HARBIN – October 17, 2008 was the tenth anniversary of the Ephphatha Fellowship for the Christian Hearing Impaired at Nangang Church, Harbin. Many hearing impaired Christians entered the holy house of God in droves that morning, their faces illuminating God’s Glory. This day is chosen by the Lord. It was God’s grace that moved His servants to set up the Ephphatha Fellowship for us where we can witness the Lord’s blessings in abundance. Over the past ten years, God’s grace was with us in our journey.
There are altogether 350,000 hearing impaired people in Helongjiang Province. Prior to 1998, many hearing impaired came to the church and wanted to believe in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, our church did not have a teacher who could understand sign language at that time. As there was no way to communicate with them, we could not help them very much. We were sad and disappointed to see them leaving the church, Deacon Kang of the church decided to set up a meeting point for the hearing impaired in his house. He preached to them while learning sign language at the same time. This meeting point became the Ephphatha Fellowship subsequently. In the early days, there were only several attendees; now the fellowship has grown a great deal. It has 270 believers presently. The 7-men strong leadership team is able to oversee up to eight fellowship groups for the hearing impaired at the same time. Coupled with the guidance and care from key leaders of the pastoral team of the Harbin CCC/TSPM over the past ten years, and the combined efforts of the hearing impaired believers and members of the congregation, the Ephphatha Fellowship has made remarkable achievements in various aspects.
1. Spiritual Growth
I am a teacher of the sign language class in the Ephphatha Fellowship. After graduating from Harbin Bible School, I joined the fellowship in February, 2001. At that time, I could not understand sign language, but God gave me the heart for the hearing impaired. I began to learn sign language. I studied, communicated, prayed and worshipped together with the hearing impaired believers. Because they were usually of a lower educational level resulting in poorer comprehension, they met with a lot of difficulties during the teaching sessions. God told me in his own words “to serve the Lord with humility and tears.” With God’s guidance, I often prayed with tears for the growth of their spiritual lives. We meet thrice a week. Witnessing their lives growing in God, I was overjoyed. In 2006, in response to the church’s needs, some of these church members answered God’s call to go to Harbin Bible School. After two years of training and equipping, 11 preachers graduated in 2008 and were subsequently sent to serve in the various churches in Heilongjiang Province. In Jixi City, two preachers helped more than 100 hearing impaired people receive Jesus as their Savior through just eight worship services over two months. We really saw God’s grace and compassion on Harbin’s hearing impaired.
2. Beautiful Life
The Ephphatha Fellowship provides some help and support for poorer church members before the start of each Spring Festival. It also visits and helps those brothers and sisters in need. Every year on September 28th, we will conduct activities in the fellowship that include interesting games and flower presentations to celebrate the World Day for the Hearing Impaired. Every spring and autumn, we organize outings for the hearing impaired believers to see God’s work in nature.In addition, we will hold a group birthday party every quarter. Brothers and sisters who are born in the same quarter of the year will come together and share a birthday cake. They will know that their lives testify God’s glory and each of them is precious in God’s eyes. In the fellowship, they receive love and care from God through His people. The church becomes their spiritual harbor and home.
The hearing impaired people are considered a disadvantaged group in our society. They usually feel inferior because of their special needs. However, in the fellowship they are well respected and cared for. Therefore, many hearing impaired brothers and sisters in the Ephphatha Fellowship are willing to receive God’s grace and in turn share it with others. A foundation-laying ceremony was conducted on the 4th May 2008 for the Harbin Christian Training Center. The Ephphatha Fellowship attended the ceremony and made donations for the center generously. They are also actively involved in the development of the church. Although they are “impaired” in the body, their spirits are healthy. A shepherd once said, “The Ephphatha Fellowship is a part of the church body, its very existence has increased the propensity of our church to serve people in need.”
Looking back these past ten years, it was God’s hands that have carried us through. Who are we that God should choose to entrust with serving our hearing impaired brothers and sisters? We thank God for giving us a faithful and virtuous pastor. Her teachings have impacted our spiritual lives, renewed and changed our wills and have made us examine the goodness, the purity and perfection of God. We thank God for putting those who are saved in our fellowship group.
There are a total of 27 million hearing impaired people in China. May God reach all of them! May God raise more co-workers in various churches to love the hearing impaired. May God bless us, enlarge our territory, and lead us to share the Gospel in places where the hearing impaired people have yet to know God. May God be with us always and protect our ministry to the hearing impaired in China. Our praises to God are endless. Although the hearing impaired people cannot utter a song verbally, they can sing praises in their hearts.
(Oiginal article is in Chinese (Source: CCC/TSPM). Photographs can be viewed here:
United Bible Societies, China Partnership