Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Deaf and Hearing Partnership at Red Bird Mission

Deaf and Hearing Partnership Serving at Red Bird Missions
By Rev. Leo Yates, Jr.

Deaf and hearing people, both individuals and families, came from a variety of church groups and traveled from different parts of the country to work as partners at the Red Bird Mission Work Camp in Beverly, Kentucky during the week of August 11-16, 2019. The diverse group of about 75 persons represented various racial ethnicities, ranged from hearing well to hard-of-hearing to Deaf, and included some with physical disabilities. The group included lay and clergy, and, of course, sign language interpreters. All of these gathered and embodied the mission team. They came to do needed home repairs in the Appalachian Mountains.
several people in work clothing gather around a large building marked Cardinal House
Work crew preparing to go to a work site.

This Deaf and hearing partnership was the first of its kind at the Red Bird Mission, and showed how hearing and Deaf people can work together as a team for a common goal. This one-of-a-kind joining together for a missional purpose was led by Bishop Peggy Johnson. Johnson has over two decades of experience in Deaf ministry. Hearing team members were oriented to some basic signs so they could have simple conversations with Deaf and hard-of-hearing team members. Sign language interpreters were on hand and participated on the mission team to bridge communications when necessary. Examples included daily devotions, worship, instructions at the work-site, and team meetings.
Four people working, installing posts for a ramp.
Deaf and hearing people working together.

The Deaf and hearing mission trip to Red Bird Mission Work Camp was the result of discussions at the 2018 Deaf ELM (Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist) conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. As the Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries (of Global Ministries) and members of The United Methodist Congress of the Deaf (a national caucus) met in Las Vegas, they discussed ways to promote the involvement of Deaf and hard-of-hearing youth and young adults. Conversations and prayers led those present to discern and elect to do mission work with Red Bird Mission, a United Methodist missionary conference. Other Deaf ELM participants then discussed the idea further, and agreed that they wished to support the plan of partnering together for the mission. Bishop Peggy Johnson offered to lead and assist with planning the mission trip, and extended an invitation to her cabinet to participate and work with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Sign language interpreter on a stage, with a projection screen behind her.
A sign language interpreter working.

While the Deaf and hearing members were there to serve and do renovations, their presence, their Deaf culture, and their shared faith were highlights for the Red Bird Mission Work Camp staff and the families they served. Staff and families were fascinated by the use of sign language and how the Deaf and hearing partners interacted and worked together to complete the missional work. The Deaf and hearing mission partnership represented new possibilities for future collaboration and partnerships. Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth, an elder in full connection who serves at Lovers Lane UMC in Dallas, TX, said, “Sign language is a visual sign of grace to share with the community we serve.” “We had about 75 people on the work crew, which included 20 who are Deaf and hard of hearing,” said Bishop Johnson. Coming together to do mission work is one of many ways to recruit Deaf and hearing youth and young adults in Christ’s work.
Several people on a stage, they are talking and signing back and forth.
Team-building exercise with Deaf and hearing team members.

With this in mind, plans are being considered for future mission trips where more Deaf and hard-of-hearing youth and young adults will be invited to join a mission team. Keep a watch on the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Committee and United Methodist Congress of the Deaf Facebook pages for news.

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