Rev. John P. Reinke of Janesville, Wis., began serving this fall as director of the Deaf Institute of Theology (DIT) at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He succeeds Rev. Roger Altenberger, who is LCMS World Mission’s facilitator for “Ablaze! Connection.”
Reinke, 43, has served since 2000 as missionary at-large to the deaf in the Synod’s South Wisconsin District and will continue to serve in that capacity. He also serves as co-director for the Deaf Lutheran Mission Society, and travels periodically for the society to teach the DIT curriculum to deaf leaders in Africa, India, and other countries — a ministry he also plans to continue.
Reinke previously served as a missionary at-large to the deaf in the Synod’s Nebraska District (1989-2000), and as a missionary to the deaf in Ghana (1997-98).
He graduated from Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn., in 1985, and received his M.Div. degree in 1989 from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The seminary’s seven-year-old Deaf Institute of Theology trains deaf and hard-of-hearing LCMS members as pastors, deaconesses, and lay leaders. Courses are conducted online or through DVDs, with sign-language video clips, and the seminary track includes mentoring by a local pastor. Students also gather on the Concordia Seminary campus each spring for a weeklong seminar.
The DIT program expects to graduate its first pastor and deaconess next May, and six students are beginning the seminary program next spring.
Also available through the DIT is “DeafPah!,” a program designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing laypeople who want to learn more about their faith and how to share it with others.
“Pah!” is an expression “signed” — and often said — by deaf people when they suddenly understand something, similar to the hearing person’s “aha!,” according to Reinke, who was born with hearing loss and wears a hearing aid.
Only 2 percent of the more than 3 million deaf people in the United States — and less than 1 percent of the world’s 100 million deaf people — “know the story of Jesus Christ,” he says. “Deaf people and deaf ministry are often hidden.”
About 60 LCMS congregations provide “signed” worship services for the deaf, and the Synod’s roster of professional workers includes seven hearing-impaired pastors, as well as six deacons and lay ministers with hearing loss. About 20 LCMS pastors conduct worship services in sign language, according to Reinke, and he encourages other pastors with hearing-impaired members to get involved in DeafPah! “and use this for training their own deaf people.”
The training, he said, “makes a big difference in the faith life” of those who cannot hear. DeafPah! currently has about 100 students.
A number of resources for the deaf are available free online, including “signed” Bible stories, video clips showing how to “sign” religious words, information about upcoming mission trips and regional training conferences, and “live” Sunday worship services for the deaf.
For information about the Deaf Institute of Theology — including a list of classes and online registration — visit the Web site www.deafleaders.org. Or contact Reinke at email@example.com or (608) 436-9600.
Posted Oct. 25, 2006