Last weekend I was blessed to fellowship and preach at the Deaf ministry at Lavaca First Baptist Church in Lavaca, Arkansas. Tonja and I traveled together while our girls got to spend some quality time with their grandparents. It was quite a blessing traveling with her as we explored parts of Oklahoma and NW Arkansas. The fall colors are out and the hills did indeed declare the glory of God!

Lavaca is a small town just south of Fort Smith and a beautiful country surrounds it. I would call it a suburb, but I am not sure if that is what it is. Lavaca FBC has such a broad ministry for a church of that size (2000 members), but many, I believe, come from the surrounding towns and Fort Smith. One of it’s ministries is the Hands in Christ Deaf Ministry , led by Dee Mathes, which only began a few years ago, but has blossomed into a blessing for the surrounding deaf community. It is truely a blessing to Lavaca and Fort Smith as it moves to educate the area of the Deaf culture and teaches sign language to the community and public safety officers. In fact, there was a graduation for the medical and law enforcement personnel on Monday. Dee told me Lavaca is the only town where all the firemen can communicate in sign. Indeed, that is quite an accomplishment!

The ministry has so much to offer the surrounding Deaf community and also the state of Arkansas. Tonja and I figured that the two main deaf ministries in NW Arkansas, Lavaca and Bethel Fellowship, were about 15 years in the making, but they both started less than three years ago. That told us a lot.

While the ministry is great, it is not without its problems. I was surprised at how bad the education of the deaf is in the area. The lack of qualified interpreters in the mainstream programs has greatly hindered the advancement of education among the local deaf population and it also hurts the ability of many deaf to receive and learn fluent ASL. If a deaf person cannot read or write or even sign, how can one communicate the gospel to him? Much prayer is needed for an improvement in the education for the Deaf in Arkansas and for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In all, Tonja and I had (what a good friend likes to call) a foretaste of heaven while we were in Lavaca. We look forward to returning one day and give many thanks to those who were so kind to us during our visit.

 Grace and peace,