Shouts of joy filled the auditorium of the Christian Mission for the Deaf Centre on Apata Street, in the Somolu area of Lagos State, on Sunday, as worshippers showed gratitude to God for their new building.
Although it was a mostly deaf congregation, PUNCH Metro observed as women, children and men leaped and burst into shouts of hallelujah whenever a man who stood on the stage made a particular gesture.
Our correspondent noted that unlike in the conventional church, the congregation never closed their eyes while praying, as they relied on their sight to participate in the service.
The Chairman of the centre and Head of the Board of Elders, Amos Akeju, said they were excited because since the establishment of the centre by an American missionary, Dr Andrew Foster, in 1970, they had never had an ultra-modern structure.
Akeju, who spoke with our correspondent in sign language while a woman interpreted, said the new two-storeyed building was completed in August 2017 with the support of the Good Shepherd Society of the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja.
He said, “The American missionary who established the centre was a deaf man. When he heard that there was no church for the deaf in Africa, he visited Ghana and founded one.
“He came to Nigeria in 1960 and established a school for the deaf in Ibadan, Oyo State. After establishing a church for the deaf in Enugu and Kaduna, he came to Lagos and started a church in the house of another missionary. We were only 10 members then. We moved to ECWA House, Yaba, where we spent about 30 years.
“But after we left the ECWA House, we didn’t know where to go. We raised money from our members both at home and abroad, and bought a plot of land in Somolu. We renovated the bungalow we met on the ground and started worshipping there, while hoping for funds to build a befitting centre.
“One day, a cleric in the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral, Ikeja, passed by and saw that there was a church for the deaf here. He worshipped with us and was moved with compassion. He promised to help us.”
He said the church leader connected them with the Good Shepherd Society, which assisted with funds for the construction of the multi-purpose building.
“The challenge we now have is that most of our members are coming from far distances and it’s difficult for them to get to church on time. If we can get a bus, we will be able to pick them from their homes.
“Also, the deaf in Nigeria lack opportunities. We appeal to the government and organisations in the country not to discriminate against us. We can also be trained to be self-reliant. When the deaf are trained, they will have their own business. We don’t want our members to be begging on the streets of Lagos,” he added.
The church’s guest minister, Dr Adekunle Oresegun, of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Bethel Place, Onipanu, urged Nigerians to always give thanks no matter the condition they found themselves.
“I also want to appeal to Nigerians to care for the handicapped. They should never be stigmatised on account of their disabilities. Parents should not abandon their disabled children. God has a purpose for everyone.”