Record number attend deaf ministry retreat
June 28 2002 by Derek Hodges , BR Intern

Record number attend deaf ministry retreat | Friday, June 28, 2002

Friday, June 28, 2002

Record number attend deaf ministry retreat

By Derek Hodges BR Intern

Providing an opportunity for deaf people and deaf ministry workers to fellowship with their peers is what Donnie Wiltshire says the "Together in Christ" (TIC) conference is all about.

Wiltshire and the Special Ministries team of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) were the coordinators of the annual conference which was held at Caraway Conference Center May 17-19. This year's event saw a record number of attendees, with 215 deaf and hearing from across the state come together to celebrate the theme, "Serving Faithful."

The weekend focused on the passage from 1 Cor. 4:2, in which Paul teaches, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." The passage and theme were both chosen to highlight the conference's special emphasis, which was "Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jerry and Ruth Potter." The Potters have served the deaf in North Carolina through the BSC in official and unofficial roles.

Wiltshire said this year's TIC was "a great success in every way." He also reported that, "There was a great spirit throughout the weekend." Wiltshire added that a great deal of excitement was created by the celebration of the Potters' service.

The TIC, first started in 1968, is a chance for the deaf and hearing in North Carolina to get together for training, fellowship and worship. Wiltshire said the worship is always one of the best parts of the event. He credits the fact that it allows the deaf to worship in an environment where everyone else is "speaking the same language" as the reason the services are always so good.

Jim Royston, executive director/treasurer of the BSC, spoke to the group on Friday. Neal Payton, retired special ministries consultant for the BSC, Jerry Potter, and Wiltshire also spoke during the three-day conference.

According to Wiltshire, one of the most moving moments in this year's TIC came during one of the two professions of faith made during the weekend. On Saturday evening. Lillie Jones, an 89-year-old deaf woman, made a profession of faith in Christ, he said.

During the Saturday evening service the group spent time honoring and thanking the weekend's honorees, Jerry and Ruth Porter. Jerry began his work with the BSC in May 1952, after C.E. Jones left the convention's part time position in deaf ministry.

Potter first became interested in working with the deaf when he was living in Oregon. When he was first brought to North Carolina about 20 churches had a ministry for deaf people. He became very involved with these groups, as well as in ministering to students at the state's two deaf schools in Morganton and Raleigh. By 1954 Potter was ministering to more than 500 deaf youth at the two schools.

It was also in 1954 that Ruth Potter organized the first deaf WMU circle in North Carolina, only the second of its kind in the Southern Baptist Convention. Jerry was quoted as saying, "As we look into the work still undone, it humbles us to know that God has chosen us for such a huge job."

The Potters have been dedicated to tackling that "huge job," however. In their 50 years of service, deaf ministry in North Carolina has grown from 20 Bible studies to more than 70 churches with ministries to the deaf and five deaf congregations.

During that time the Potters also helped to launch a television program for the deaf called "Light Unto My Path." The show aired for nearly 25 years and went from one station broadcasting at its start in 1958, to 20 in 1975, before going off the air in 1983.

Jerry Potter also compiled a book of religious signs, which was later published by the Sunday School Board. Potter also worked with Gardner-Webb University to start a program that enabled deaf students to attend the university. This led to the university's first three deaf graduates in 1982, as well as earning Potter an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Gardner-Webb.

Potter retired from the position of director of deaf ministries in 1994, after 42 years of service in that position. Both Jerry and Ruth remain active in the deaf ministry across the state.

In addition, the weekend of May 17-19, Caraway also played host to the state deaf youth retreat. Since both events were started it has been tradition to hold them at the same place on the same weekend.

This year's youth event was led by camp pastor Chip Pendland, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Of the 102 youth attending, Wiltshire says the majority was from the two residential deaf schools in Morganton and Wilson. Seven youth made professions of faith in Christ.

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6/28/2002 12:00:00 AM by Derek Hodges , BR Intern | with 0 comments
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