Deaf in the Bible, Deaf Work in NA and in General

1400 BC (and later)–Deaf people are first mentioned in the Bible by Moses in Lev 11:4 and then Isaiah in Isaiah 29:18 and Isaiah 35:5 mentions further about deaf people.

31 to 33 AD–Jesus tells John the Baptist’s disciples (who come to find out if Jesus is really the Messiah) to go tell him what they see. They witness Jesus doing miracles such as making the blind people to see, the deaf people to hear. Dead people are raised, etc.

1879- Bro Kimball is referred to in Testimonies Vol. 4 p. 300 – as active with a little deaf group. Later Ellen White comments on the Hill family who had a deaf daughter. EGW was very impressed with the daughter’s signed prayer. Father, Mother and their deaf daughter were baptized.

1914- Agatha Krocker of Lincoln, NE, began work in her area. Agatha writes a small missionary paper called “The Best Friend of the Deaf”.

-She collected 4,000 names of deaf people in the USA.

1916- -Frank Tolson – lost hearing at the age of 17
-became SDA and worked with George and Lake Fromm- parents of Tom Fromm, founder of the SDA deaf center in Arkansas around 1980
-Frank worked with the Schoess couple who brought the message to Deaf in Wisconsin. -This couple then won Clarence Kohler’s deaf parents
-Frank also taught Alyce Grove who later became Mrs. Arthur Griffith on April 16, 1944. -Frank Tolson died in 1938 when a train hit him as he was walking down the tracks.

Late 1940’s Pastor John Issler colporteured his way across Canada and then down to California where he took up permanent residence

In 1948- John Issler wrote a letter to the GC telling of the needs of the Deaf and making a proposal for developing work for the Deaf

In 1949 E. H. Adams, an Adventist minister began some work for Deaf People in Oakland CA. It is understood that their own daughter was deaf.

In 1950 , two years after John Issler’s proposal, an NAD committee was begun to make recommendations to the church for deaf work

1951-1953- Issler continues to canvass the Deaf in Southern California collecting 7,000 names of deaf persons

1953 the NAD Union Presidents made a recommendation that a survey be made in each Conference to secure names and address’s of deaf people, and that plans be made in the Conference to send them literature

1954- Deaf Ministry was assigned to the ‘Home Foreign Committee’ and a recommendation was made to develop workers to preach the present truth in sign language.

In 1958 the needs of the Deaf were presented to the General Conference Session and two main recommendations were made (covered in the main history outline) to advance deaf work.

In 1958 Arthur Griffith, from Oregon, joined John Issler in writing a monthly news letter called DAWN standing for “Deaf Adventist Witness News”. Griffith remained editor for 17 years until 1975.

In 1958 -1960 Clarence N Kohler was called to work for the Deaf in the Central and Northern California Conferences – especially in the Bay area of CA. We think that Kohler was probably the first SDA pastor for the Deaf in the world field!

In 1960 Neil Davidson took Issler’s place as first deaf pastor (who was deaf himself) to be hired full time to pastor deaf people

in 1961 Rex Rolls, a colporteur from Nevada, took Kohler’s place in Southern California. He continued his canvassing in California as he worked with the Deaf

In July of 1961 Arthur Griffith was taken on as a full time licensed worker for the Deaf in Portland, OR

In 1968- Arthur Griffith was called to hold 6 weeks of meetings at Gallaudet College in Washington, DC

In 1968 Alfred Griffith was called by the Potomac Conference to follow up with the 20 or more students and others in the Washington, DC/Gallaudet area

In 1969 Arthur was ordained to ministry and became the first ordained full time deaf pastor to work for deaf people

From 1969-1971 the first Deaf Camp was established by Rex Rolls and Tom Fromm called Camp Wilderness. It was held in California.

1970 Arthur finished a 3-year project in 1970 to make 10 films for Bible studies for deaf people. It was the beginning of using the latest technology in deaf ministry.

1975- Arthur Griffith was called to the Potomac Conference to continue work that he and Alfred had started

1977 marked the beginning of Camp Meetings for the Deaf being held at Milo Academy, OR. Rex Rolls and George Belser worked together.

Milo Camp Meeting Sign Singing Group on Sabbath

1977 – Blake’s move to Hope, BC, where Alberta and her sister Edna work to start an elementary school for Hearing and Deaf. One student attends from the USA. But, the attempt closes after one year. However, Alberta Blake teaches their own two deaf children at the camp for another year.

By 1978 the children attending the Milo Camp Meeting began to have a VBS program held for them in the mornings. Alberta Blake was asked to lead in the children’s program. Soon deaf Milo Camp Meeting Sign Singing Group on Sabbath ladies began to help out with the program too.

