Wife of late N.C. pastor establishes fund to help deaf students
    April 16 2012 by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications

    Stephanie Johnson knows the challenges facing a potential seminary student who is deaf. She watched as her husband, Daniel, tried to follow God’s call to seminary only to encounter closed doors. 
    Ultimately Daniel overcame the challenges, attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and earned a master of divinity degree. Daniel went on to serve as a minister to the deaf and a North American Mission Board church planting strategist until his death in Jan. 16, 2011, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
    He was the deaf pastor at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Wilson. Now Stephanie has given the initial $40,000 gift to establish a new fund at NOBTS – the Accessible Theological Education for the Deaf Fund – aimed at helping deaf students receive training for missions and ministry. 
    “My dream is that the deaf of the world will be evangelized,” Johnson said about her decision to start the fund. “That will come through the education and theological training.”
    Johnson is quick to point out that the fund will not be named after Daniel. She said that her husband would not want that kind of attention. Her hope is that the deaf Southern Baptists will embrace this new fund and join her in supporting it. Providing adequate services for deaf students at NOBTS will require additional fund gifts.
    The goal of the fund is to help break down one of the major barriers for deaf students – the added cost of hiring an interpreter. That was the obstacle that nearly ended Daniel’s quest for ministry training.
    Daniel was born on the mission field to SBC missionaries serving in Chile. Daniel became deaf at age eight, and his parents left the mission field due to his deafness. But Daniel never lost his mission zeal and always had a passion to see the deaf at home and around the world come to Christ.  He knew God was calling him to ministry and calling him to seek theological training.
    When Daniel first applied to a Southern Baptist seminary, the school affirmed his call and agreed to accept him but did not have funding to help with an interpreter. The school suggested that Stephanie accompany her husband to class to take notes and interpret. But she also needed to work to pay for tuition and living costs. The Johnsons felt as if God had closed a door.
    Daniel decided to try another school before giving up. This time he applied to NOBTS. The response was identical. The school affirmed Daniel’s call and welcomed him as a student, but he would have to provide his own interpreter. This time, thanks to the funding from the Louisiana Baptist Convention and several students who knew sign language, Daniel’s story didn’t end with another closed door. He enrolled in 1982 and completed the master of divinity in 1985.
    Johnson said the lack of funding for interpretive services for deaf students, especially those following God’s call to international missions, burdened Daniel until his death. The International Mission Board (IMB) requires 20 hours of seminary training for its career missionaries. The requirement is the same of deaf men and women who feel called to serve overseas and the increased financial burden of interpreters can be a hindrance for some deaf students. Johnson is hopeful that her gift and similar gifts from others will help alleviate the extra costs to deaf students.
    The International Mission Board affinity groups dedicated to reaching deaf peoples estimates that there are as many as 28.9 million deaf people living outside the United States. The IMB currently has about 50 missionaries serving among the deaf. Johnson hopes the new fund will lead to greater missions outreach to the deaf people of the world.
    4/16/2012 3:37:48 PM by Gary D. Myers, NOBTS Communications | with 0 comments
    Filed under: IMB, NAMB, SBC, Seminary

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