Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica | Lawrie Henry/IAD
It will soon be easier for the deaf and hard hearing impaired in Jamaica to ‘hear’ the Advent message as Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica progresses plans to establish a church for the deaf in Portmore, St. Catherine.
The plans were announced during the first ‘Day of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’ organized by the Jamaica Union (JAMU) at the Portmore Adventist Church in St. Catherine, July 9, 2016.
Pastor Adrian Cotterell, Sabbath school and personal ministries director with responsibility for special needs at the union told the gathering that a space has already been identified at the Portmore Church, which is ideal location according to information obtained from the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).
“We understand that the largest concentration of deaf and hearing impaired persons are in the Portmore area and by the grace of God we’re going to have a vibrant church here,” said Cotterell.
Cotterell said that while planning the day for the deaf he shared the idea for the new church with President of the Union Pastor Everett Brown who expressed immediate enthusiasm and soon after the research and planning process began.
The church for the deaf will be a collaborative effort between the JAMU and the union’s central and eastern regions. The church in Portmore is expected to begin services for the deaf first week of October this year, church leaders said.
Deaf Pastor Jeff Jordon, delivers the main sermon during the service.
The communication barriers with deaf members in Jamaica have made it difficult for them to be involved in church life as they would like. Understandably, this has also negatively impacted their growth in the faith.
Under the theme ‘Hearing His Voice’, the day was conceptualized as a starting point to bridge this gap between able bodied members and those with disabilities and also as a launching pad for community outreach to these persons.
Government and NGO representatives along with several persons with disabilities attended the service in support of the mission.
Minister of Labour and Social Security Hon. Shahine Robinson said in her greeting that she was already seeking to assist the disabled through her new post.
“High on the agenda are a number of legislation and policy decisions some of which will impact positively on the lives of persons with disabilities by ensuring them the rights they are entitled to in order to function as any other citizen,” said Minister Robinson. “We want them to function with a sense of pride dignity and self-worth.”
According to the JAD, more than 30,000 persons in Jamaica who are either deaf or have some form of hearing impairment. There about 18 Adventists deaf persons who live in Portmore and more than 30 visited from the Kingston area for the special church service.
During one of two brief sermons, Brown used the story of the blind man recorded in John 9 and the story of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10 to illustrate what the Christian response should be to those with special needs.
A group from the congregation signing during worship service.
“They know we are Christians by our love, not by the way we dress or preach or worship but through our concern for people showing compassion, kindness, patience, respect and love,” said Brown. “Valuing the dignity of people irrespective of their state in life is our true test of character as Christians.”
The other sermon was delivered in sign language and through an interpreter by deaf Pastor Jeff Jordan, who was recently elected as honorary associate director for deaf ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. He emphasized the value that God places on the deaf and encouraged both the deaf and hearing to accept Jesus Christ.
In a subsequent interview, Pastor Jordan explained that sign language is the best way for churches to reach the deaf and hard of hearing with the Gospel.
Jordan applauded the special needs outreach ministries that have been launched by the General Conference and the Jamaica Union and he urges each church member to learn sign language to remove the communication barriers between the hearing and the deaf.
Ivareen Burton, one of several deaf and hearing impaired persons from the community said she has visited Adventist churches a few times before but really appreciated this service.
“It was fine I enjoyed it, the preaching was good,” said Burton. “I really enjoyed the deaf pastor [Jeff Jordan]. He told us about his life story which was good. Also, the hearing [persons], when they sang it was really inspiring. I like to see when the deaf and the hearing can come together and minister like that…it was great and I like it here.”
The day was also enriched by testimonies from deaf persons who have overcome barriers to success, a presentation on deaf culture and a lesson in how to sign a well-known praise chorus.