SWM Offering Free Sign Language Class
By REBECCA HAZEN
Silent Word Ministries, a ministry dedicated to the deaf and based in Trenton, is holding its annual free Sign Language class for the community on April 26-30.
President of Silent Word Ministries, Jon Barr, said that the class is a way to give back to the community who has given so much to Silent Word.
The class is held for five nights, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The classes will be taught at Silent Word Ministries in the fellowship center.
The class is free, but there is a $5 charge for the class manual, which is a Loxy the Fox book, published by Silent Word Ministries. The $5 charge helps Silent Word be able to print more materials.
“We will go over 300 plus signs and how to use those in conversation. We will also answer questions if someone wants to learn how to sign something specifically,” Barr said, who is also a certified interpreter.
Barr says that there have been smaller classes with about 15 people, but it has also been as large as 40 people.
“Our desire is for someone to have the basic conversational skill, and to remove the tension that is there when you meet a deaf person,” Barr said.
Barr continued, “Imagine yourself as a deaf person. You live next to someone who is hearing, and you can’t communicate with them. How do you make yourself known? It helps deaf people fit into the hearing world. They cannot become hearing. But we can get into their world. That is what we are encouraging our community to do.”
According to Barr, there is usually about one deaf person per 1,000 hearing people nationwide.
To register for the class, visit silentword.org and then click on “Events,” then “Community Sign Language Class.” Class size is limited, so make sure to register early.
Silent Word Ministries started in 1966 on Sand Mountain at Beulah Chapel Baptist in Flat Rock, Ala. Founder Ted Camp was a pastor there at the time. It was started as a newsletter, as a way to reach deaf people in the area.
“We began as a publishing ministry specifically for the deaf. We have since grown to where we have missionaries serving with us. We have produced over 350 titles that are printed here at Silent Word. We go out and we train people in Sign Language,” Barr said.
Silent Word Ministries provides ASL training for the southern region of the United States. There is an ASL Institute, which will be held in July. The Institute provides advanced training.
The Silent Word, the ministries’ newspaper, is published every two months. 10,000 newspapers are printed and sent all over the U.S. and to some foreign countries.
Silent Word Ministries also provides Bible studies for deaf people in the local area, and provides interpreters in local churches. There are two churches in the county that have deaf ministries: Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and Piney Grove Baptist Church. As individuals they also will help interpret for deaf people in various situations.
“I am an interpreter, but I like to view myself as a teacher, because that is where our heart is. Our heart is to share the gospel, and give them access to the things we have,” Barr said.
Barr continued, “There is no ministry like this anywhere else in the world. There are other deaf ministries, but nobody has what Silent Word has.”