Deaf Youth Camp needs help to continue ministry
ST. LOUIS—The Deaf Youth Camp (DYC) celebrated its 25thanniversary of ministry on June 10-15 with the celebration being dimmed because 2007 marks the first year to end in a budget shortfall.
This year the DYC saw 42 deaf campers representing churches from three states: Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Of those deaf teens, seven campers made salvation decisions and an additional 10 campers made decisions for repentance, rededication, assurance, or to know God better.
Until 1982 deaf children were attending the Royal Ambassadors (RA) and Girls in Action (GA) camp with hearing children at Windermere Baptist Conference Center. That is when Leslie Hall (Calvary Baptist, Kansas City) and Linda Whiggam (Friendship Baptist Chapel of the Deaf, St. Louis) suggested that deaf children have a separate camp. They, with the help of then Interim Language Missionary David Morgan, suggested to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) the need for a separate deaf camp.
Hall and Whiggam knew what many hearing people did not, that deaf children’s needs are best met in a place of their own. Their vision was to have deaf children encounter the Gospel in their own language, American Sign Language (ASL). They also knew the camper-to-counselor ratio had to be low, and the teaching and preaching had to be specifically tailored to reach deaf people. Their vision has now seen its 25th year of ministry and Whiggam has served the Lord through the DYC for 24 of those 25 years.
Over the years the DYC has introduced hundreds of deaf children to Jesus Christ. Additionally the DYC is responsible for training interpreters for the deaf who now serve in churches and professional associations across the nation. The DYC offered a unique training institute where interpreters were immersed in a totally deaf environment for the week. This experience makes a vast improvement in the student’s sign language skills and is comparable to a Spanish student taking a trip to Mexico.
Another credit to the success of the camp is the mentoring it offers to students who are too old to be campers. As a camper, Joshua Dalton (First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla.) could correctly fingerspell all books of the Bible in order. Dalton now serves as a leader and a mentor to the next generation of deaf campers at the DYC. Brent Long (First Baptist Church, Fulton) was also a camper in the past, but because of his faithfulness and commitment to Christ, he now serves as a camp counselor.
The DYC is also responsible for starting a ministry to deaf children in Kansas City. From the Deaf Youth for Christ Kansas City website: “The Deaf Youth for Christ ministry started in the Summer of 1998 when three women decided to hold a one-day Vacation Bible School. This happened because they had taken a group of teens to the Missouri Baptist Deaf Youth Camp. The teens seemed eager to learn more about God, but there were very few opportunities for deaf youth in the Kansas City area.”
Besides learning about missions in North America, George and Lorene Joslin (First Baptist Church, Springfield) have served the camp by inviting missionaries from Japan and Ecuador, teaching lessons about foreign missions, training interpreters, planning Bible studies, and preparing Bible Studies for the deaf.
Whiggam’s dedication is shared by Deaf Network Consultant Judi Barker (Bayless Baptist Church, St. Louis) a 22-year veteran, Belinda Hathoren (Friendship Baptist Chapel of the Deaf, St. Louis) a 20-year veteran, and George Lixey (First Baptist Church, Fulton) who has also served approximately 20 years.
The DYC is funded by Christians committed to reaching the deaf of the next generation. There are no special endowments or grants supporting this ministry. Recent years have been especially difficult, both in finding campers and funding, due to competing secular deaf camp experiences. The Teen Institute, a secular deaf camp funded by government grants, provides a deaf youth camp for teens ages 13-19 for only $50 per camper. These camps offer information about preventing drug abuse, preventing AIDS and the use of condoms, but nothing about eternal life.
“This is the first year we have experienced a shortfall in the budget,” Barker said in a June 22 interview. “It costs us about $100 for each person attending, whether camper or worker. This year the donations have decreased and the costs have increased to the point where we are still in need of funds to pay for this year’s camp.”
Barker said she appreciated the faithful people who donate materials and funds, but without an increase in financial support there may not be enough support to keep the DYC going many more years.
According to census statistics there are 19,907 deaf people above the age of 18 in the state of Missouri. Add to that number the deaf populations of Oklahoma (13,674) and Arkansas (10,938). So the DYC seeks to serve the needs of approximately 44,519 deaf people by reaching deaf youth.
“Most of the deaf campers never hear the name of Jesus used in a loving way, until they come to the DYC,” Barker said. “I don’t know what we will do next year without sufficient funding.”
For more information, contact Barker by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.