Do you have compassion for Deaf people who are unreached with the gospel?
Hello, my name is Jonathan Walterhouse, and I have the honor and privilege of serving on our Deaf Ministry Team here at Converge. This team consists of nine gifted people who God has brought together, with most of us being appointed at the Launch event in September 2020. Keep an eye out for more information about our team and what God is doing in Deaf people groups around the world.
Before we begin, I want you to know that although I am not Deaf myself, both my parents and my daughter are.
Today, I want to talk to you about compassion. What kind of compassion do you have? When you went on your first missionary trip and saw people living in conditions that you could have never imagined, what kind of compassion did you have? On September 11, 2001, when the U.S. experienced the worst terrorist attack on our soil? Surely you experienced some anger and despair. But what kind of compassion did you have? When you think about the over 70 million Deaf people around the world who are largely unreached with the gospel, what kind of compassion do you have? When you understand that it was not until August of this past year, 2020, that Deaf people here in the United States actually had access to the complete Scriptures in their heart language, what kind of compassion do you have?
I want us briefly to look at the type of compassion that we should have for all people, the same kind of compassion that Jesus has. Let’s look together at Matthew chapter nine, verses 35 and 36. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
You see, Jesus had compassion, not because of any physical challenges that they faced, but because they were harassed and helpless. Whether it’s the millionaire businessman in your town or the deaf person halfway across the world in the most remote village of Togo, West Africa, if they do not know Jesus as their Lord, Jesus has compassion on them because they’re harassed and helpless.
One day, when you have the opportunity to meet one of my teammates, Chris, Jennifer or Missy, they would ask you not to have pity on them because they’re Deaf. But rather, they would ask you to have a godly compassion for the 70 million Deaf around the world who are harassed and helpless because they don’t know Jesus as their Savior.
Deaf people have often experienced two extremes: an unhealthy pity and an ungodly oppression. From the inception of the church in Acts, we see that the most effective way of spreading the gospel is for believers who speak one’s heart language or communicate in one’s heart language to share the gospel. And just as Paul told Timothy to teach others who are able to teach others, also.
My friends Chris, Jennifer and Missy don’t need us as hearing experts to save the day. They just need us to support and cheer them on as they reach people that you and I can never reach.
Now that you know that there are millions of Deaf people that don’t know Jesus, what will you do with that? Will you pray? What about the Deaf people in your own city? As you are seeking to make disciples of your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, what about the Deaf person that you know? Or what about the Deaf person that God brings to you this year?
Maybe your church already has a ministry to the Deaf. Are they viewed just as capable to serve and minister as everyone else in your body is? God has created them just like he created you, with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10, we see that; good works that God has ordained for them to walk in. They’re just as capable and responsible, in fact, for making disciples as you are. So, what can you do to help them fulfill that calling and that responsibility?
I think maybe it’s time that the church in the U.S. repents of overlooking the 11 million Deaf people in our own backyard. Depending on where you go in our country, you’ll find churches with multilingual outreaches, church services in other languages. But even more rare are churches that are providing an avenue for the Deaf to understand the gospel, unknowingly or not. It’s time that we repent of our injustice, neglect of these people who are created in God’s image, and that we ask God for gospel movements among every Deaf people group, both here in the United States and around the world. I’m grateful that the leadership of Converge has committed to right this injustice.
Converge is a movement of churches working together to help people meet, know and follow Jesus. We do this by starting and strengthening churches together worldwide.