Key points:

  • Bishop John Wesley Yohanna welcomed the new congregation, First Wesleyan United Methodist Church of the Deaf.
  • Members of the Deaf community began gathering for worship together seven years ago.
  • The congregation’s 30 members had belonged to several mainline denominations, as well as nondenominational churches, before joining the new church.

The Nigeria Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church recently welcomed its first church of the Deaf.

Resident Bishop John Wesley Yohanna introduced the new congregation, First Wesleyan United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Mutum Biyu, Gassol, in Taraba State.

Deacon Albert A. Pena, the first ordained Deaf pastor in The United Methodist Church in Nigeria, said the congregation’s 30 members had belonged to several mainline denominations, as well as nondenominational churches, before joining the new church.

Yohanna asked the congregation, “Do you believe that God is calling you to worship in The United Methodist Church? If so, can I hear you affirm that?” Signing in unity, all responded, “Yes, we believe.”

The congregation shared in Holy Communion and songs of praise.

The bishop appointed Pena as pastor in charge, under the supervision of the Rev. Philip Audu, Taraba West District superintendent.

Felicia David, coordinator of ministry with the physically challenged, thanked Yohanna and other leaders for their support through the Southern Nigeria Conference evangelism ministry. All played a role in the actualization of the ministry. David presented a token donation to help support the new congregation.

In his homily of hope, Yohanna declared, “Time is coming when no one shall be physically challenged.” Reading from Matthew 11:1-11, he recalled a conversation between Jesus and a follower of John the Baptist. Jesus advised, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Nigeria Bishop John Wesley Yohanna (behind table) inaugurates the new church. The new congregation has 30 members. Photo by Ezekiel Ibrahim, UM News.
Nigeria Bishop John Wesley Yohanna (behind table) inaugurates the new church. The new congregation has 30 members. Photo by Ezekiel Ibrahim, UM News.

He assured the congregation that Jesus came to liberate. “We need only believe in God,” Yohanna said. “One day, we will be healed of every kind of challenge when Jesus returns to take us home. We will be like Jesus as we all dwell in his presence.”

Pena thanked the bishop, David, director of evangelism the Rev. John Simon Jatutu and Southern Nigeria Conference leaders for the successful establishment of the church. He also expressed gratitude to the Rev. Chan Kim for his immense support to the ministry of the Deaf.

In a 2015 speech at Banyam Theological Seminary, Pena said creating a new church for the Deaf was essential. “About 80% of them,” he said, “either take solace with a nearby church, where they are half-fed or become passive Christians because of lack of a good shepherd.”

The Deaf congregation began gathering for worship seven years ago.

Using sign language, Patricia Joseph said, “I am very happy with the response of The United Methodist Church, who welcomed us into their family. Our dream of becoming a church is fulfilled today. Glory be to God!”

Ezekiel Ibrahim is the communicator for the Nigeria episcopal office.

News media contact: Julie Dwyer at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umnews.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.