Today, Sunday, we witnessed a historic event in the Normandía Christian Church. The deaf church that we planted there one year ago has been growing steadily. They have increased in numbers and now form one of the more significant deaf works in the entire country. But today, they went beyond that and became the very first church where a deaf preacher baptized new deaf believers that had been won to the Lord exclusively by the preaching and testimony delivered wholly in sign language. It was a day of rejoicing for them and for the Normandía church that has been the mother church for this new congregation.
The deaf typically are wary of churches as many have felt used by them in the past. Cults have typically preyed on them, making them even more cautious. So most works here in the country are very small groups that meet in a hearing church and watch a sign language translation of the sermon. When we started a deaf church with the preaching in sign language that effort on our part created quite a stir here in Colombia. We have been the subject of some criticism as many people feel the deaf can’t run their own church. But the church has grown steadily with attendance now nearing fifty almost every Sunday.
During this past year, the preacher we trained last year has been teaching and evangelizing these visitors. As he worked with them some began to express a desire to become Christians. The preacher began to work especially with that group to build their faith and encourage them to make that final decision of being baptized where they would break with their past. About two weeks ago, the first couple of deaf began to seriously consider making that important decision. As he worked with them, by last Sunday they decided to move forward and be baptized. They asked to be baptized this Sunday so they could invite their friends and family.
Once the first couple made that definitive decision there were many others who had been considering it who decided to follow their lead and be baptized as well. By the time services has concluded the number was up to six new believers requesting baptism. As the week wore on, more and more of the deaf congregation called the preacher to make their decision as well. But this Sunday there were ten deaf believers awaiting the new birth in Christ. We decided to hold this service together with the hearing church.
After a brief opening, the deaf preacher delivered the preparatory sermon to the new believers and to the church as a whole. He preached from Jesus example when baptized by John the Baptist and then from Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and Philip’s work with the Ethiopian official. He finished his teacher by referring to Romans 6:1-4. It was a well prepared and delivered sermon. We had a sign language translator translating all of this into spoken Spanish for the hearing church. The preacher then proceeded to the baptistery where he baptized one after another until the entire group of ten had been born anew of the water and the spirit.
In a packed church building with standing room only, the deaf church and the hearing church celebrated together this historic event together as one as the deaf church now had its own new baptized believers. They are now looking forward to beginning their own communion service as well, something that the one or two who had be previously baptized had simply shared with the hearing church. Please join us in rejoicing at this great victory in extending the Gospel to what is probably nearly three per cent of the entire population of the country of Colombia!