Signs of faith part of deaf ministry

Published 5:30 pm Monday, May 4, 2009

Cherybe Thornton’s students keep their eyes open as Thornton leads them in prayer.

If the students bowed their heads they’d miss the signs Thornton’s fingers form. These signs allow Thornton to teach the students, both hearing and deaf, in her sign language class at Southeastern Bible College. The school hopes to expand classes like this into a deaf ministry and leadership cohort program next fall.

Student Robert Brown assists with the class. He himself is deaf and hopes to spread the gospel through his experience.

“How can we touch the deaf community if no one is able to share the same experience or the point of few with the deaf culture,” Brown said. “My goal is to help reach as many deaf kids as I can and spread the gospel of Jesus … to let them know Jesus really loved them.”

Brown works as a counselor at a deaf camp each summer. He plans to take part in the deaf ministry and leadership cohort with an aim of eventually becoming a missionary.

Faculty members at SEBC have learned first-hand the importance of strong support networks for those within the deaf community. Faculty member Jay Mattox’s daughter is deaf. He said he sees that too often the parents of deaf children don’t even learn sign language themselves. He said this creates a void in many of the children’s lives.

“They need help not only with their Christian walk, but just their walk through, through life,” Mattox said. “Especially with the deaf leading the deaf, it’s very special.”

Thornton said working in the church is not the only career someone could follow though after completing the program. She said she’s even had a state trooper take a sign language class so he could communicate better with the public.

The program is designed to enhance Christ-centered relationships by having both deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students learn together. The ultimate goal is to develop an array of services for students in the Deaf Ministry and Leadership Cohort through collaboration with DeafYouth Ministries and the Hawkins Chapel of the Alabama School for the Deaf.

For more information, contact Walker Harrison at 970–9211.