On a campus where the vast majority of students can communicate by speaking, several students are learning sign language so they can fulfill the Great Commission and take the Gospel to the deaf in the Greenville area.
For some, this great work doesn’t necessarily leave campus. Gloria Eoute, a member of the nursing faculty, used her signing skills to minister during Bible Conference week when a colleague’s deaf brother visited campus for several services.
Because she grew up with deaf parents, she spent her whole life communicating with sign language.
“It’s basically my first language,” she said.
As a certified interpreter, Eoute also uses her skills in hospitals and doctors’ offices to help some of Greenville’s deaf population to get their health needs taken care of.
Several local churches also reach out to the deaf by offering special services. Palmetto Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. Jason Ormiston of BJU’s Bible faculty, offers a 3 p.m. service for the deaf led by a local deaf pastor. Morningside Baptist Church offers its own separate deaf service as well.
The deaf ministry that operates from campus works with Grace Baptist in Landrum. There, children from the South Carolina School for the Deaf as well as two older men go to enjoy an evening of fun, games and Bible stories.
Angie Cater, the leader of the deaf ministry group and a senior accounting major, started participating in the deaf ministry after visiting the deaf dinner, which takes place at 6 p.m. every Tuesday in the dining common.
Inspired by her desire to communicate with a deaf church member back home, Cater learned American Sign Language (ASL) and started participating in the ministry. For Cater, the deaf ministry is a way for her to fulfill the Great Commission.
For her, one of the best parts of the ministry is when one of the children she’s working with understands the messages.
“When I’m teaching about the Bible, I love that look on their face when they get it,” Cater said.
Karen Girton, a senior communication disorders major and member of the deaf ministry team, started learning sign language because she wanted to be able to communicate with those who cannot hear.
When she first started out helping with the ministry, she had trouble understanding some of the signs.
“I couldn’t understand everything, but I wanted to,” Girton said. In the time since she joined the ministry freshman year, she has learned ASL and started teaching lessons for the older group of children.
Students who want to interact with the deaf community can also go to Haywood Mall every Friday around dinner time to participate in the Silent Supper, a gathering of local deaf people for food and silent but lively conversation.
For more information about ministering at the South Carolina School for the Deaf, see last year’s article by Abby Sivyer at https://www.collegianonline.com/2015/03/27/bju-students-reach-out-to-deaf-and-blind-children/.