— What started as a vision this year by Senior Pastor Chris Yager has turned into a reality as Master’s Hands Deaf Church will hold its first, all American Sign Language (ASL) services Sept. 12 in its new facility, 6299 Miller Rd.
Master’s Hands Deaf Church originally began as a part of Cornerstone Baptist Church, 6273 Miller Rd.
“We’ve had a deaf ministry for 15 years,” said Lay Pastor John Bienlein. “About three years ago, the deaf (at Cornerstone) decided to have their own worship and Sunday School in sign language. At that point, we started the deaf church. Pastor Yager had a vision for its own, standalone church which has been a goal of the deaf church for three years.”
Master’s Hands Deaf Church actually is housed on property owned by Cornerstone, in the brown house west of the church. The house, which was originally the pastor’s home, was previously used by the church’s youth group. After outgrowing the house, the youth moved back into the church, leaving a place for the deaf church.
“Cornerstone has been generous because they support us,” Bienlein said. “They say to bring the kids to church, and let mom and dad go to the deaf church.”
Bienlein heads Master’s Hands Deaf Church as its pastor and instructor, conducting the services in ASL for an average of 10-15 deaf parishioners who attend services each Sunday. When asked why he decided to head the deaf church, Bienlein said he learned sign language 15 years ago, along with his wife who is deaf.
“My wife and I married 28 years ago. She grew up in a hearing family, and was raised in the hearing world. She depended on lip reading and notes,” he said. “When we moved to Michigan, she realized her connection to the deaf world.” The couple took ASL together; as a second language for Bienlein and as a first language for his wife, since she did not ASL prior to learning it.
Bienlein said the church has realized its burden. “One of the largest, unreached groups with the Gospel is the deaf. It’s the burden we have,” he said. “Many times, the deaf have not felt comfortable. We need to teach them, and give them the tools to do anything they want and to do an excellent job. We don’t focus on the numbers; we focus on a person’s relationship with Jesus.”
For its first, full worship service Sept. 12, Master’s Hands Deaf Church will hold fellowship at 9:30 a.m., followed by Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. After a short break, worship will began at 11 a.m., and only last approximately an hour. In addition to Sunday services, Master’s Hands Deaf Church has an ASL Wednesday night Bible study at 6:30 p.m.