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Journeyman experiences God at work among Thailand’s Deaf

One way Journeyman Sarah Mitchell builds relationships with the Deaf in her community is through sports ministry. IMB Photo

When Sarah Mitchell first moved to Bangkok, Thailand, to serve as a Journeyman to the Deaf with the International Mission Board, it was the first time she’d ever lived anywhere besides the house where she grew up.

Life in this bustling Southeast Asian megacity was quite different than anything she’d ever known before. Mitchell was quickly immersed in not only Thailand’s culture, but also Deaf culture. She began learning Thai Sign Language and growing in her understanding of how to minister effectively to the Deaf. 

At times, the task seemed overwhelming. But after finishing her first full year living overseas, Mitchell can testify that God has been faithful to lead and guide her. And she’s certain that she’s called to this work.

“It’s been amazing to see, despite challenges, how faithful God is every single day,” she said. “Meeting Deaf people in a city of 15 million is not easy. But the Lord has taken me, an ordinary person, and put me in the right places at the right times.”

Once, she felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to leave very early for a meeting with some friends. On the way there, she noticed a fruit vendor with a sign on her shop indicating that she was Deaf. Mitchell began signing to her in Thai sign language, and the woman, named Kamala, was so excited to meet someone she could communicate with.

As they became friends, Mitchell learned that Kamala was a believer, and she had been praying specifically for God to send her a Christian friend who could teach her the Bible. All her friends were Buddhists.

They’ve been able to meet several times since then, and each time Kamala comes ready to study the Word. Though their time is limited, she relishes in the Bible stories Mitchell shares with her in Thai Sign Language.

“[Kamala] is such an encouragement to me,” Mitchell said. “If we had all day, she’d sit all day and take in these Bible stories. It’s an honor to be able to point her to the Lord and share Bible stories with her in her heart language.”

Another time, Mitchell felt impressed by the Spirit to get off the subway and take a motorbike taxi home instead. By God’s providence, her driver was Deaf, and he opened a door for her team to connect with a whole community of low-income Deaf.

These stories are just some of many over the year that Mitchell could point to as clear examples of the Lord directing her path to find the Deaf in Bangkok who need the Gospel.

She said her experience as a Journeyman so far has given her a unique opportunity to come with no prior experience and learn how to love and serve the Deaf. Journeyman is a two-year program for those under of the age of 30 to serve on missionary teams and explore the possibility of long-term service.

Mitchell said the needs are great among the Deaf, who globally number approximately 70 million people. Less than 2 percent of them are believers or have access to the Gospel in a sign language – their heart language.

“Deaf people are one of the most unreached peoples in the world, and we need more workers to reach them,” Mitchell said. “If you’re willing, just say ‘Yes, here I am Lord, send me.’ God will use you. All you need is a willing heart.”

*Some names may have been changed for security.

Stella McMillian is a contributing writer for IMB.


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  • Stella McMillian