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February 21, 2004

Deaf team on mission to build church

From: Flint Journal - Flint,MI,USA - Feb 21, 2004




Burton - The Rev. Del Granger's masonry skills are serving him well in a poverty-stricken section of Cartagena, Colombia.

Granger, pastor of the 17-member Lighthouse Chapel of the Deaf, is leading what he believes is the first deaf team into a foreign country for a construction project. This one is to help build a combination church, school and medical clinic for the deaf in the northern Colombian city, where the deaf population is particularly high.

"Other deaf people have gone on missions to witness to the deaf and show them how to play games and things like that, but this is the first time for any deaf team to do a building project," said Granger, who was in the masonry construction business before turning to church ministry.

"I really wanted to emphasize that the deaf here need to have faith in God and that we can do missionary work. We wanted to go out of the country to help other deaf people in the world."

Granger, 65, and two female members of the church that worships in Eastgate Baptist Church, 4226 E. Atherton Road, left Sunday for Cartagena for a two-week work mission. They are part of an eight-member team, including three deaf people, which will return March 1. Four are from the local team, while two others are from southeastern Michigan and one each is from Kentucky and Florida.

The speaking members of the group will help interpret for the team as well as pitching in to help build the concrete block structure.

Granger's son, Mike, 30, also in the construction business, accompanied the group. The group joined four other volunteers in Miami for the flight Monday to Cartagena.

"They have already dug the trenches and are pouring concrete, so it will be ready for us to lay concrete blocks when we get there," said Granger, who has limited hearing. "Our main goal is to build a church for the deaf to worship."

When completed, the school portion of the building will accommodate about 30 children from age 3 and up. Granger said it's hoped the older children will learn sign language and teach others, including adults.

The structure will replace what Granger described as a wooden shack. He saw it on a recent visit to Cartagena to find a site and housing for the construction team.

Granger, who also pastors Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, was approached about the project about 18 months ago by a representative of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention who was aware of his building background. He was approached again last July while attending a meeting in New Mexico.

"I just felt that it was possible if God helped us," said Granger, who said he prayed over the request.

Said Brenda Bienlein, church secretary and assistant coordinator of the trip: "And we let God take care of the details. God moved mountains of problems for us."

Help came in the form of cash donations that hit almost $38,000 by the time the group left. School supplies also were offered to the small congregation.

"We started with $5,000, then we had $10,000, $15,000 and now almost $38,000," said Granger who noted that most of the money would be used to pay for supplies and tools needed to build the structure.

The congregation conducted fund-raisers ranging from spaghetti and taco dinners to baking pies and cookies. Lighthouse Chapel members also sent letters asking for money to professional people and businesses in the area.

"God is not finished with us yet, and we haven't even left the country," Granger said of the continuing donations.

Except for $4,800 to fly the Flint group to Colombia, all donations were earmarked for the project. Other volunteers paid their own way. They included Katie Couls of Shelby Township, a Mott Community College student; Tom Chadwick of Davie, Fla., skilled in building maintenance and landscaping; and interpreters Deb Sherer of Saline and Donna Lawlor of Louisville, Ky.

Granger said the other volunteers responded to a request he made nationally.

He said there are about 4 million deaf people in Colombia, an unusually high number for the nation of about 30 million people. He attributes it to drug use by mothers, a high rate of violence and poor health care.

Bienlein, 43, who made the trip with Granger and fellow church member Christine Mofield, said she was happy to be included.

"I am excited about going. It's going to be a new experience for me," she said. "I love the Lord for all his work and to help others in need."


© 2004 Flint Journal. Used with permission