The week of August 11-17, 2019, was probably the most diverse week ever recorded at the United Methodist Red Bird Mission Work Camp, in Beverly, Kentucky. Onto that campus came a group of about 75 Christians from many places, representing many forms of diversity.
- Ethnicity (African American, African, Korean, Latino, European-American);
- Location (Delaware, Washington DC, South Dakota, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Arizona, Texas);
- Age (between age 8 to 80);
- Denomination (United Methodists, ELCA Lutherans, Unity);
- Denominational role (pastors, deacons, district superintendents, a bishop, certified lay ministers, lay people);
- Ability (Deaf, Hard of Hearing, mobility-challenged, able-bodied); and
- Gender and sexual orientation.
The groups were sent out each day to work on various projects: building wheelchair access ramps, repairing floors, upgrading bedrooms, and arranging donated clothing for distribution.
This ecumenical organization of Deaf folks and their advocates work together on various common goals of inclusion and empowerment. History was made on this trip when for the first time members engaged in “hands-on mission work.”
Many of our own United Methodist Deaf members are active in ELM. Many were highly-skilled carpenters and craftsmen, and they worked side by side with hearing people who were not fluent in American Sign Language.
The sign language interpreters on each team kept busy filling in the communication gaps; but slowly people began to figure out ways to communicate and work together. Humor and God’s Spirit broke down many of the walls of communication and difference.
We worked hard and came home tired and dirty each day. But we shared in worship each morning and evening and had lots of time on the porch to socialize, meet new friends and play with the resident cats.
On Wednesday night we were treated to a tour of the Red Bird School and an ice cream and cake party hosted by the Red Bird Conference District Superintendent. On Thursday night we had the “Talent-No-Talent” show starring hearing and Deaf people who shared their gifts of music, storytelling, humor and skits.
On Friday, our last night there was a closing communion service with the Deaf Community primarily taking the lead. A Deaf pastor preached, beautiful songs were signed and our young people served the Communion elements.
* Deaf culture is the set of social beliefs, behaviors, art, literary traditions, history, values, and shared institutions of communities that are influenced by deafness and which use sign languages as the main means of communication. When used as a cultural label especially within the culture, the word deaf is often written with a capital D and referred to as “big D Deaf” in speech and sign. When used as a label for the audiological condition, it is written with a lower case d. (Wikipedia)
Download the Bishop’s PPT presentation about the Red Bird Mission trip and see more of her great photos!