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Church for the deaf beats odds to praise God

COUNTIES
By By ERIC WAINAINA | December 24th 2013

By ERIC WAINAINA

KENYA: From a distance, drumbeats can be heard emanating from the Thika Elijah Kagiri Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

But there is no synchrony in the way the instrument is being played.

A church service for and by the deaf and dumb only is ongoing and their rhythmic moves and signs depict the enthusiasm they have to praise their maker.

Things are not so different from services in other churches, only that there are no voices at All Thika Deaf Fellowship Church located in Thika, Kiambu County.

At the entrance, three people are busy ushering in those arriving and ensuring they get somewhere to sit by use of sign language.

At the front of the room (pulpit), a group of four people is leading fellow worshippers in praise and worship songs but no sound can be heard from the  fully packed church.

Church members only move their bodies and use sign language to communicate both songs and messages.

They have opening prayers, praise and worship songs, read the Bible, make announcements and have sermons by their own pastors, also deaf, through sign language.

The church is now a year old, with a membership of about 200 people who are deaf and dumb from Thika town and its environs.

Their services are full of energy, easily moving one with hearing ability to tears as they observe how they are determined to praise and worship despite their challenge.

Translator

During the writer’s visit to the church, William Silla, also a translator for KTN who usually worships there, helped him understand what was going on.

Pastor Simon Njoroge, also deaf and dumb, helped in the establishment of the church, which he said was the first in the country.

Mr Njoroge said he had visited Thika town in March last year to find out whether there were deaf people and surprisingly, he found a big number.

“I met about 20 people and when the schools were closed, I found a bigger number and knew there could be many more others in the remote areas which I had not visited,” he said during the interview.

Njoroge said he began teaching them the word of God twice a month and as time went, the number kept multiplying.

Members soon requested for a church where they would have services every Sunday like other people.

The church was registered in December last year with a membership of 80 people and when this writer attended a service, they were celebrating their first anniversary.

The school administration has allowed them to use one of the classrooms to conduct their services.

Church service

“Most of them knew nothing about the word of God and after learning about it, they wanted to have their own church so that they could continue with their services. And after doing that, they have been doing things on their own,” he said.

Grace Wanjiku, a church member, said the institution had given her an opportunity she had lacked but wished for; to praise and worship.

She said this ensured they got spiritual nourishment, something that was previously impossible.

“On Sundays, I would stay at home when others went to church. I wanted to praise God for what He has done for me despite my challenge but it was impossible because whenever I went to churches around I would get nothing because there are no translators,” said Ms Wanjiku, a committee member for the church.

The church has a seven-member committee that has been spearheading the growth of the young but vibrant institution.

Njoroge said so far they have 27 other churches in various counties and they plan to have a recognised church.

“We welcome the people who are able to hear to worship with us but we will always do our own thing as deaf people,” he said.

Gladys Chania, a counselor, has worshiped with them on a few occasions and she said their services are always moving.

During her first visit, Ms Chania says she was moved to tears since it was unthinkable that such a church could exist.

Deaf and dumb

Speaking to them through the help of a translator, Ms Chania raised concern that people never recognised the deaf and dumb, while those who do have done very little.

“Not only in church but almost everywhere in our activities we have forgotten them. I attend functions for people with disabilities but they are never represented. We do our announcements on radio, our churches and meetings but they do not hear so that they can attend,” she said.

Njoroge said in future he hopes to have churches for deaf people across the country under one umbrella.

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