Worship through the sound of silence is a foreign concept to many Christians, but not to the Praising Hands Worship Team.
BATON ROUGE – Worship through the sound of silence is a foreign concept to many Christians, but not to the Praising Hands Worship Team. The deaf group from the First Baptist Deaf Church of Baton Rouge may worship in literal silence, but their hands shout praises to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their form of worship is beautiful and infectious.
“This is the first time in over 40 years in deaf ministry that I’ve seen the deaf minister to the hearing,” evangelist Arnold Austin said. “It’s the first deaf group I’ve been a part of that enthusiastically sing praises to God.”
Enthusiasm is an understatement. The Praising Hands tell a story that is reflected in their faces. Sometimes tears flow as they sing about a savior who willingly gave his life to redeem them from their sins. Joy and thanksgiving create an aura of expectancy.
The worship team recently traveled to Pine, La., to lead a hearing congregation at Pine First Baptist in a weekend revival. Two cultures separated by a gulf of silence came together and allowed the Holy Spirit to bridge that chasm.
“I was a bit apprehensive about this revival,” Pine member Sandy Duplantis admitted. “I didn’t know what to expect. But this has been a wonderful experience. The Holy Spirit has really ministered to me as I joined them in praising God.”
“This is probably the most animated worship our church has experienced,” Pastor Wayne Cook said. “We’ve tried to teach the congregation a sign song from time to time, but this is different. People are joining the team in signing when they can, while raising their voices in song. I’ve never seen so many hands raised in a worship service before.”
One member of the Pine congregation, Faith Terrell, is deaf.
She has been teaching a sign language class on Sunday afternoons for over a year. About four faithful students have learned enough sign language that they can now communicate with Faith. A couple of them even fill in when the regular interpreter, who learned to sign in a similar class ten years ago, is absent.
The Pine Sign Language Class attended a worship service in Bogalusa where the Praising Hands Worship Team led in worship and Pastor Arnold preached. They returned to Pine and recommended that the church invite the deaf evangelism team to lead a revival.
Faith in particular was enthusiastic. She headed up the committee to arrange housing and food for the visiting team.
During the revival the Holy Spirit broke down barriers of apprehension, not only between deaf and hearing, but between rural and urban, and black and white.
All of the team members are urban. Most of them are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing. But all are God’s children.
Christ transcends barriers. He unites the hearing and deaf into family. Both groups realized this as they worshipped and fellowshipped together.
“God uses us to bring unity and healing to congregations,” Pastor Arnold said. “I don’t know why He’s chosen to use us that way, but He has.”
Any church interested in inviting the Praising Hands Worship Team to their church can contact Arnold and Elaine Austin at 225-485-3872 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.