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Deaf church results from teen’s passion

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions, Nov. 30-Dec. 7, focuses on missionaries who serve in South America as well as churches partnering with them, exemplifying the global outreach supported by Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This year’s theme is “GO TELL the story of Jesus”; the national offering goal is $170 million.

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (BP)–International Mission Board missionary Mary Swanner knows local leaders are key to a successful ministry in any country. That’s one reason she’s been praying for strong deaf leaders to step forward in Uruguay — such as Lorena.

Growing up in an all-hearing family, Lorena never had much interaction with the deaf community. However, in her teenage years she became interested in learning sign language. Within six months of her first lesson she was fluent.

“It has to be a God thing,” Lorena says, “because I don’t remember why I started [learning sign language].”

But she does remember when she first began to notice the deaf in her hometown of Trienta y Tres.

“I lived in this same town for years [and I] never noticed them until I started learning sign,” she says.

The more proficient Lorena became at signing, the more deaf people God brought into her life. She was instrumental in starting the first deaf church in Trienta y Tres with a congregation of five.

“God really did equip her,” Swanner says. “She had a call and she understood [it] well.”

Swanner began teaching Lorena Bible-storying methods and provided her with visual aids such as EvangeCubes and photos depicting Bible stories. This helped deaf church members memorize Bible stories they could share with others.

Despite her successful ministry, Lorena wanted to go to Montevideo to continue her studies at the mission school where Swanner teaches.

“[I have] a feeling that God may be calling me to be a missionary in another place,” Lorena says.

Hoping someone would take over her work, Lorena told her home (hearing) church she was willing to teach sign language to anyone who wanted to learn. Seventeen people volunteered — the youngest was 6 years old.

The deaf church that resulted from Lorena’s passion as a teenager in Trienta y Tres continues to thrive.
Emilee Brandon is a writer for the International Mission Board. To learn more about ministries in Uruguay and South America visit samregion.org. Visit going.imb.org for general volunteer opportunities. Gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering can be made at www.imb.org/offering to support the International Mission Board’s more than 5,300 missionaries worldwide, including Mary and Charles Swanner in Uruguay.

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  • Emilee Brandon