We were blessed at Lewisham Church to recently witness 4 baptismal candidates publicly pledge themselves to Jesus this past Sabbath, February 15th. Relatives and friends came out to see our Pastor James Phillip help Glen Augustin, Breny Jimbo, Shanice Kudita and Monique Bell to publicly take their stand for Jesus. It was a joyous occasion for all of them but it was even more special for one of the candidates, Glen, also known as Marvin, who is Deaf. His road to baptism has been a long and winding one, but in his own words he has described God as being with him all the time: he can see that God had a plan in his life to use him to make a difference.
He returned home and continued to use what he learned around the Caribbean with great success, but was approached by a Deaf man in St Lucia who asked him if he wanted to go to the UK. Glen again agreed and arrived in 1999 eager to join an Adventist church. There was a setback though: he was not able to find a Seventh-day Adventist church that had British Sign Language interpretation for the Deaf. He looked online but the only church he could find in his vicinity was a Baptist church: Metropolitan Tabernacle in London’s Elephant and Castle, which provided interpretation for the deaf at their services. So, he attended the church on Sundays to hear the word of God. Every week he attended he was aware that there were things being taught that didn’t quite match up with his knowledge of the Bible that he had learned from being a Seventh-day Adventist over the years. However, the need to be in a church setting to hear God’s word prompted him to continue. While he attended, several members questioned his being there as he still identified as a Seventh-day Adventist, and he also felt that God was not happy with what he was doing. He prayed that God would help him to find an Adventist church that he could attend with interpretation, and God answered his prayer, but not as he was expecting!
He attended a party and whilst there met a young lady who said she also was an Adventist and attended the Lewisham church. She invited him to come to church and he agreed, but he was apprehensive as they didn’t have any way for him to understand what was being preached. When he told his friends what he planned to do they told him he was making a mistake because he was leaving a place that catered for him to go to one that didn’t. Glen prayed that God would work it out for him, that He would help Glen to be confident and assertive in getting what he needed and that God would give him a ministry. God certainly didn’t disappoint! When he arrived at Lewisham he got in contact with persons who had already learned British Sign Language (BSL) or who were interested in learning it and he offered to help them learn some signs. In addition he started to go about making provisions for Deaf people who wanted to visit Lewisham: Bible studies, interpretation at services, teaching the members some basic signs and making the members more aware of how to cater to the Deaf in the church. At first he found it difficult to get his message across to the church members and leadership, but his enthusiasm and zeal soon spread, and his influence has helped in the establishment of a Deaf Ministry department at the church as well as the teaching of several classes introducing BSL.
What drives him forward is his love for God and a desire to see the Deaf reached for Christ. Something that wasn’t attempted before at Lewisham. During his time in America and the Caribbean he has seen Deaf Bible studies, preachers, Sabbath Schools and he wants to make all of these available to the Deaf in South London. However, God has allowed him to see that the message can best go forward when both Deaf and Hearing work together to achieve this. This means the Hearing learning BSL, and he has encouraged several members to do so. In the near future he sees more work to be done: making more resources available for the Deaf: simplified English Bible resources, books that explain Adventist beliefs that are more pictorial, as the Deaf are usually quite visual people and having activities to meet the social needs of the local Deaf. He sees his baptism as the next step toward this and prays that God will continue to use him to reach the Deaf in the UK.