Eva Bevan (Deaf) shares:
You’ll notice that my name reads differently from other people. I’m deaf and this is how I always sign it. I’m from Hungary, have always been deaf and use Auslan – the sign language for the deaf in Australia.
For over nine years my husband Colin and I have been going to Africa for short-term missionary work. But up until a couple of years ago most of the work in Africa had been with ‘hearing people’ – those with no hearing difficulties. Colin would preach and teach but because there was often no interpreter for me, I had become bored.
During those earlier years, however, we had been building a relationship with unsaved deaf in Beira Mozambique. The spoken language in Mozambique is Portuguese and over the time I had been able to learn the sign language and communicate with the deaf.
Nevertheless, as there had been little progress with the deaf I was not feeling like going to Africa and just staying home to teach Auslan here.
But Malachi 1:13 (Message Bible) challenges: ‘When you say, “I’m bored this doesn’t do anything for me” …Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!’
God is interested in everyone – including the deaf generation – hearing the gospel. And he suddenly changed my attitude of boredom in an amazing way when we returned to Beira in August 2011!
God stepped in!
There had been a move of God and our first meeting was at a hearing church where Colin was to speak. The pastor had invited 27 deaf along and eleven young men came. Colin preached in English which was then interpreted into Sena for the hearing. His sister interpreted to Auslan and then I interpreted to Mozambique sign language. Eight deaf young men gave their lives to the Lord. Then God moved in and began to replace my boredom with a passion to minister to the deaf in areas of Africa.
Eva with the deaf at Beira
Then, the following day I started to teach the deaf from the Bible. Each afternoon for about two to three hours I would teach them from God’s word. Initially it was only young men, so I asked them where the deaf girls were. Later the deaf girls started to attend the Bible study and many of them have been saved. I continued to teach them and share the gospel with them. After about six weeks of teaching them, about 30 deaf people had been saved.
As we were returning home Colin said that we should return soon to establish a church for the deaf. Consequently about five weeks after we returned home we were on our way back to Beira Mozambique.
Of the new converts we felt we knew who was to be the leader of the group and when we spoke to Joào, who had only been saved about three months, he told us that he knew God had called him to that position. We were able to establish the church with leadership and put it under the care of a hearing pastor, the one who had originally invited the deaf to come to his hearing church.
On that trip we baptised 12 of the new believers in water.
The Spirit baptises the deaf
We then returned to Beira in June the following year and as usual I was teaching the deaf every afternoon. More deaf were saved and I also started to teach them about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. One afternoon the Spirit fell and initially four of the deaf received the Spirit, ‘speaking’ a new language with their hands!
The evidence of the move of the Holy Spirit was so great that as the deaf left to go home they didn’t just walk through the village – they danced praising God with their sign language. Even those who hadn’t yet been baptised in the Spirit were so moved by the presence of God that they too danced alongside!
The deaf praising God as they journey home
Two deaf single mothers requested that their babies be dedicated and so one Sunday afternoon Colin spoke and then dedicated the children to God. We also baptised another nine deaf in water at this time.
We also witnessed an amazing healing as one of the deaf men who had a severe back problem testified strongly about how since he was filled with the Spirit, God had healed his back and he was so happy.
As Colin was not able to go to Beira with me in November I returned to the deaf with Joy Williams from our church. Again God moved among the deaf with more salvations. There have now been 42 decisions for the Lord among the deaf since the initial move of God months ago.
Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world and I was concerned that the deaf, even after being saved, were still not showing the joy of the Lord.
So I started to teach them about the joy of the Lord and shared my testimony of how God had given me joy after going through a very difficult time in my life. The Holy Spirit moved among the deaf and they all started to laugh and laugh. God is so good to them.
The growing of any new church for the deaf has some problems; however we look to God to protect these precious people. We planned to send some deaf to Bible school in the future and believed to find a hearing interpreter who would work with the deaf.
Enthused and excited
I had become so excited to see what God is doing among the deaf. My attitude had gone from boredom to passion. My newfound enthusiasm spurred me to believing that I’d soon be returning to Africa.
In fact we have returned a number of times and witnessed God in action bringing about salvations, healings and Spirit baptisms among precious deaf people.
Since the start of the first deaf church in Beira we have been asked to go to Malawi and Zimbabwe. Over the last two years we have seen four new churches for the deaf in Malawi and have been involved in existing and new churches for the deaf in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. We have also been able to minister to disabled people in these countries and look forward to our visit next year when we are planning with the churches there for more churches among the deaf and disabled.
Eva leading worship as Colin baptises deaf young people
The deaf are a whole generation that needs our love and to be introduced to Jesus. God has given us great favour with several churches and schools. We have seen quite a number of deaf accept Jesus as Saviour, friend and baptiser in the Spirit.
If you’re feeling bored as you follow Jesus, I encourage you to ask God to give you a new direction that will give you much personal satisfaction, adventure and joy as you see lives changed.
We can make a difference to many others by encouraging them in some way. One time, on one of his journeys abroad, Paul and his companions were asked, ‘Friends, Do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?’ (Acts 13:15 Message). He had – and he took the opportunity.
Acts 20:2 tells a similar story: ‘Travelling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.’
This month we were sharing in our local church about our most recent mission’s trip to Africa, how God miraculously protected us, gave us great favour with leaders and how several were saved. Colin challenged every hearer in respect of following Jesus with Haggai 1:5 repeated in verse 7(NIV), ‘Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”’
I believe we can all be passionate about touching the hearts of others whether deaf or hearing, that we all need to consider our ways in respect of following Jesus and the needs of every generation.
Eva and Colin Bevan fellowship at Waterfront Christian Church, Geelong. Those interested in their Ministry to the Deaf are welcome to phone Colin Bevan on 0418 232 661 or 03 52295799