Charity. Ministry of the deaf

God loves everyone and wants them all saved, regardless of their nationality, country of residence, social status or even their physical condition.

There are people who lack hearing but God can open their spiritual ears. Others can hear well but their hearts are closed. Jesus Christ asked the Pharisees, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:18)

Deaf people in Izhevsk began attending services for the first time in the 1990’s, but sign language was not available and it was seen as a big problem. One had to take down notes of the sermon, which were then provided for the deaf to read. They were not familiar with sign language. Since many words from the Bible were new to them, simply reading the text was futile. So, we needed someone who could interpret the message from the Bible into sign language for the deaf.

Thus, the first conference for deaf people was held in 1997 at St. Petersburg, where many problems were solved especially with the help of a dictionary of religious gestures contained in a VHS cassette. Since then, All-Russian conferences as well as regional ones have been held annually. The deaf were able to interact and communicate, and soon the first Russian school to teach sign language for the deaf was opened. Gesture-studying courses and sign language for beginners were taught.

Ministry for deaf people in “Philadelphia” church began at the end of 1997. It all started when a deaf woman, familiar with the world of the deaf, began attending services there. During the service, God’s Spirit touched her heart and soul, and she felt comforted and supported. Later she told one of her good friends about this church which had an interpreter. Deaf relatives of members of the church began attending the services and their numbers increased.

Here is a testimony of one of the interpreters, Larisa Sukhorukova: “Almost from the moment I started going to church, God brought me to deaf people and filled my heart with love for them. I prayed God that He would send an interpreter for them, never imagining myself in that role! In 1993 an interpreter visited us while on his business trip and he translated in the church for about a week. I saw the hearts of the deaf people being lifted up and rejoicing, and my mind was made up. I asked the interpreter where I could learn sign language.

That took me to Minsk. But when I got there, God totally changed my plans. Instead of studying sign language, I had to take care of a deaf, gravely ill woman named Tatyana. I had to spend all my time in the hospital with her, and so was unable to study. I could not understand why God chose me to help in the hospital, yet inwardly I did feel that it was His desire, and I did agree with Him

With this experience, I returned to Izhevsk. I remember how expectantly everyone waited for me to interpret in sign language. I had eagerly wanted the ability to help the deaf, but had not yet managed to learn it. When we prayed before the service, I was trembling inside and my heart was anxious and worrying. Then, during the prayer, I felt God’s presence. It came to mind that God was with me there in Minsk, and He knew exactly why I had not been able to study sign language. My fears began to subside and I started to pray, “Lord Jesus, You know my ignorance. But all that I have, I give to you. I implore You – please use me.”

In the service, I suddenly realized that I recognized the words and the connection to signs, and my hands began to move accordingly. People sat attentively, watching my hands and even nodding their heads at times. The people seemed to understand my gestures! Inwardly I was exclaiming, ‘Lord, this could not possibly be me. It is all Your doing!’

No, I did not master sign language immediately. The Lord laid the foundations. He then explained that this was to be my ministry and that I should make efforts myself, keep learning and keep growing. Thank God!”

Sign language interpreters Larisa Sukhorukova and Natalya Korelova have been devotedly carrying on their important ministry in “Philadelphia” church so far. Besides Sunday services, the deaf gather three times a week for prayer and fellowship in the building of the church “Golos Nadezhdy”. After Sunday service, they meet in somebody’s home and discuss the sermon. It is difficult for them to understand the Bible by just reading it, and such gatherings help them go deep into the Scriptures. Sunday gatherings are held in the home of the Arkhipovs – Vasily and Valentina.

The ministry for the deaf in Izhevsk is increasing today. We maintain close contact with deaf Christians from other cities: Neftekamsk, Kazan, Yoshkar-Ola, Nizhny-Novgorod, Syktyvkar, Tchaikovsky.