How Will They Hear if They Cannot Hear?3 min read

Lutheran Friends of the Deaf

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has long been involved in the mission of bringing the Gospel of Christ to those who cannot hear. The 1944 (Saginaw) LCMS Convention commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Synod’s Ministry to the Deaf by resolving to raise funds to establish an East Coast school for the deaf. After Lutheran Friends of the Deaf (LFD) was incorporated as a charitable, non-profit corporation in 1947, they opened Mill Neck Manor Lutheran School in 1951 for deaf children. Since its inception 70 years ago, LFD has grown into the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, which includes deaf education, deaf ministry, interpreter services, hearing health services, and community services for adults and children. Today, a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) within the LCMS, LFD develops and disseminates resources for deaf ministry, and also provides training for religious interpreters.

Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI)

Today, Lutheran Friends of the Deaf in New York is still very much connected to the Michigan District, providing funds to support a missionary pastor for the deaf (Rev. Tyler Walworth) and also providing church interpreter training in the district and throughout the synod. While LFD has begun offering training workshops all over the country and is also doing international work, the Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI) started more than 30 years ago to improve the skills of interpreters in signing God’s Word to people who are deaf. As a Christian ministry, provided by the joint partnership of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS) in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, CITI has equipped hundreds of church interpreters to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, including many in the Michigan District. One of those students, Sandy D’Addezio, of Caro, said, “Before CITI I was too fearful to stand up in front of the congregation to interpret; after attending CITI I had the confidence to sign. Now I have a solid foundation and the tools to interpret the Divine Service. I gained friendships and that little extra nudge to get up in front of a group of people to interpret the blessings of our faith in the language of the Deaf.”

2017 CITI Program

This summer, staff and students once again came together for CITI. The training of interpreters and church workers for our congregations is crucial for the future of Deaf Ministry in The Lutheran Church¾Missouri Synod. The Michigan District has been a long-time leader in Deaf mission through education and the support of deaf congregations and mission sites,” said Rev. Thomas Dunseth about the program. Rev. Dunseth of Michigan and Deaconess Heidi Sias of Missouri are co-directors of the program. This summer’s CITI also incorporated other fine leaders from the Michigan District in deaf ministry as well as in theological and university education, including Rev. David Fleming of Our Savior in Grand Rapids, Mr. Gerard Dzuiblinski of Concordia University Ann Arbor, Rev. Tyler Walworth, and Deac-Intern Diana Rice, who is deaf and spoke on Deaf Culture. Deac-Intern Rice said about the program, These ministries are valuable for serving the deaf, especially as they include the deaf in their work to be more effective in training interpreters. These interpreters bring the Gospel message clearly to the deaf by using the appropriate worship signs within the church.” The staff also consisted of two RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) nationally certified interpreters, who are Lutheran. For their final program activity this summer, students took turns interpreting the service for eight deaf worshippers at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Coldwater, Michigan, where Rev. Aaron Chittick is pastor. The students proclaimed Christ and demonstrated the improvement of their skills through the week.

2018 CITI Program

Dates for next summer’s program have already been scheduled for June 25 to July 6, 2018, again hosted on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Students of varying levels are welcome, and will learn ASL, religious signs, and the interpreting of Scripture, liturgy, sermons, and hymnody. You can find more information on the LFD website. Would you like to partner with Lutheran Friends of the Deaf so we can continue to tell those that cannot hear about Jesus? We welcome you to join us!

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About the Author

Mrs. Heidi D. Sias is a deaconess with Lutheran Friends of the Deaf, a part of the Mill Neck Family of Organizations in New York, and works remotely from Missouri. Deaconess Sias is co-director of the Church Interpreter Training Institute (CITI), and serves as a teacher and organizer. She also teaches for other regional workshops.

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