The second two-day Adventist International Congress for Deaf and Deaf-Blind ended on Saturday, March 13. It was a challenge that the organizers, Adventist Deaf Ministries International (ADMI) of the Inter-European Region of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (EUD), faced with determination, despite the difficulties that an online event entails.
The online event was organized with the latest generation of audio-visual technical software: Zoom. About 150 participants followed the event through Zoom, but there was also a livestream on YouTube with about 250 people registered.
“Our intention was always to organize an international event with personal presence, but the continuing threat of the pandemic has caused us to postpone the in-person event indefinitely,” explains Corrado Cozzi, ADMI EUD director. “This is the reason why we have decided to hold this event online--to keep in touch with all the participants from the previous events. It was an event that we put together at the last minute in spite of the COVID-19 restrictions.”
The event’s theme, Through My Zoom, replaced the traditional one, Through My Hands, and was chosen specifically for this virtual occasion.
"It was a pleasure to see all the participants ‘looking out of their windows’ and talking to their friends,” Cozzi says. “Yes, dialogue, because the language of the Deaf allows all the dialogues to cross each other without interference and annoying overlap. It was like seeing a block of flats with everyone at the window, happily taking advantage of this opportunity to talk to a distant friend from another country, or to make new encounters.”
Cozzi continues: “For me, this was the most important part of the whole event, despite a program full of well-calibrated speeches to attract everyone's attention. Imagine that many people stayed until an hour and a half after the closure, continuing to talk, not wanting it to end so soon!”
The guests were really special: Jitka Moravkova, Deaf theology student from Czech Republic; Henry Maina Kamau, Deaf pastor from Kenya; and Douglas Domingo da Silva, Deaf pastor from Brazil.
All of them presented a spiritual message focusing on the way to overcome any obstacle—and we are in a time rife with obstacles—with the extraordinary help of our Lord Jesus Christ. Among the guests was also Carlos Martinez, an international mime, who presented three pieces. We also had the privilege to welcome Larry Evans, head of Adventist Possibility Ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and Jeff Jordan, associate coordinator for Deaf Ministry for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
The program’s main language was English. It was also translated into Spanish, French, Italian, German, Romanian, Czech, Portuguese – and obviously, in sign languages. All participants looked for the interpreter with the flag corresponding to their language. The rest of the program included a series of interesting and original activities. There was also an interactive segment where participants were called on to present their contribution.
There was also a very simple lottery game in which three names were drawn from the list of those who registered, and a gift was sent to them.
A competition to show the best and most original dress required creativity and imagination. Participants had to think about a disguise that made them original, such as a special hat, a special jacket, or a dress. The most original disguise received a reward.
Through my Frame was an activity in which a picture was presented through an original frame. This game also required creativity and imagination and the most original idea was awarded.
The event was led by Geoffrey Zobries, the director of the German Association of the Deaf and Deaf-blind. Being Deaf himself, Zobries led the whole event in a remarkable way, allowing all participants to be involved in the dynamics of the program, while accompanying them from beginning to end to experience an extraordinary journey.
In the final greeting, Zobries shared dates for the next Adventist International Congress for Deaf and Deaf-blind, which would normally be a face-to-face encounter in September 2021, but the overall pandemic situation forces us to consider the possibility of organizing another online event.