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Protestant Church Work with the Deaf Community in Manila, Philippines:


By Hannah Johnson

5/25/2014

 

Protestant Church Work with the Deaf Community in Manila, Philippines

Being interested in ways to get involved and interact with the Deaf community, I had some opportunities to visit some churches and meet with someone involved with Bible translation. This helped me see how the Deaf Filipinos interacted and how a Deaf church functioned.  I learned about a mission organization helping to translate the Bible into a video Bible.
 

Rachel Miles connected me to the Deaf churches and explained more about the Deaf church in Manila. She works for a mission organization called SIL (Summer Institute for Linguistics). She does general support of the sign language translation projects which means traveling around Southeast Asia training groups how to translate the Bible into sign. For example Japan has been working on a verse by verse translation for the past 20 years and are still working on it. Rachel pointed out that the translators are always Deaf. Some countries will need more than one translation if there is more than one sign language. Some translation is being done in chronological story form instead of verse by verse translation because it takes less time.
 

They have not started a translation in the Philippines because they are in the stages of deciding what sign language to use. The Philippines has a mixture of ASL, FSL, and Exact Sign, and because the Philippines is so spread out with so many islands the signs can be very different from one area to the next. There is a push that the Deaf want one country wide sign language but it is hard because there is much diversity. I observed this when visiting Bohol on my missionís trip compared to Deaf communities in Manila. Currently in the Philippines most Deaf churches use English Bible, during the service they will usually read it to themselves and sign it in Exact Sign and then think about it and then sign it in FSL. Rachel is working with a group on trying to get a Filipino Sign Language video Bible.
 

I was able to experience firsthand two different Deaf church services. Never having been to a Deaf church I did not know what to expect. Capital City Baptist Church was the first church I visited with Rachel Miles. I had the opportunity to meet people and sign the basic greetings and introduce myself. The church community was very welcoming and friendly. There were many similarities to the church that I attend but also some differences. At Capital City Baptist Church a group of girls in choir robes came to the front and signed rhythmically together a song despite the fact that there was no music. Another element of the service that was different was prayer and how the congregation didnít close their eyes but instead only the one praying would close their eyes while the rest would watch what they signed. This church meets for 3 services a month separately and once a month combines with the hearing service with an interpreter.
 

The second Deaf church I was able to visit was Logos Deaf Missions. This was a small low income Deaf church on the edge of Manila. The church has around 16 people that come on a regular basis. The ages spanned from teenagers to senior citizens.  One observation I made was the Sunday school teacher signed primarily in Exact Sign which made it harder for me to understand. The Pastor signed mainly in FSL.  Following the service I was able to set up an interview with the Pastor of this church. Rachel Miles agreed to interpret when needed.
 

Here are some of the questions and answer from the interview:
 

Q: How old is the church?


A: The church was started in 1984 and for many years we were connected with a hearing church and met in their buildings. After a while it got harder to meet there because we were constantly being asked to move rooms and change plans. We prayed for our own place and were blessed when we got enough money to move. The hearing church gave their blessing and was fine with us moving.  We have been blessed to have our own place that we rent and can use whenever we want and are able to meet for church on Sundays and have our own church service.
 

Q: ďHow do you communicate with hearing churches?Ē


A: Some of the hearing pastors will use gestures and during meetings will write and use basic signs and fingerspelling, if needed we get a family member to come and interpret. It was sometimes difficult but we make it work.
 

Q: Do you help people by teaching sign language? Do all people in your church know sign?


A: Some people come at first and donít know any sign because they were poor and unschooled while some went to school and some went to special Deaf schools. There is a large variety. The pastors volunteer and take turns in the afternoons during the week teaching lessons. They teach basic FSL and basic English. It is difficult at first but through using hand gestures and slow finger spelling, they are able to teach sign. The majority of our congregation is Deaf. If families have hearing members they go to different churches.
 

Q: Are the Pastors full time? Or do you have work outside during the week?


A: The Pastors are full time. We go around and do house visits and outreach. We visit homes that might have a Deaf member and will try to get them connected to a Deaf community. Many Deaf cannot go to school because they are poor and parents say they are more needed at home and wonít allow them to go. When we go on home visits we try to write in English first and then if they do not understand we try writing in Tagalog if they do not understand any of these we get an interpreter. Another part of our job that we visit is a Deaf high school and we teach value classes. Many Deaf children do not come to church because they do not have Deaf parents and itís too far and they donít have the money. By teaching at schools we are able to share about God and teach them lessons from the Bible. We as well go and visit other Deaf churches when we can to fellowship and help teach with them. We help Deaf members when moving to find a church nearby that they can attend. Our job has many elements but all of it is serving the Lord and doing our best to reach out to the Deaf.
 

Q: How would a Deaf translation of the Bible benefit you and your congregation?


A: It would be a huge help to our outreach. This would be beneficial to Deaf who live far away from any Deaf church. When going on outreaches we could hand out CDís with the Deaf Bible on it. This would help us to reach many more Deaf and spread the Gospel. It would be helpful for us during church service as well to have a better understanding of the verses which we read and teach.

 

Researching this topic has given me insight into the world of translation and the Deaf church in Manila, Philippines. It was interesting to see how the differences in signs play a part in the church.  I hope to keep visiting more churches and learn more about the Deaf community here in Manila. I look forward to see the progress in translation of the Bible in varies countries in Asia.

- Hannah Johnson
 


Sunday School Teacher at Logos Deaf Church.

(Credit: Kim Johnson)
 


 

Pastor Noel Ressurrance of Logos Deaf Church

(Credit: Kim Johnson)
 


 

Logos Deaf Church Congregation including Rachel Miles and Hannah Johnson

(Credit: Kim Johnson)

 


 

 

Outside sign on Logos Deaf Church

(Credit: Hannah Johnson)


 

 

Works Cited:


Ressurrance, Noel. "Research Paper Interview about Logos Deaf Missions." Personal interview. 6, May, 2014


Miles, Rachel. "Research Paper Interview about SIL Bible Translation." Personal interview. 4, May, 2014

http://www.mccidonline.net/ccbcDeaf/index.htm


-Pictures taken by Kim Johnson and Hannah Johnson

 

 


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