In 1994 it was estimated that approximately ninety percent of Deaf people in the United States did not attend church. This was, in part, due to the limited number of indigenous deaf churches. In 2009 the estimate has risen to ninety-eight percent (Source www.lcmsdeaf.org). These are people that Christ died and rose for, and need God’s Word just as much as hearing people. There is work being done within our district and in the synod level as well. Here is what is currently being done, as well as resources for getting involved on an individual level.
Rev. John Reinke and Rev. Bud Palmer (both missionaries to the Deaf), Rev. Dr. Rodney
Rynearson, National Director for Deaf Ministry and Rev. Dan McMiller, Mission Executive have established the Lutheran Deaf Mission Society (LDMS) on a local and national level. A Mission Support Team (MST) has also been formed for Deaf Ministry in southern Wisconsin. Both Pastors Reinke and Palmer work in collaboration with Dr. Harald Tomesch on the development and administration of theological training for the deaf on a local and national level. The ministry of the Lutheran Deaf Mission Society-South Wisconsin Area Branch (LDMS-SWB) is to help Deaf People (and their families) see Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and help deaf people serve Jesus Christ as His redeemed people. Pastor Reinke serves as Missionary at Large to the deaf for the District as well as pastor to Our Savior Lutheran in Madison and Holy Cross in Delavan. Pastor Palmer’s ministry to the deaf is in the eastern region of the District, serving Emmanuel Lutheran, West Allis where he has developed a deaf choir, and other mission sites. These two pastors work together in developing many new models for ministry to the deaf, including a “church without walls”, for the many unchurched deaf who are spread across the District and beyond.
Why is this mission important?
More people than we realize are deaf or extremely hard of hearing. You cannot tell by meeting them until you try to communicate with them. It is then that we can begin to realize that this is another huge mission field among us. This ministry brings the Word and Sacrament to our deaf members and their families, as it reaches out to bring more deaf people to the saving knowledge of their Lord and Savior. It is both a ministry and resource development assistance for the deaf.
What is the urgency for this ministry?
Our brothers and sisters who are deaf or hearing impaired can be forgotten since their disability is not physically apparent. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
What will the measurable outcome be?
A vital and growing ministry among the deaf and their families with resources to grow in faith and share their faith with others.
Where can we learn more?
www.deafjesus.org The website for Our Savior Deaf Lutheran Church in Madison, WI, as well as a great resource for deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as those who want to learn to reach out to them with God’s Word.
www.lcmsdeaf.org The homepage for deaf ministry in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
www.deafldms.org The Home of the Lutheran Deaf Mission Society
http://swd.lcms.org/Ministries/Missions/Deafministries/tabid/2475/Default.aspx The South Wisconsin District site for Deaf Ministries.