It will soon be easier for the deaf and hearing impaired in Jamaica to ‘hear’ the Adventist message as a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica moves forward with plans to establish a church for the deaf in Portmore, St. Catherine in Jamaica.
The plans were announced during the first ‘Day of the Deaf and “Hard of Hearing” organized by the Jamaica Union (JAMU) at the Portmore Adventist Church in St. Catherine on July 9.
Adrian Cotterell, sabbath school and personal ministries director for the Seventh-day Advenitst Church in Jamaica is also responsible for its special needs ministry. He told the gathering a space has already been identified at the Portmore Church, an ideal location according to information obtained from the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).
“We understand that the largest concentration of deaf and hearing impaired persons are in the Portmore area and by the grace of God we’re going to have a vibrant church here,” said Cotterell.
Cotterell also said while planning the special day for the deaf, he shared the idea for the new church with the president of the Union, Everett Brown, who expressed immediate enthusiasm.
The church for the deaf will be a collaborative effort between JAMU and the union’s central and eastern regions. The church in Portmore is expected to begin service for the deaf the first week of October this year, church leaders said.
The communication barriers with deaf members in Jamaica have made it difficult for them to be as involved in church life as they would like. This has also negatively impacted their growth in the faith.
Under the theme “Hearing His Voice”, the day was conceptualized as a starting point to bridge the gap between able bodied members and those with disabilities. Leaders also hope it will serve as a launching pad for community outreach.
Government and NGO representatives along with several people with disabilities attended the service in support of the mission.
The recently elected Minister of Labour and Social Security Honorable Shahine Robinson, said in her greeting that she was already seeking to assist the disabled through her new post.
“High on the agenda are a number of legislation and policy decisions some of which will impact positively on the lives of persons with disabilities by ensuring them the rights they are entitled to in order to function as any other citizen,” said Minister Robinson. “We want them to function with a sense of pride dignity and self-worth.”
According to the JAD, more than 30,000 persons in Jamaica are either deaf or have some form of hearing impairment. There about 18 Adventists deaf persons who live in Portmore and more than 30 visited from the Kingston area for the special church service.
During one of two brief sermons, Brown used the story of the blind man recorded in John 9 and the story of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10 to illustrate what the Christian response should be to those with special needs.
“They know we are Christians by our love, not by the way we dress or preach or worship but through our concern for people showing compassion, kindness, patience, respect and love,” said Brown. “Valuing the dignity of people irrespective of their state in life is our true test of character as Christians.”
The other sermon was delivered in sign language and through an interpreter by deaf pastor Jeffery Jordan, who was recently elected as honorary associate coordinator for deaf ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. He emphasized the value God places on the deaf and encouraged both the deaf and hearing to accept Jesus Christ.
Later, Jordan explained that sign language is the best way for churches to reach the deaf and hearing impaired with the Gospel.
He applauded the special needs outreach ministries that have been launched by the General Conference and the Jamaica Union and urged each church member to learn sign language to remove the communication barriers between the hearing and the deaf.
Ivareen Burton, one of several deaf and hearing impaired visitors from the community said she has visited Adventist churches a few times before, but really appreciated this service.
“It was fine I enjoyed it, the preaching was good,” said Burton. “I really enjoyed the deaf pastor. He told us about his life story which was good. Also, the hearing, when they sang it was really inspiring. I like to see when the deaf and the hearing can come together and minister like that…it was great and I like it here.”
The day was also enriched by testimonies from deaf speakers who have overcome barriers to success, a presentation on deaf culture and a lesson in how to sign a well-known praise chorus.