by Megan K. Mertz
When people “hear” the Good News of the Gospel, it’s not always via the spoken word. Jesus Lutheran Church of the Deaf in Austin, Texas, has been sharing the faith through American Sign Language since 1931.
Pastor Mark Seeger runs Jesus Deaf Youth Ministry, which reaches out to the 500 students from all over the state who live and study at the Texas School for the Deaf across the street.
“The deaf students at Texas School for the Deaf (and all deaf schools) are spiritually underserved and are starving for the Good News of Jesus Christ,” said Seeger, noting that many of the students do not have access to deaf churches in their hometowns.
Seeger saw the opportunity to provide easy-to-read Bibles to students who attended the church’s youth events, so in 2010 he applied for and received an Eutychus Youth Grant from LCMS Youth Ministry.
The $2,500 grant paid for Bibles, “Deaf Church Rocks” T-shirts with the church’s information on them and a pizza party. The youth invited their friends, and 40 middle school youth and 100 high school youth attended that evening.
So many came, in fact, that Jesus Deaf Youth Ministry soon ran out of Bibles, so LCMS Youth Ministry sent more. Although Seeger had been giving out ministry T-shirts for several years, the Bible giveaway was a new addition to the program.
Jesus Deaf Youth Ministry continues to grow. Seeger prints a new T-shirt each year and gives out more Bibles. During the 2012-13 school year, attendance hit a record high — 305 for the year.
“Since we got the Eutychus Youth Grant, we have easily given out more than 500 Bibles,” Seeger said.
“The deaf students at Texas School for the Deaf (and all deaf schools) are spiritually underserved and are starving for the Good News of Jesus Christ.” — Rev. Mark Seeger
“Eutychus Youth Grants are given to support congregations and the youth in the congregation in reaching out to their unchurched peers,” said the Rev. Dr. Terry Dittmer, director of LCMS Youth Ministry. “The program is meant to enable congregations to invite youth into the church building and hopefully bring them into the church community.”
The grant program is funded by a portion of the offerings collected at the 2010 and 2013 National LCMS Youth Gatherings for the purpose of helping LCMS congregations and related organizations reach out to unchurched and marginally churched youth. During the last three years, 15 grants have been awarded.
Recipient: Jesus Lutheran Church of the Deaf, Austin, Texas
Result: Bibles and T-shirts given out to hundreds of deaf students
Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.