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June 5, 2004

Listening To The Deaf

From: Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica - Jun 5, 2004

Sharing Christ with the hearing impaired

published: Saturday | June 5, 2004

Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10: 14)

THE TELEVISION camera follows the movement on the platform of one of your favourite television preachers from the United States. The preacher filled with charisma, walks across the stage. But then you notice the camera briefly shows someone else standing near the platform who is 'speaking' in sign language to a group of mostly children.

This reflects an increasing trend in the United States where the hearing-impaired are being intentionally catered for in the organisation of worship services.


A few Jamaican churches have been devoting themselves to providing signers for those members of the deaf community who attend church. But Jamaican churches, in general, have not caught the vision to factor the hearing-impaired in the life of the church, says, Lola Wright, Director of Education at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD). "I don't think that Jamaican churches have caught the vision of the input that they can have (on the deaf community) from a missions perspective," she said.

According to Ms. Wright, churches need to see the deaf community as 'an unreached people-group' in much the same way they would consider a tribe 'an unreached people-group' that does not have a single word of Scripture translated into their own indigenous language. In this regard, she hinted that missionary strategising was needed to effectively reach and do ministry to the deaf community.

To better sensitise churches, the CCCD has employed Pastor Gary Williams to highlight the needs of the hearing-impaired. He also trains people in the sign-language and the ways to cater to the other needs of the deaf.

Ms. Wright, is the principal of the Knockpatrick campus of the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD). The CCCD has two other schools, one in Granville, St. James; and the other in Cassia Park, St. Andrew.

CCCD managing director, Donville Jones, explained that its primary mission is to share the Gospel of Jesus to deaf children of Jamaica. This ministry was born in 1958 in Manchester, the living room of the Newport home of the late George Forbes (father of Vernon Forbes, former headmaster at Munro College).

By communicating with its students in sign-language the CCCD offers almost the entire range of subjects offered in mainstream schools. The CCCD schools offers education and vocational training for deaf persons of ages ranging from four to early 20s. The Knockpatrick campus has a student population of 132; the Kingston campus has 75 students; and the Granville campus has 48 students.

One of the things that is unique about the CCCD is that the school has one of the highest concentration of students who profess to be born-again Christians. For example, of the 24 Knockpatrick students slated to be graduated later this month, 23 profess to be born-again, says Ms. Wright. She stressed that there is a high number of Christians among the student population of the three schools. She estimates that Christians comprise as much as two-thirds of the Christian population at the Knockpatrick campus.

One of the reasons for the high concentration of Christians among CCCD students, Ms. Wright says, is the policy decision of the institution to only hire Christians as teachers, and house mothers (wardens). She made the observation, however, that all its staff at CCCD Knockpatrick are Christians.

Bible knowledge is a required course for CCCD students. Furthermore, the CCCD, she said, seeks to infuse a Christian worldview for every subject that is taught.

The CCCD is an interdenominational organisation and a registered charity. Mr. Jones disclosed that about five per cent of the funds needed to run the CCCD comes from the fees charged to parents. The CCCD schools are in the main funded through the proceeds received by persons and/or churches that decide to sponsor a child. Mr. Jones is unhappy that few sponsors are from Jamaica.

Most of the sponsorship for the CCCD children comes from churchfolk in the United States.

The CCCD schools receive a huge injection of support each year from visiting work teams. These work teams, raise their own airfares and financial support and are comprised of church/Christian groups from the United States. When they get to Jamaica, they spend about a week doing mostly construction related work. Often these work teams include a medical professional such as a doctor or dentist. These specialists would then give their services free to the CCCD community, Mr. Jones said.


Summer is peak season for the visit of work teams. On average, 15 work teams visit the Knockpatrick campus in any year. It's about the same for the Granville campus and a little less in Kingston, Mr. Jones explained. To further promote the gospel, the school runs camps from time to time. This summer, the Knockpatrick campus will play host to deaf campers from other Caribbean countries who will be here for a special week of fellowship. The Knockpatrick campus has its own chaplain who helps to promote the Christian gospel to students. The chaplain, Rev. Damian Campbell, 26, is married to Felicia, daughter of Mr. Jones. Both teach on the campus.

Rev. Campbell holds a theological degree from a theological seminary in Georgia, United States. Rev. Campbell, who is himself hearing-impaired, has emerged as the pastor of a deaf church in Manchester which convenes at the Mandeville Baptist Church where an average of 25 persons meet on Sundays. Through sign-language he 'preaches' every Sunday. As a pastor and as a chaplain the deaf seek him out for counselling. Most of the counselling, he told The Gleaner , relates to issues of singleness, loneliness, pre-marital counselling and ways to discipline children.


Rev. Campbell is enthusiastic about his work, and he hopes within a few years to see the establishment of a Bible training school and a chapel on the Knockpatrick campus. He has been chaplain for the past nine months and there is a growing demand for him to 'speak' to the deaf in various locales. He is slated to be a speaker next month at an evangelistic crusade slated to take place at Calabar High School, in Kingston, where a community of hearing-impaired meets for Christian fellowship.

The ministry of CCCD, Ms. Wright and Mr. Jones maintains, shows that one can hear without listening to sounds and thus the gospel of Jesus can be preached. The CCCD's ministry brings new meaning to what it means to hear.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. (Romans 10:17-18)

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