An Auslan-interpreted (sign language in Australia) session of Road to Bethlehem made it possible for deaf individuals to experience firsthand the walkthrough dramatization of the story of Jesus’ birth. Held at Mountain View Adventist College (MVAC) in Sydney on November 26, 2023, the inclusive initiative was a partnership between Christian Services for the Blind & Hearing Impaired (CSFBHI) and MVAC.
The 7 p.m. session, especially tailored for the Deaf community, included seven adults and five children, ranging from young families to retirees. Among them was a deaf-blind woman who engaged with the event through her senses of touch and smell, particularly enjoying the free petting zoo. “She expressed how the experience brought to life the stories she had read in her braille Bible,” said Coralie Schofield, CSFBHI coordinator.
The idea for the initiative came from Jessica Stekla, intern pastor with the Greater Sydney Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who connected with the Deaf community through her pastoral work. “It was a perfect way to bridge the gap between the church and the Deaf community, especially during a universally celebrated event like Christmas,” she said.
Run alongside a regular group, the Auslan-interpreted session was also an opportunity to bring awareness. “It was likely the first exposure for many people to meeting a deaf person before,” said Stekla. According to her, the regular group became more aware of the adjustments made for the deaf group as the session progressed. “I noticed the group becoming more mindful of them each time to accommodate for a standing area to the side, making sure they could all see the interpreter while moving around each location.”
Stekla added, “Hopefully, seeing this in action can inspire people from the Adventist community to learn more about the opportunities we have in reaching an otherwise unreached population and even looking into learning some Auslan for themselves!”
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The original version of this story was posted on the Adventist Record website.