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Wisconsin Synod to sponsor August conference on ministry with Deaf people

The Rev. Darren Green, coordinator of Special Ministries for the Minnesota District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church, encouraged delegates to the district assembly to participate in “Undiscovered Souls: Reaching Out and Spreading the Word of God to All,” a national conference regarding ministry to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The conference will be held August 4-5 at Living Hope Lutheran Church in Shakopee, Minnesota. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will host a national convention August 4-5 at Living Hope Lutheran Church in Shakopee, Minnesota. The theme of the 2012 conference is “Undiscovered Souls: Reaching Out and Spreading the Word of God to All.”

“I am convinced that there’s no other venue within WELS that will offer as much information in so short a time about hearing loss and ways to meet the challenge,” said the Rev. Carl Ziemer, director of Special Ministries for WELS.

“This [conference] promises to be especially helpful for called workers and church leaders who are eager to make their gospel ministry accessible to everyone, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Ziemer believes it is a time for people to come to a greater understanding of the kinds of barriers Deaf and hard of hearing people face. “Hearing people take their hearing for granted,” he explained. “They don’t understand the impact that not hearing has for individuals. Deaf people are mostly invisible to most of us.”

The Rev. Darren Green, coordinator of Special Ministries, for the Minnesota District agreed. “We can’t take for granted that Deaf people are sharing in the gospel news,” he said. The Shakopee conference is an opportunity to network with Deaf and hard of hearing people, and to find out about WELS resources for sharing the gospel with members and others.

“We are interested in helping congregations analyze their own community — not just the congregation — to see who is there,” Ziemer told Metro Lutheran. “Some people say they don’t have any Deaf people, but how do they know?” Ziemer will help identify ministry opportunities.

All are invited

Living Hope Lutheran Church, the host congregation for the conference, is a great model of a congregation wishing to commit to a ministry with Deaf people, according to Ziemer. The congregation strives to make all its programming accessible to its Deaf members.

Ben Olson and his parents are members at Living Hope. Ben’s parents are Deaf; he is an interpreter. Olson and his father attended the Minnesota District convention and encouraged participants to come to the two-day event.

“The Word of God is inclusive. Unfortunately, excluding is what many of us do to the Deaf.”

The evening session of the conference on August 4 is a “come event,” according to Ziemer. “The whole neighborhood is invited. There will be inflatable slides and brats.” In addition, there will be American Sign Language students present to help with communication between hearing and Deaf attendees. “These students get a chance to practice their interpreting ability in a social setting as Deaf and hearing people come together.” The event is free and open to everyone.

Hearing accessibility for the conference will include FM Listening Systems, looping, captioning, and sign interpreters.

To register online, go to www.wels.net/special-ministries/mdhh-register. A schedule of events is available there, as is information about lodging and directions. Registration before June 30 is at the early-bird price of $75. After June 30, the cost is $100 to attend.

“The [conference] will provide church leaders an opportunity to mingle with people with hearing loss and learn firsthand why it’s important to address their needs,” says Ziemer. “Jesus was careful to include everyone in his gospel ministry — regardless of age, race, or disability. We want to do the same.

“The Word of God is inclusive. Unfortunately, excluding is what many of us do to the Deaf,” said Ziemer. “If I don’t offer God’s word in a way so someone can participate in all of the congregation’s ‘family activities,’ then I haven’t really offered God’s word at all.”

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