ASL Ministry Leader/Coordinator - Laura Nieves
(by Sarita Fowler) Many Christians unwittingly overlook the world’s third-largest unreached people group, many of whom live in the US. Although this group shares many similarities with the rest of us, their culture and language differ significantly from ours.
Although natural-born citizens, Americans who are deaf enjoy little access to the gospel. The US Census Bureau estimates that 13 percent of the US population has some degree of hearing loss, ranging from slight hearing impairment to profound deafness. That’s one out of every eight Americans.
“Deaf” with a capital D refers to the people group that communicates via sign language. Deaf people hold a set of beliefs about themselves and how they connect to the larger society, and their unique culture distinguishes them from hearing people. Just as we capitalize “Hispanic,” or “African American,” we capitalize “Deaf” to indicate their distinct culture. Lowercase “deaf” is an adjective that describes people who have lost their hearing.
Deaf culture is intimately linked to the use of American Sign Language (ASL). If a deaf person uses ASL as their primary means of communication, the Deaf embrace them as “Deaf.” If a deaf person chooses not to use ASL, the community perceives him as “hearing-minded,” behaving as a hearing person would.
Because of this language barrier, many of the deaf are unable to participate in the church services. For this reason, First Baptist Church of Yorba Linda has established an ASL Outreach Ministry, which is coordinated by our own ASL Interpreter - Laura Nieves. Once we recognize the Deaf as a distinct people group, we understand that the Great Commission includes them as much as it does any nationality.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus left his followers with one charge (NLT Matthew 28:18–20);
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age". AMEN