[Photo courtesy of Zamboanga Peninsula Mission]
Philippines | Paulmarc Aber Caberte with additional reporting from Edward Rodriguez, Zamboanga Peninsula Mission

On September 2022, the church members of a local Philippine town called Ipil held its first community-wide Filipino Sign Language Training, "Say it with Sign." This event took place at the mission office function hall of the Zamboanga Peninsula headquarters where more than 40 people from 14 churches in lpil came together for fellowship and worship. 

Most of the guests involved were youth and youth leaders from their local churches. Some teachers were also present during the meeting. Thirteen Deaf individuals were asked to participate as resource speakers to enrich, engage, and inspire the training. Twelve of these individuals work as sign language interpreters for the Mission View Adventist Church. Most of them are members of the Zamboanga Sibugay Deaf Association and the lpil Deaf Association.

Pastor Patrocenio A. Caberte Jr., the lpil District Pastor, greeted everyone at the opening program and explained why he had sought to make this training possible. He expressed that the gospel is not only for those people who can hear but especially for those people who experience hearing challenges. During the program, the differently-abled individuals interpreted a special song using their hands. As a result, the performance gained more significance and impact, particularly to this special community and its guests.

Mrs. Carmelita Asoy, Director of the Adventist Possibility Ministry of Zamboanga (ZPM), delivered a message of hope about what the Adventist Possibility Ministry is about and how we may become engaged in supporting it. Mrs. Lorena Mae Beronio, the person in charge of Ipil Church’s Persons with Disability Affairs Office, also shared inspiring thoughts on reaching out to the Deaf community and how the Lord wants every single individual to experience God’s salvation.

The Adventist Possibility Ministries' aim is to improve member participation in fellowship and service, both inside the church and within their respective communities. This ministry also urges church members to appreciate and understand people from all cultures and backgrounds. Hosting events for the Deaf Community provides opportunities for the church to create connections that will help this particular social group feel accepted and valued in society.

Inspiring devotionals about participating in the Adventist Possibility Ministry (APM) were shared throughout the program. Pastor Cart Gladden Aguillon, one of the devotional speakers, underlined the importance of getting involved in the mission, particularly in terms of reaching the Deaf Community. 

“It is our responsibility to share the gospel with everyone. The gospel is not only for a certain group of people, but the Lord made it clear that His word is for every kindred, nation, tongue, tribe, and people,” Aguillon said.

According to Micaella Masayon, a participant, the session was highly interesting and enjoyable because of the games. Attendees also enjoyed making new friends with the Deaf Community. Cristina Turno, another participant, stated that she never regretted signing up for the program because it was worthwhile for her time. She continued by saying that interacting with the Deaf Community through basic sign language was pleasing.

Most of the training was facilitated through one-on-one, face-to-face interaction between the students and sign language instructors. Students were instructed on how to interact with the deaf using basic greeting signs, survival signs, and approach techniques that bridge the communication gap, connect, and establish positive connections between the Deaf Community and the public.

To develop an organization that adheres to the holistic needs of the Deaf Community in the District of lpil, the lpil Adventist Possibility Ministries opted to elect officers that will advocate the endless possibilities of people associated with disabilities, encouraging them to discover their worth in the eyes of God and the world. 

The newly elected officers of the lpil APM concluded the training through a program. The sign language students demonstrated their knowledge by performing a brief Bible drama in Filipino Sign Language. The Deaf Community enjoyed this drama because it helped them grasp the Bible stories. Gerry Faustino, president of the joint fellowship of the lpil District, delivered a moving speech about the need to use our hands to serve the Lord. All participants were awarded certificates of completion, and all Deaf teachers were given certificates of gratitude acknowledging their commitment to leading and teaching during the program.

Clyde Santuyo, one of the Deaf teachers, expressed his appreciation for the training as it helped him feel a sense of equality in the community. It gave him the impression that the hearing community stands by their side and treats the Deaf Community equally.

The possibility that more people will get involved in this ministry has grown in the hearts of the APM advocates. The hearing community has also seen opportunities to establish relationships with the deaf community and make them realize that their God-given talents can be utilized for His purpose. According to organizers, this opens avenues for the Deaf Community to learn more about God and have greater access to His writings.

The Adventist Possibility Ministries is advocating for the recognition of every person’s God-given dignity, which deserves respect and the kind of assistance that helps them make possible the discovery of unrealized abilities despite stigmas associated with a disability or loss. To learn more about this ministry, you can visit https://www.possibilityministries.org/

The original article was published on the South Asia-Pacific Division news site