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Volunteers see openness at Deaflympics

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BP)–From deaf churches and interpretative ministries across the United States, they came to Taipei, Taiwan, with one common goal — to share the power of Jesus with every person they would meet.

The volunteers to the 21st Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan, have dubbed themselves the “Power Team,” based on the official theme of this year’s games, “Power in Me.”

The team includes a 66-year-old former athlete at the 1961 Deaflympic Games; an 81-year-old North Carolina man; a married couple on their first mission trip to Asia; a young man interested in one day serving the deaf internationally; a deaf evangelist with the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf (SBCD); the chairman of the SBCD’s international mission committee; and a Kentucky church’s coordinator of deaf ministries. The games began with opening ceremonies on Sept. 5 and run through Sept. 15.

Brian Sims, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Deaf Church in Brentwood, Tenn., coordinated the trip, which was co-sponsored by the SBCD. Sims, who is hearing, grew up in the deaf culture.

“The purpose of our trip is to show the deaf the power that is theirs in Jesus Christ,” Sims said. “Our volunteers have a real sense of urgency to share Christ in this setting, where the world has gathered.”

Virginia Stuart, global deaf strategist for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, noted: “Seven hundred fifty deaf people die every day without Christ, and 68 percent of those are Asian. This is the first time that deaf volunteers have done a major mission outreach in this part of the world.

“From a worldview perspective, the biggest issues confronting deaf around the world are feelings of oppression and powerlessness,” Stuart said. “When we can show deaf people that they can have power through a relationship with Jesus Christ, they respond.”

Trading pins has long been a Deaflympic tradition, akin to the Olympics. The volunteer team is sharing its message by distributing what they call “power pins.” The small, rectangular pin has three deaf symbols set against a red background with three gold stars. Using the pins as a visual device, the volunteers are sharing how a life built on Jesus Christ can bring light and change.

The team did not know the theme of the Deaflympics when they were designing the pin, Sims marveled.

“Everything was pre-ordained,” he said. “When the team arrived in Taipei, we immediately made the connection between the Power in Me theme and our message. While the theme focuses on the idea that the power to succeed lies within us, our team is helping people to understand that real power only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

With an athlete’s build and a love of sports, Beth Driver, deaf ministries coordinator at First Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., has had many opportunities to share the “power presentation” in Taipei.

“I was very nervous at first,” Driver said. “I wanted to do it right, but the second day I felt more confident and I began to allow God to work through me.”

As she gained confidence, Driver was amazed how God was at work.

“As I shared with one Asian man at the arena, he told me he believed in many gods. When I explained to him that there is only one God, he was surprised. He had never heard that before.”

Driver did not limit herself only to sharing with deaf people, recounting, “A hearing couple approached me, and the woman asked about the pin. Although she was hearing, she could understand sign language. I didn’t know if the presentation would work with the hearing, but I shared it anyway.

“The woman voiced the presentation to her husband. When I explained about Jesus, the woman began pointing up, telling her husband about Jesus. This was the first time they had ever heard of Him.

“That was incredible,” Driver said. “Even at a deaf event, God can speak to the hearing. I realized we must be faithful to witness, whether the people are deaf or hearing.”

Kevin Clark, a deaf evangelist with the SBCD, often uses drama to share the story of Jesus. With a slight build and a burr haircut, the intensity in his eyes reveals his passion to reach the lost. His visual presentation of the difference between a life with Christ and a life without Him adds a compelling element not possible through oral delivery.

“Here in Taipei, I’ve met lots of Asians,” Clark, a North Carolinian, said. “They are very hungry, open and curious about what we have to say. There is an openness here I’ve never seen anywhere else.”

Because of this openness, Clark said he feels a strong responsibility to be clear in his presentation. “There is a lot of fear among Asians, and no one has told them how a relationship with Jesus is supposed to work. I tell them that without Christ, there is nothing to redeem them. With Christ, they can have eternal life.”

Clark encourages other deaf to consider a mission trip among the deaf in Asia, where vast masses are without God. “If we will come, they will pay attention to what we have to share,” he said.

For 81-year-old Kanoy High of Thomasville, N.C., the Deaflympics is his 13th missions trip, following travels to Russia, the Ukraine, Honduras, Ecuador and Thailand.

High is a tall man with an easy smile. People of all cultures are readily attracted to his warmth and friendliness. He became a Christian at the age of 54 when he attended the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf’s 1982 meeting in Waco, Texas.

“It was at the SBCD meeting that I first learned about Christ,” High said, “and gave my life to Him.”

Several years later, High, then 67 or 68, felt God’s call to go on a volunteer mission trip to Russia.

“To be honest, I was very scared. It was my first experience, but I learned on that trip that God was with me. So now, that fear is gone,” High said.

“I believe it is important for deaf Christians to reach out to the deaf around the world,” he said. “There are so many deaf around the world who don’t know about Jesus.

“People are at the Deaflympics from many different countries,” High continued. “Some of their signs we know, and I am learning others. I want to share Jesus with them in their language.”

High encourages other deaf Christians to go on a volunteer mission trip, and he is thankful to God that he can continue to serve.

“It doesn’t matter how old I am,” High said, “I’m going to keep going. It doesn’t matter where we are going to; I’m going to keep going. Until the Lord takes me home, I’m going to go.”
Tess Rivers is a writer for the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. To follow the “Power Team” throughout the Deaflympics, visit their blog at deafstories.wordpress.com. A YouTube video of one of the volunteers in Taiwan explaining the “power pin” can be accessed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQQSYer4N6U.

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  • Tess Rivers