“Deaf people want to talk about Jesus,” Frank Rushing told the chapel audience Feb. 7, 2018, at Freed-Hardeman University’s Annual Bible Lectureship. “But,” he continued, “No one comes to talk to them.”
Rushing, minister to the deaf at Nashville’s Central Church of Christ for almost 40 years, recounted his experiences as a deaf person. Born in an Alabama log cabin in the 1930s, Rushing described his own parents as “shell-shocked” when they learned their child was deaf. They didn’t know what to do or how to communicate with him. The family eventually originated their own rudimentary sign system, which Rushing called “home signs.” But, he said, “We could not fully communicate.”
He remembers being “so bored” at church because he had “no clue what was going on.” He explained, “Very few deaf ministers existed in the 1930s.”
Rushing learned American Sign Language, the national language of the deaf, at the Alabama School for the Deaf. He uses ASL to preach and teach the deaf about Jesus. Two out of 1,000 persons in America are functionally deaf and only 2 percent of that 2 million are Christians, according to Rushing. Only 1 percent of deaf children will attend worship services as an adult, he said. “That’s what I mean when I call them the ‘unreached,’” he said.
Rushing has traveled extensively in his attempt to take the Gospel to the deaf. He has spoken at many conferences and workshops in the United States and participated in international mission efforts to reach the deaf. His work has taken him to Europe, Africa, Haiti and Australia. For many years, he has also directed a Christian camp for the deaf.
His travels also took him to the Bible lands. He said he wanted to see the place where Jesus healed the deaf man as recounted in the Gospel of Mark. “I would love to have been in that situation,” he said, “but God had other plans for me.”
Rushing’s lesson was interpreted for the primarily hearing audience by his grandson, Ryan Smallwood, an FHU graduate student. Smallwood helped organize this year’s services for the deaf. The university has a sign language club, and many of the lectureship lessons have been interpreted for the deaf.
Rushing asked his audience to “send forth workers into the harvest.” He urged, “Please don’t allow those who are deaf to become deaf to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Freed-Hardeman University Annual Bible Lectureship just completed its 82nd year. More information about the lectureship and FHU can be found at fhu.edu.
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