish my current position.
Finally, trust in God and have faith. I did many things that I was afraid to do in this position, because we have to do these things to lead and serve them, and we must help them when they need it. So over and over again God gave me the power of faith.
Therefore, serving is also a position to be served. It seems that the servers are giving, that is, we have done something for them, but in fact, God has really served us, healed us, and changed us through these positions.
Afterword: Dai mentioned above that those who serve should be loving and faithful, and she herself always keeps serving with love in two aspects. First, give timely help in life. Dai will come to them as soon as possible when they are in need. If someone is ill and hospitalized, she sets a standard for herself when she pays a visit to them. The standard is donating no less than 200 yuan for each visit. Second, these believers’ homes are relatively far away from the church, so they cannot guarantee to come every week. Dai made an agreement with them that on the first Sunday of every month, everyone would be invited to worship, no matter what happens. After the worship, she would invite them to have dinner together, and then form a small fellowship to communicate with them again with the essence of the words shared by the pastor and let the truth enter deeper into their hearts.
- Translated by Nicolas Cao