Engaging the Deaf with the Word
Deaf leader ministers to hugely unreached people group
Sitting in a pizza joint in Houston, Texas, Shirley was torn. Deaf from birth, she had asked Jesus into her life at age 9. But even now, at 59, nothing had changed for her. She enjoyed hanging out with other Deaf people, but she didn’t want to go to church. And, she told her friend having pizza with her, she didn’t want to get involved with other people in the church. Cesar Torres, a part-time pastor at the recently-launched Deaf congregation at Houston’s Champion Forest Baptist Church, overheard Shirley and her friend talking. Not wanting to interfere too much in their conversation, Cesar simply told her that Jesus loved her. Then he asked her to church. After coming to church one Sunday, Shirley met with Cesar and his wife, Rita. After talking over Romans 10:9, Shirley realized that she’d always believed a person was saved by knowledge, not by grace. Right there, she confessed Jesus as her Lord. And today … well, she’s involved with the same church people she initially wanted nothing to do with. She was even invited to join a shortterm mission trip to Costa Rica. “She’s such a godly woman now, instead of in her mind, thinking knowledge was the only way to know God,” Cesar said. “And now she has Jesus within her heart.” An estimated 70 million people worldwide are Deaf, according to the World Federation of the Deaf, and only 2 percent of them have ever learned about Jesus. Perhaps not coincidentally, though hundreds of spoken and written languages have a full Bible, not one single sign language does. That makes ministry to Deaf people through other sign language means — personal conversations, for example — that much more important. Cesar Torres has taken on that task in two ways — as director of Scripture engagement for Deaf Bible Society in Arlington, Texas, and a part-time pastor in Houston.