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April 13, 2005

Deaf Ministry Reaches The Campus

From: Christian Post, CA - Apr 13, 2005

Gallaudet University, the world's only university for the deaf, located in Washington, D.C., also boasts one of the few missionaries to deaf people.

Bob Rhoads, 40, leads a ministry at Gallaudet for Campus Crusade for Christ, and helps make "faith in Jesus" possible for the deaf, according to a recent article published on CCCi's website.

"A lot of deaf people think Christianity is just for hearing people," says Tami Jo Aanrud, a sophomore at Gallaudet, but Rhoads teaches students "about a faith that goes beyond hearing."

Many deaf people experience isolation in church, without someone to explain what is going on, and according to Deaf Missions, less than 2 percent of deaf people are Christians.

Overcoming barriers posed by the physical incapacity to hear, the deaf ministry conducts bible studies, praises, and prays in sign language.

"Laura McNair begins to pray, signing with her eyes closed. Instead of closing their eyes to pray, the rest of the group carefully watches her hand movements," reads the article from CCCi. "Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful day," Laura signs. Someone yells loudly in the hallway, but naturally, no one looks up. "Open our hearts," she continues, "and fill us with Your words." The worship music only has the bass and a backbeat.

"We can't hear the music, but we can feel it," says Rhoads.

Bible studies are also challenging, especially because the American Sign Language is difficult to translate into English, says Rhoads. In addition, the terminology in the Bible is unfamiliar and must be learned.

"There aren't many other Christian ministries reaching the deaf community," says Sarah Gale, a Campus Crusade leader who oversees Bob and Karen's ministry, according to CCCi. "They are true pioneers. They are courageously forging the way."

"Deaf spiritual leaders are not being developed and it becomes a cycle of [spiritual] infancy," says Bob. In fact, 42 out of the 65 deaf churches in the United States do not have a full-time or part-time pastor, according to Bob.

"I'm not enough," he says. "We need more staff members to reach out to others."

Rhoda Tse

Copyright © 2004 The Christian Post.