1978 – Tom Fromm buys 260 acres near Alpena, AR, to set up a lay training school for deaf young people, etc.

1979- Don Griffith & wife Kathy decide to join with Tom Fromm to work with the training Center.


The 260 acre “Christian Deaf Center was located in a beautiful area of northern Arkansas. Homes were built to add accommodation for staff & students

1979 – Alfred Griffith returns to full time Deaf Ministry and pastors in the Northern California Bay area

1980- In January Alfred Griffith is ordained to the gospel ministry

1980 – Tom Fromm and Kathy Griffith killed in a tragic car accident [Later, Don marries again (Mona) and in 1983 becomes Director of CDC.]

In 1980 Thomson Kay was asked by the GC to set up a Ministry for the Deaf at the Christian Record
office in Lincoln, NE. Alice Jean Nelson became a valuable secretary working with the deaf program.

December 1980- First issue of “New Dawn” at CRS edited by Thompson Kay

1980 – Jim & Bunny Hovey were baptized at Milo

1982 – Lorraine Gallimore starts a school for the Deaf in Oregon in conjunction with the Dallas and Stone Tower churches, but it ultimately closes.

1982-85 John & Alberta Blake join The Christian Deaf Center and formal classes begin at CDC

1985 Blake’s leave CDC, returning to Canada, and David and Francisca Trexler take their place

1985 Pastor Blake starts work as a volunteer – full time Deaf Ministry in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada

1986 – Christian Deaf Center closed for lack of funds in 1986 with Don Griffith going to CRS to work with Thompson Kay in the Department for the Deaf.

1987 – David Trexler at Lincoln, NEB, taking theology degree at Union College in NE. Don Griffith interpreted for him.

1987 – Max Gallimore comes to CRS as Editor of “In This Sign”. Later Max also becomes editor of the “Deaf Light” missionary magazine for Deaf. His wife, Lorraine, starts a school for Deaf at the Helen Hyatt Elementary School in Lincoln, NE. Some financial help comes from CRS Deaf Department and SDA North American Missions.

1988- Raj Witteborg becomes a pastor of the Deaf at Silver Springs, MD, church

DATE NEEDED: About May 11, 1988 – Captions started on “It is Written”

1989 – Alberta and John Blake begin a mini camp meeting for the Deaf during the regular BC Camp meetings. This ran yearly for 17 years until Alberta suffered a major health setback with atypical TB.

1990- George Belser ordained as pastor for Deaf in Oregon

May, 1991- Paul Kelly begins with full time pastoring in Rochester, NY. This lasts two years, then drops to part time with a stipend ending in 2006.

Paul and Tina Kelly

1993- Raj Witteborg was ordained as a pastor – only the 3rd Deaf SDA pastor to be ordained

–In 1993 David Trexler joins CRS to became the editor of the deaf magazine and work as an assistant to T. Kay.

In 1993 there are 4 deaf pastors for the Deaf in the USA. They are:
-David Trexler

-Paul Kelly

-George Belser

-and Raj Witteborg

-There are an estimated 600 SDA Deaf in North America

1994- Blake’s helping coordinate Deaf Ministry across Canada and John as Deaf Ministry Director for the Alberta Conference

1996- January 27, 1996, the GC Committee voted to start an analysis of CRS Blind and Deaf Ministry with Dr. Calvin Rock as Chair

1996- In Dec., 1996, Trexler sends out a carefully worded letter to the NAD Deaf warning that the CRS Department of Ministry for the Deaf would later be closing.

1997- October Larry Pitcher, head of CRS, puts an article in the “New Dawn” explaining the NAD decision as to the future of NAD with the CRS Department of Ministry for the Deaf to close.

1997- Evangelistic meetings in Burnaby, BC, with Pastor Jeff & Missy Jordan with Pastor John & Alberta Blake – after interest created by Ravi Coughlan. Terese Rognmo, Greg Greenwood and Yu Kee were baptized – all Deaf.

1997 to 2000: Toronto Deaf Ministry continues with Blakes, Jeff Jordan, David and Francisca Trexler and an evangelistic series with David Trexler in 2,000. Meetings followed up by Paul Kelly. Nigel Persaud had been teaching signing to Marian Rochford and others in connection with the Harmony SDA Church

May 1997 – Jeff Jordan begins pastoring full time in Atlanta, GA. However, for several years he had to raise his own salary from donations. It was several years before Jeff was paid by regular tithe from the local conference – as are the hearing pastors.

