- Beginning in Japan
- First deaf church in Korea
- To deaf in the Philippines
- The work on Mindanao
- Kenya first out in Africa
- Great openness in Uganda
Based on reports from the different fields, this is a short outline of DMI’s 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:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (NIV)
Neville was educated deaf teacher in Australia and had many years of experience in companionship and community 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 but they did not pay their wages or finance their working budget. It was friends and volunteers who donated the money needed. They have always had a close relationship with this organization, and it is because of this association that the ministry was often called WOI. In Norway the official name was Kristent arbeid blant døve (KABD) (Christian ministry among the deaf) In 2000 KABD split with WOI and became an independent mission organization, Deaf Ministries International (DMI), with the headquarter based in Australia.
Already in the spring of 1979, the first deaf church was formed in Inchon, the port city of Seoul. Today, that number has risen to 11 churches, with 11 employees in South Korea – most of them deaf. They also have a Bible school for the deaf with several of the students hoping to go into full-time service. A carpenter workshop and a sewing room were started because of the high unemployment among deaf. The most recent addition is a toy factory. The Koreans now feel the responsibility to take the Gospel further and has started sending their first missionaries.
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 is done by the authorities, and in the district where DMI’s two schools are located, close to Legaspi, there are no other opportunities for the deaf. 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 scondary school (expanded), and in addition a 4-year high school. Approximately 130 deaf children attend these two schools of which 40 children are staying at the dormitory. The students are integrated with approximately 250 poor children who would not have received any schooling if they could not attend here. The Authorities require integration but provides minimal support. Therefore it is very important that the children get sponsors and that the schools are supported from outside. The school owns 5.7 acres of land where they grow coconuts and rice, and try to make a rice mill operational so they can also earn money themselves.
The Philippine couple Febe and Lito Gavia 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 since 1995 she has had the help of Aslaug Kristiansen from Norway who is deaf. She lives like a Filipino and is 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 operated a thriving deaf congregation since 1995. Mr and Mrs Asuela are responsible for this work. They also operate a dormitory for deaf students from rural districts so that they can attend the state school for the deaf in Davao. There are now some 50 students living at the dormitory. The deaf church is also housed here, and 80-90 deaf attend the services. A Bible school and leadership training is also found here. Based on this work two other small centers have been 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 of the plot. They have found a very suitable place not far away, but need money. This is currently the most important topic for prayer and collection of funds.
The first research regarding evangelism among the deaf in Kenya was made 10 years ago. There are many good deaf schools in Kenya that also provide lessons about Christianity, but after graduation there are unfortunately not many opportunities for the deaf. It turned out that they were eager to “hear” the gospel. There are now 8 deaf employees who each have responsibility for a deaf congregation. Many have come to believe in Jesus and have been baptized.
DMI also met with great openness in Uganda. It was the leader of the Deaf Association who initiated the contact. The deaf worker there, David Bulime, is now in charge of a deaf congregation in the capital city Kampala. They also hold meetings at the public school for the deaf and two rehabilitation centers. In addition they collaborate with the deaf in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. Informing about AIDS is also an important task in these countries. There is great openness to the gospel, but too few workers. They want to build a Bible school to train more, but first and foremost they ask for outside help in the initial phase. “Come to Uganda,” was the heartfelt appeal from David Bulime.
There have been requests also from other countries in Africa and Asia.. We believe, says Lill Muir, and have experienced that God in a special way in our time has opened a door for the gospel among the deaf. “We must not let this great opportunity and challenge pass us by. Therefore, we are going forward still believing that God will finish his work. ”
In Japan there are 3 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 got to see how deaf organized their own congregations, Bibleschool and mission work and was inspired by the thought that deaf themselves can communicate the gospel in a brilliant way among their peers. They are now running a project in order to spread the Bible in sign language on video.
From humble beginnings in 1979, DMI is now an organization with 140 employees, 130 deaf congregations, 6 places of worship, 2 schools with a total of 250 children, 2 dormitories and a Bible school, all spread in 23 countries on 3 continents. Every week their churches are ministering to approx 2,000 deaf.
Through Lill and Neville Muir God has opened many doors, and they want to give thanks to the volunteer donors who makes this ministry possible. But first and foremost they give thanks to God who has been present through all the challenges during these years.