Germany: International DEAF Congress Declared a Success
About 75 people decided to spend their Easter holidays at a Congress to celebrate 95 years of ministry for the deaf. “This was my second International Deaf Congress,” says Corrado Cozzi, Inter-European Division (EUD) communication director and deaf liaison. “I will never forget the wonderful experiences I had at this special conference. Everybody should participate to understand the true meaning of solidarity. I’m enriched every time I have the opportunity to attend these events.”
The third EUD Deaf Congress commenced April 17-21, 2014, in Altena, Germany. The congress created opportunities for deaf Adventists and friends to meet and share time together in an adapted environment. There are more than 250 million deaf in the world, and about 35.5 millions in Europe. Only 2 percent are Christian or are part of a religious community. Within the 2 percent we find the Adventist deaf, a minority that is organized in local associations. In EUD there is the French Deaf Association Signe d’esperance, the Spanish Deaf Association ASAE, and the German Deaf Association called Singen mit Händen.
This year’s congress was hosted by the German Deaf Association celebrating 95 years of existence. The event was held in the beautiful Bergheim Mühlenrahmede, with 75 participants coming from nine countries of Europe, Africa, and America. Among them were also a number of hearing people taking care of the interpretation and translation. "Unfortunately, we couldn’t accommodate more attendees," house manager Reinhard Fuchs said with regret. Everything was well organized during the weekend; especially the food was much appreciated by all participants.
The program allowed everybody to find something that they really enjoyed: devotionals, presentations, worship times, spiritual messages, as well as time for fellowship and tourism. The whole program was conducted in sign language.
Starting from the praise moments, through the praying, singing, and messages, including any kind of communication–all was presented in about seven different sign languages simultaneously! Participants got along well, whether they came from Kenya, Spain, France, England, Finland, Austria, Latvia or from Germany. A special guest speaker was Kenyan Henry Maina Kamau, a theology student at Baraton University, himself hearing-impaired and coordinator of the deaf community in Kenya. He was accompanied by pastor Elam Musoni, coordinator of the Adventist Deaf community in the East Central Africa region.
“The event was very successful,” commented pastor Gerd Wildemann, German Deaf coordinator and conference organizer. “We had a wonderful time together, with excellent communication and good friendship.”
“Our theme for the Jubilee was “Get together in Communication," explained Wildemann, who is always looking for new ways of communication for his Adventist deaf community. In fact, one of the major challenges for the deaf is when there is no translator available. Most of the time, they leave meetings unsatisfied. This situation has been recognized as church members and leaders are becoming more aware of the special needs of the deaf.
One reason for organizing these events is to create more awareness among the hearing, so that more people would want to become interpreters. “My goal for the deaf community living in the ‘diaspora’ is to have more interpreters in the Adventist churches,” said Wildemann.
For this reason, it is hoped that Hope Channel will broadcast programming with sign language interpreters on a regular basis. In addition to this, a new web page for the Adventist deaf is currently being prepared (www.adventistdeaf.org) and the planning for another International Congress has already started.
"On behalf of the General Conference we express our congratulations for 95 years of work with the Deaf in Germany!” said Larry Evans, deaf liaison at the General Conference. “The stage set by the pioneers is now bearing fruit.”
All around the world a new awareness of the needs of the deaf seems to be taking root, including also Germany and Europe at large. The deaf are part of society. Yet, for far too long the 250+ million deaf have been marginalized. While they do have needs, they also bring great resources of talent and ingenuity.
“I have never attended any of these congresses without being richly blessed by their presence. I learn so much!” noted Evans. Besides the sightseeing program to the Attahöhlen, some famous caves of the area, and a boat tour on the lake Bigge, the organizers presented a cultural program on Saturday night inviting mime actor Carlos Martinez to be part of the program.
People were impressed by Martinez’ Bible parables in mimes. During another evening program attendees considered, discussed, and planned for a new “Adventist” logo for deaf ministries, and finally voted their preference. “Who knows,” said Wildemann, “this proposal may be considered as the new official sign.”
At the end of the program, participants expressed special thanks for all the interpreters who had dedicated their time and energy and had made communication possible. Next year’s International Deaf Congress is tentatively slated to take place in Spain.