Blessings to you this New Year of 2023
As consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries, I celebrate the year 2022 as a remarkable time of growing for our Church’s witness in ministry with, of, by and for Deaf and hard of hearing people.
One of our committee members, Rev. Leo Yates of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, initiated a Deaf Awareness micro-grant program that awarded 14, $500 grants to churches from Zimbabwe to Prescott, Arizona. These churches sparked conversations about including Deaf people in the life of the church. In one example, a Deaf ministry in Dallas cooked hamburgers for the congregation, teaching basic ASL signs, Deaf culture, and captioning technology. After the event one church member committed her captioning/court reporting company in providing captioning in a hybrid Sunday School class and for in-person worship. In another awareness event in Nashville, the church received such a positive response, that their plans for 2023 is to provide interpreter in worship and ASL classes.
Apart from these micro-grants, efforts in Zambia by a local Deaf teacher of the Deaf, Martin, led to the first Deaf UMC worship service in that country on December 11, 2022. Meeting in classroom space negotiated with the headmaster of a Deaf school in Kabwe and with support from the District Superintendent of Lusaka, Rev. Mainsa Daiman, 17 local Deaf met for worship and praise. They are developing a plan for teaching job skills such as welding and animal husbandry, as well as teaching in sign language God’s Word in Christ. Partnering with Martin was the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf, which donated funds for Martin’s travels and interpreter in his meetings with Rev. Daiman. This vision in Zambia is also happening in a larger scale in the Tanzania Annual Conference, as the Yatosha Deaf team are at work in three locations: Dar Es Salaam, Mwanza and Sengerema. They have a big dream project of building a Deaf Center that will serve around 300 students (K-12) in the Lake Victoria area.
This good news begat more good news as our 2023 program budget was increased by $7500 by the GBGM. We also received commitment to support a small team to meet at the UMC’s flagship Africa University in Zimbabwe. This team will celebrate the graduation of the first Deaf theology student (whom we helped sponsor) at AU and to further support sign language access for more Deaf students.
Our committee welcomed a new pastor to our work, Rev. Zach Holler of Grace UMC in Waverly, Ohio. As a person who is Deaf-Blind, Rev. Holler’s participation will drive further gains that our connection receives when ALL are included. Our hopes this year include a Deaf Lay servant training event. Please consider this ministry in your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Our Advance Special can be found at https://umcmission.org/advance-project/982562/
Grace and peace, Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth