The 2022 Mississippi Baptist Conference of the Deaf recently held its annual meeting at Garaywa Camp and Conference Center in Clinton.
The theme for the weekend was, “Spiritual Warfare — Lord, Help Deaf’s Hurting Hear.” There were approximately 140 participants.
“We had four college students accept Christ during the conference. One was baptized in the Garaywa pool on Sunday. Actually, the one who was baptized was already out of college but he was part of that age group,” said Vickie Stuart, contract consultant for the Deaf with the Multicultural Ministries Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.
Stuart has served in that role for four years. She works for Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services as an interpreter.
“My father is deaf,” Stuart said in an interview with the Baptist Record. “I grew up knowing sign language. I have aunts and uncles and cousins who are Deaf, but I didn’t become an interpreter until 10 years ago. I decided to go back to college. I went to a two-year program and then went to Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.”
Gallaudet is noted for being the premier American Sign Language school in the country. “I finished my studies and came back and began interpreting in Mississippi,” Stuart said.
Need for interpreters
The conference, which was held this year Sept. 23–24, is held at Garaywa in the fall of each year.
One feature of the weekend is a Saturday interpreters workshop for those already qualified by the state of Mississippi.
“We also invite students who are in training programs to come,” Stuart said. “We had 42 interpreters in this workshop.”
However, “We really need 242,” said Paula Smith, director of the Multicultural Ministries Department. “There is an interpreter shortage in Mississippi.”
The Deaf is a largely unreached group, the Baptist Record reports. There are only 58 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention specifically geared toward three million Deaf, and 40% of those churches are without a pastor. There are 100 major cities in the United States with no church for the Deaf.
Fifteen hundred Deaf people in the U.S. die daily without Jesus; 72 million deaf worldwide are unreached, according to the Baptist Record. There is a critical need for Deaf churches, Deaf pastors and Deaf missionaries.
“I interpret for some of the churches also,” Stuart said. “I see the shortage and the need for interpreters. I constantly get calls from churches wanting to know where they can get a sub, and sometimes I just have to turn them down.”
Churches and individuals interested in Deaf ministries can contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.