- Beginning in Japan
- First deaf church in Korea
- For deaf in the Philippines
- Kenya first in Africa
- Greater openness in Uganda
A small sketch of DMI history:
Lill and Neville Muir met in Japan, where they were married in 1976. This verse from Proverbs 31.8 in the Bible became a calling and a guideline for the work that lay ahead:
Close up your mouth for those who are silent, tal matter for those who are about to perish.
Neville was educated as a deaf teacher in Australia and had many years of experience in companionship and fellowship with the deaf. Lill however had to learn sign language for the first time in addition to Korean when they went to South Korea in 1978. An American organization, World Opportunities International, acted as their guarantor towards the authorities; however, they did not pay their salaries or finance their working budget. It was friends and volunteers who donated the money needed. All this time they had a close relationship with WOI. In Norway the ministry’s official name was Kristent arbeid blant døve (KABD) (Christian ministry among the deaf) In 2000 the collaboration with WOI came to an end and the ministry became an independent mission organization; Deaf Ministries International (DMI), The headquarter is based in Australia and the official name in Norway is DMI Norway. (Internasjonal Døvemisjon)
Already in spring 1979, the first deaf church in South Korea was planted in Inchon, the port city of Seoul. New congregations were added, and eventually became 11 churches, with 11 employees, most of them deaf. A Bible school for the deaf was also started, with several of the students hoping to go into full time service. Due to high unemployment among the deaf, a carpentry workshop, a sewing room and a toy factory were started. The Koreans felt the responsibility to spread the Gospel further and started to send missionaries to other countries.
Early on Lill and Neville became involved in deaf work in the Philippines. It began with the deaf in Korea giving tithes of their offerings and sending the money to help the deaf in the Philippines. Little was done by the authorities regarding education for the deaf. DMI therefore started two schools near the town of Legaspi, where there were no other opportunities for the deaf to receive an education. The organization Fishermen of Christ Inc. was established in 1983, with schools in Ligao and Tabaco and a deaf clinic in Legaspi. The schools finally received official approval to operate schools from kindergarten to secondary school (expanded), and in addition a 4-year high school. Approximately 130 deaf children attended these two schools of which 40 children were staying at the dormitory. The students were integrated with approximately 250 poor children who would not have received any schooling if they could not attend the DMI school. The Authorities demanded integration but provided minimal support. It has therefore always been very important that the children could have sponsors and that the schools were supported from outside. Fishermen of Christ inc. owns 5.7 acres of land where they have livestock, grow coconuts and rice, and operate its own rice mill for farmers in the district. This way they are able themselves to support part of the budget for the school.
Febe and Lito Gavia, a couple from the Philippines, had the vision and guts to start building these schools. They also started two deaf churches in the district. Lito died in November 1993 after a tragic traffic accident. The widow Febe continued carrying the responsibility alone, but from 1995 she had the help of Aslaug Kristiansen from Norway. She was deaf herself and worked for a school for deaf in Andebu, Norway, but was able to work for DMI in the Phillipines for a few years. She lived like a Filipina and was an example for other deaf people by showing that deaf can drive a car, be an interpreter and be a missionary in a distant land …
In the southern Philippines, on the island of Mindanao, DMI has had a thriving deaf congregation since 1995. Mr and Mrs Asuela were responsible for this work. They also started a dormitory for deaf students from rural districts so that they could attend the state school for the deaf in Davao. In the beginning the dormitory housed some 50 students. The deaf church was also located here, and 80-90 deaf attended the services. A Bible school and leadership training was also established here. Based on this work two other small centers were started. In the autumn of 2001 the Asuelas were notified that they had to find new premises, as the landlord had found a more lucrative use for the plot. They found a very suitable place not far away, but needed money. Friends in Norway made it possible to build, not only a dormitory but also a school which could accommodate up to 100 students. The following years educational programs from kindergarten to high school were developed as well as teacher training and education in theology and evangelism.
DMI started looking at the possibilities of evangelism among the deaf in Kenya. They had many good deaf schools which also gave lessons in Christianity, but after graduation there were not many opportunities for the deaf. It turned out that they were eager to “hear” the gospel and soon DMI had 8 deaf employees who each had responsibility for a deaf congregation. Many came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.
DMI also met with great openness in Uganda. It was the leader of the Deaf Association there who initiated the contact. DMI Uganda was established under the leadership of David Bulime who himself was deaf. He took responsibility for a deaf church in the capital Kampala. They also held meetings at the public school for the deaf and two rehabilitation centers. In addition they collaborated with the deaf in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Informing about AIDS was also an important task in these countries. There is great openness to the gospel, but too few workers. In Kampala they wanted therefore to establish a Bible school to train more workers. A 3-year Bible School was started for young students from several African countries. Many evangelists have now been educated there. “Come to Uganda,” was the heartfelt appeal from David Bulime. His prayer was heard. DMI’s ministry in Uganda, now called Deaf Action Uganda (DAU) has become a flagship for DMI operations in Africa. David Bulime died suddenly in 2010, but the ministry continues to grow.
There were requests also from other countries in Africa and Asia for DMI to start work there, and DMI are now established in 19 different countries. Within DMI it is a strong belief that God in our time is opening doors for the Gospel among the deaf. “We must not let this great opportunity and challengepass us by. Therefore, we are continuing our ministry believing that God will finish his work. ” Lill Muir has said.
In Japan there several small deaf groups. The first deaf church in the country opened in Osaka in 1983. For many years it has been run by volunteers. It was during his stay in Japan as a young man that Neville for the first time experienced how deaf organized their own congregations, Bible school and mission work and was inspired by the thought that deaf themselves can communicate the gospel in a brilliant way among their peers. This has later become the strategy for DMI’s ministry.
From humble beginnings in South Korea in 1978, DMI is now working in close to 20 countries and is supported by individuals and groups in another 5 countries. Almost 200 churches and congregations have been established; several hundred workers are engaged in the ministry, either as an employee or a volunteer. Several hundred deaf children and young adults are receiving an education in the many schools and several dormitories offers necessary accommodation. Every week several thousand deaf meets for fellowship in the many DMI churches.
Through the pioneers Lill and Neville Muir God has opened many doors. A big thank you to all who make this ministry possible through prayers, practical work and financial support. But first and foremost thanks be to God who has been present and guiding the ministry through all the challenges during these years.