The Lord has given us a great opportunity to help strengthen Bible-believing churches and increase their effectiveness by teaching Kenyan Sign language to the hearing church members so that they can learn to communicate with the Deaf. This is a very important task for a number of reasons.
First, it raises awareness about the Deaf as a whole, especially in the communities surrounding the churches. Before a person has been directly exposed to sign language, they often do not think about the fact that there are people in the world who cannot hear. They do not realize that there are people around them who live in a silent world and who are effectively cut off from any Gospel witness.
Secondly, teaching people sign language helps to bridge the chasm that lies between the Deaf world and the hearing world. Because of inability on the part of many hearing people to communicate with the Deaf, in many ways the Deaf live in isolation even while surrounded by multitudes of people in close proximity. Tragically, this happens in the homes of many of the Deaf as well. Of the hundreds of Deaf people whom we’ve been privileged to meet, less than 5% of them have a family member who is able to communicate with them. For those who are blessed to have someone in their family able to communicate with them, it is often a sibling who has learned some sign language through interaction at home or school. Parents, especially the fathers, seldom show any desire to learn sign language in order to communicate with their deaf child.
Thirdly, in teaching Kenyan Christians sign language, the work of Christ among the Deaf gains many more hands. The more hands we have signing—whether they be interpreting, teaching, preaching, or witnessing—the more potential we have to reach Deaf people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our desire is to see hearing and Deaf Christians laboring side by side for Deaf souls in the harvest field of Kenya. Through providing instruction in KSL, we are pressing towards that mark!
In 2011, I began teaching KSL at Karen Baptist Church for anyone who was interested. I have since been able to teach two groups of sign language students there. It has truly been a blessing to watch the hearing and Deaf members of Karen Baptist Church interact and communicate together. In many ways this has bonded them together as a church family. This is especially important in a country where the Deaf are often viewed as “less than a person” when compared to the hearing.
When we began working with the Mickey family in Nakuru, we immediately began teaching KSL there as well. The first KSL class at Grace Bible Baptist Church was quite large. Forty-four people expressed their desire to take part in KSL I. As time went on, some of those dropped out, but by God’s grace, many of the faithful members of Grace Bible Baptist Church finished the course and have continued to serve in various facets of the church’s Deaf ministry. Although I continue to teach KSL there, we are working with those initial students to eventually turn over to them the KSL instruction at Grace Bible Baptist Church. That is effectively the work of a missionary—to work oneself out of a job and then start over training people in a different location.
Today, by the grace of God, the Deaf ministry at Grace Bible Baptist Church is indigenous with trained interpreters in place for all of the services there. The graduate KSL students are also teaching KSL to the school children in Grace Baptist Academy, thereby furthering the work by preparing the hands and the hearts of those God can raise up for future ministry. These school children come from Kenya, South Sudan, Burundi, and the Congo. As they are prepared with understanding of Deaf culture and organized sign languages and as they gain a burden for the souls of the Deaf, they might well be the ones to carry the Gospel of Christ into other African countries.
In addition to teaching KSL to the church members of Grace Bible Baptist Church, God has also allowed me to teach sign language to the hearing Bible college students who attend Rift Valley Baptist College. Many of these students are national pastors from areas all over Kenya. It is our prayer that as the students learn about the Deaf and sign language that God will open many more doors of opportunity to reach Deaf all across this nation.
Pastors and missionaries from other countries in Africa have asked that we come and teach their people sign language as well. I do not know everything that God has planned for us in the future, but one thing I do know: The need to reach the Deaf for Christ is great, and the laborers are few. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:38