Missouri Baptist Confab of the Deaf marks 50 years
By Barbara Shoun
March 22, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Baptist Conference of the Deaf (MBCD) celebrated 50 years of cooperative minis-try when it held its annual meeting March 19 at Memorial Baptist Church here.
Approximately 100 people, about half of them deaf, were in attendance as the conference addressed its past, its present, and its future. The occasion was recognized with resolutions by the Missouri General Assembly and the City of Jefferson.
The organization’s past has been chronicled in a newly-published book, 50 Years of Encouragement: A History of the Missouri Baptist Conference of the Deaf, written by George Joslin of Springfield and published by the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Carter Bearden, Sr. of Canton, Ga., one of the speakers in the conference’s earlier years, spoke on the past history of the deaf. Rodney Webb of Stone Mountain, Ga., who retired last year as national missionary for the deaf for the North American Mission Board, gave a current status report and discussed what changes are to be expected in relation to serving the deaf community in the future. A special guest was Greg Johannsen of Seymour, Tenn., president of the Southern Baptist Conference of the Deaf.
MBC partners with the leadership of the MBCD and with the Missouri Association of Southern Baptist Interpreters for the Deaf (MOASBID) in putting on the event. The MOASBID held its annual meeting the day prior to the conference. Ginny Redden serves as president of MBCD and Terry Johns as president of MOASBID.
Mauricio Vargas, MBC multicultural catalytic missionary, facilitates the joint effort on the MBC’s behalf. Vargas has been involved with the conference for 18 years, and he has seen it grow and change. He says that MBC provides a means for the deaf to get together and minister to their own community.
“The computer has brought about changes in the deaf community; it has meant less dependence on TDD’s and interpreters,” he said. Deaf people are able to do more things for themselves.
They organize a yearly deaf youth camp at Fellowship Baptist Association campground at Warsaw and a deaf teen group at the MBCD conference. Weekend retreats are also on the agenda.
Members of the deaf community join hearing believers in ministering to the world at large. Missouri groups have been instrumental in establishing two deaf congregations in Equador, three in Puerto Rico, and a teen camp in Colorado Springs.
“Deaf people would love to have their own churches,” he said. “It is sometimes hard for hearing people to relate to them because sentence structure and expressions are different than those of hearing people.”
Several churches in the state have pastors who provide specialized Bible studies and preaching for the deaf – two in St. Louis, one in Kansas City, one in Raytown, and one in Springfield. These, and other churches with deaf ministries, were recognized at the conference.
While larger deaf ministries have been established in urban churches, Vargas encourages rural churches to be aware of needs in their communities as well.
“The issue you have, especially in rural areas, is that a lot of the children begin to go to school, get frustrated and don’t continue their education. Some don’t learn to read or write,” he said.
MBC can give support through its four consultants who can help churches get the training they need as well as assess the needs of individuals.
Vargas says he is really proud of MBC’s association with the MBCD.
“We are one of the few states with a strong deaf ministry. People from surrounding states often come to our activities,” he said.
For more information, call Vargas at 800-736-6227, Ext. 613.