100 years of Seventh-day Adventist Deaf Community in Germany

100 years of Seventh-day Adventist Deaf Community in Germany

Picture BIWO Gerd Wildemann

August 21, 2019 | APD, CD-EUDNews. Pictures BIWO, Gerd Wildemann, Bettina Wesselow

Hamburg, Germany. On August 3, 2019, at the Grindelberg Advent House in Hamburg, the German Adventist Deaf Community organised the Centenary Ceremony of their existence in Germany under the motto "Today, still living with Jesus?"

Beginnings in Bremen

On April 11, 1919 in Bremen, Margarete Heine (later Puich) joined the Adventist Church through an adult baptism. With her, the Adventist deaf mission began in Germany in 1919.

Margarete Heine was born in 1894 as a hearing child of deaf parents. In order to be able to communicate with her parents, and as the eldest of six children of the Heine family, she learned sign language very early in life. At the age of 24, she learned about faith in Jesus Christ through Giesecke, an Adventist. As a nanny, Margarete Heine looked after the Pohl family with their deaf children, Else and Hilda, and told them about her faith.

In January 1920, Mrs. Pohl, Else and Hilda’s mother, was the first deaf person baptized and admitted to the Bremen Adventist Church. At age 26, Margarete met the deaf Berliner Carl Puich. He was a socialist and did not believe in God. That changed, however, and he was baptized on December 20, 1920. Four days later, Carl and Margarete were married. The wedding was performed in sign language by the Adventist pastor Müller from Magdeburg.

Carl Puich was the first Deaf Adventist Evangelist in Germany. In 1921, he began to study the Bible with deaf people. His wife, Margarete, translated the Bible discussion and the sermon every Sabbath (Saturday), during the service. At the age of 35. Margarete Puich was also sworn in as a sign language interpreter in the courts. Her interpreting activities were not limited to Bremen. She was also called to assist doctors and authorities. For over 50 years, Margarete worked tirelessly to serve deaf people. Carl Puich died in 1966, his wife in 1982.

Expansion of the Adventist deaf community
In 1974, the first release of the deaf Bible took place at Bergheim Mühlenrahmede, in the Sauerland, with Horst-Dieter Meyer and guest speaker Pastor Heinz Hopf. It was the start of the Adventist annual meetings for the Deaf, at the federal level.

In 1976, Georg Pietruska was commissioned as interpreter and coordinator for Adventist interpreters. He organized interpreting courses in the Adventist churches from 1976 to 1996. Pastor Gerhard Freitag became official Commissioner for the Adventist Deaf from 1987 to 1990. In 1992, Pastor Gerd Wildemann became the second official Federal Commissioner for the Deaf. In 2013, the first Seventh-day Adventist International Deaf Congress took place in Collonges sous-Salève, France. In 2015, the first international sign language interpreter course for the Sign Language International Sign Language (ISL) took place in Seville, Spain, followed by an International Adventist Deaf Congress, always in Seville on 2016.

Global service for the deaf
According to Gerd Wildemann, there are 250 to 300 million deaf people worldwide, of whom only two to four percent are Christians. Therefore, the Seventh-day Adventist World Conference (General Conference) first appointed a deaf pastor, Jeff Jordan from Collegedale, Tennessee, USA, as the Honorary Associate Coordinator for Deaf Ministry. He will serve as a global counselor, trainer, and evangelist to support the fast-growing worldwide Adventist work for the Deaf. Pastor Jordan has a degree in theology and is active in deaf church congregations.

According to Pastor Wildemann, special Adventist services for the Deaf presently exist in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, USA, and other European and worldwide countries.

“In my opinion, this event was important, because we, as Adventist deaf community in Germany, can look back gratefully on a long history,” said Gerd Wildemann, leader of the Deaf Ministry in Germany. “With events such as the 100th anniversary celebration in Hamburg, we draw attention to the situation of the deaf in our Adventist Church and strengthen their faith.” Guests included deaf pastors Douglas da Silva, from Brazil, and Jeff Jordan, from USA.

Wildemann thanks God for the protecting the past, for the opportunities of the present and for the encouragement into the future.

“We especially thank our World Church Leadership (General Conference) for their support. We thank the two deaf pastors, Douglas da Silva, from Brazil, and Pastor Jeffrey Jordan, from the US, for their encouragement and spiritual instruction.”

The Deaf Bible Week was attended by 43 participants (33 deaf, 10 hearing). More than 50 deaf people were present at the jubilee service. Some deaf people were there whom we had not seen for many years. “The joy was great,” said Wildemann. “We look to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds. How great the joy will be to see everyone again.”

“I don't know how many Adventist communities of deaf people in the world can claim to be celebrating a centenary. This event fills with joy not only our deaf German friends, but also all the other Adventist communities of deaf people in Europe, who follow in their footsteps” affirmed Corrado Cozzi, Adventist Deaf Ministry coordinator in Inter-European Region. 

See the video report here 

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