“In ministry, we often focus on the “low hanging fruits” because the positive outcomes can be readily obtained to support claims of ministry success and fruitfulness. There are no “low hanging fruits” in the ministry to the deaf. The needs are immense, the work is demanding, progress is slow and problems are complex. It takes 4 - 5 times longer and costs 4 - 5 times more to produce a program in sign language for the deaf than a similar program in audio format for our normal listeners. Not to mention, funding is much harder to secure for the deaf ministry because they are almost invisible in the church and to the church. Yet, we are called to proclaim the Gospel to all, including the marginalized and invisible minority such as the deaf because Christ shed His blood to purchase for God -‘men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation’ including those whose heart language cannot be heard but must be seen.” (Revelations 7:9)
This beautifully honest reflection was shared with us by the Director of FEBC Vietnam. Vietnam is a country where proclaiming the Gospel is restricted. There are no local radio stations, programs are broadcast via shortwave from the Philippines. There is also no capacity for the team to openly promote the work of FEBC due to high risks of persecution. However, this man’s heart for reaching and supporting the marginalised, in particular the deaf community in Vietnam, is so very inspirational.
A great majority of the 2.5 million deaf population in Vietnam is sign language illiterate. Most grow up in homes with parents who can hear, yet unable to sign. Instead, they invent their own signing to communicate with their family members but not with anybody else. This practice, although endearing, has sadly left the deaf very isolated from the hearing majority as well as from their own deaf community.
In order to communicate to people who are deaf and provide them with an opportunity to create better futures we have engaged in several programs.
Firstly, 12 able hearing persons have been trained in sign language. These amazing team members are now providing free Vietnamese sign language classes to the marginalised illiterate deaf community. This ministry has opened the door to teach the good news to the deaf in their “mother tongue”, sign language.
During, and most certainly after they have learnt the ability to communicate in sign language, the deaf persons involved are encouraged to engage in faith-based activities made available to them:
Continuing their learning of sign language through Bible stories and sharing the good news message to peers and family.
- One-on-one discipleship with leaders
- Weekly gathering of small groups in the deaf community led by FEBC’s volunteer fellowship team providing teaching and bible studies.
- Spiritual development through watching FEBC programs in sign language including animated bible stories.
In addition, since 2015, the team have successfully pioneered a job training facility for the deaf. Here, they are teaching skills to up to 45 students in the fields of computer programming and animation, furniture making, construction, electrical works and tailoring. Tutors use sign language to teach students in these trades and equip them to gain employment once they have completed their course. The building also serves as a dormitory providing room and board for needy students who come from regional areas and villages.
In the last few years, the team have developed the capability to produce and deliver visual content, and so by God's grace are, for the first time, in a position to connect with and serve the deaf community and present them with opportunities to not only "hear" the good news but provide them with skills and support to give them a better future.
Just as inspirational is the special needs ministry in Mongolia, ‘Treasure Brooch,’ a program dedicated to the Down syndrome community is being aired every Tuesday. During the hour-long show, host Khishgee addresses many topics for both parents and their Down syndrome children. She reaches out and provides praise and support which has really lifted spirits and given hope. The program has encouraged families to share both their struggles and triumphs.
This talk-back format program is aired via Facebook livestream and one that both children and parents can listen to together. It’s proving to be very popular amongst the Down syndrome community. One mother sharing “Listening to your program has taught me that despite my struggles, I am a good mother to my 20-year-old Down syndrome son. I am tested, but I am strong. Today we learnt a beautiful verse that made us both smile. ‘The greatest of these is love!’ Thank you FEBC for your love and support.”
We are so thankful for the way our FEBC fields are giving focus, education and support in their programs during these difficult times to the most marginalised, in particularly the disabled and those with special needs. In many parts of the world, disability is seen as contagious and people are stigmatised and ostracized. FEBC is addressing these issues in very practical ways.