December 1997- Christian Record Deaf Department closes permanently with Kay & Trexler dropped. Kay continues privately working from his home with the ministry for the Deaf.

1999 John and Alberta Blake work with Jordan’s recording an Experimental ‘Live” evangelist series in Marietta, GA. The 20 meetings were recorded in digital format and are still available on DVD (2018)

1999 – Adventist Deaf Ministries [ADM] was established in Thompson Kay’s home in Lincoln, NE. David Trexler and Kay worked together to continue the ministry for the Deaf.

1999- Bob Plubell becomes Chair of ADM regular Board

1999 – 2004- Elder Manual Vasquez Chairs the new NAD Deaf Ministry Committee and becomes a member of the new Adventist Deaf Ministries board.

2000- Recording in Arkansas: Blake’s work with Pastor David Trexler & son Arthur, Chip, Jim and Esther Doss, etc. to record a full evangelistic series on video for ADM in the Clinton SDA Church school gym.


Esther Doss questions David Trexler about his video taped sermon in the evangelistic series in 2000

2000 Thompson Kay and David Trexler make a trip to India to encourage the deaf work begun there under the supervision of Dorothy Watts – with funding from Canada

2000: Four Deaf Camp Meetings: Cohutta Springs Conference Center, GA; Ark.-Louisiana camp; Milo, OR camp meeting and Hope, BC mini-camp meeting

2000- David Trexler starts in Deaf Ministry with Silver Springs church in MD.

2001- ADM restructures: this allows a deaf Executive Director to take the lead – Kay could stay in another capacity, but Kay leaves and starts his own TEAMS organization for Deaf and those with learning challenges. His non-profit organization continues for some years.

2001 – Jim Hovey accepts call to be Director of ADM and the ADM office moves from Lincoln, NE to the Phoenix area in Arizona. Jim Hovey’s wife, Bunny, became editor of “The Deaf Messenger

2002 – Pastors Blake and Jordan make their first trip to India to visit the Deaf with Dorothy Watts, the Division President’s wife.

2005 – ADM office moves into a lovely new building after operating for over three years from Hovey’s home. The office was built for ADM to use by the Apache Junction SDA church near Phoenix, Arizona

2006 Gospel Outreach starts an official Deaf Department and asks Pastor Blake to head it. At that time GO was already sponsoring about 13 GO over-seas Lay Bible Workers for the Deaf

2007- Jim Hovey resigns from ADM with health concerns. David Trexler takes his place as Director/Speaker. The office was then moved to Trexler’s home in Maryland where it still is in 2018.

2008- Last Hope, BC Mini Camp Meeting for the Deaf as Mrs. Blake gets Atypical TB. Through the 17 years that it was held, many Deaf had come up to attend from the USA.

Spring – 2010: A Name change for Adventist Deaf Ministries [ADM] to Three Angels Deaf Ministries [3ADM]

2011 – Dr. Larry Evans become the General Conference official “Liaison” for Deaf Ministry. This was added, by his request, to his work as an Associate General Conference Stewardship Director. Evans is able to combine Stewardship and Deaf Ministry on various of his work trips visiting in the seven divisions where he had Stewardship responsibilities.

July 6, 2015 – Interpreter/Deaf Ministry Worker, Sandi Goodrich passes away. She did much for Deaf work in Dallas, TX. She got her start interpreting for a deaf boy in church.

2016- a new “Office of Special Needs” starts at the General Conference with Dr. Larry Evans directly under the supervision of the GC President, Ted Wilson. The Office of Special Needs is to work with Deaf, Blind, those with multi-handicaps, orphans and care givers of those needing special care.

2017- March – Elder Jeff Jordan with Dr. Larry Evans and interpreter/lecturer, Marvin Budd, go to India to conduct a Special Needs Advisory and a GO worker training session.

India Special Needs Director, Ambrose with Marvin Budd interpreting-Budd now with GO

2017 marks the 40th Anniversary of the First Oregon Camp Meeting for the Deaf at Milo Academy near Roseberg, OR. For a few of the 40 years, the camp meeting was held in California, but later stayed at Milo Academy.

————–///————-

Joseph Espinosa, from the NAD, came to CRS and said:
“When I was a young minister, in Santa Fe, NM, I had the privilege of meeting the great lady, “Helen Keller”, when she permitted me to touch her sensitive fingers she explained: ‘It’s great to be in Sante Fe and feel the fresh mountain air. God has sustained me for many years and I know that because He has sustained me in the past, He can take care of my future as well.’ I have never forgotten her words.” Helen was both Blind and Deaf!


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