Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Bringing Graham's message to the hearing-impaired

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

        Even those who can't hear him will be able to share in the Rev. Billy Graham's message this week.

        The Rev. Dwight Swim, pastor of the 62-member Erlanger Baptist Deaf Mission in Kentucky, has been coordinating efforts to prepare for the deaf and hearing-impaired and to encourage them to take part in the mission.

        “I think it's so important (to be inclusive) because we are one body in Christ. We may have different needs, but we all believe in one Savior,” said the Rev. Mr. Swim, who is deaf. “Hearing people need to know Jesus saved all of us, even the deaf.”

        The Rev. Mr. Swim, 52, was named in January to chair a deaf and hearing-impaired committee for the mission this weekend. He spoke Monday with the help of an interpreter, Dawn Cartwright, at Paul Brown Stadium.

        An area of 1,000 seats has been set aside in Section 124, near Gate B, for the hearing-impaired and family and friends who attend with them. Greeters with signing experience will direct the hearing-impaired to the special section.

        The Rev. Mr. Swim and his committee have been working to fill those 1,000 seats, contacting people throughout the Midwest by phone, e-mail and letter to invite them.

        Ms. Cartwright and Nancy Basil, both from Cincinnati State Technical & Community College, worked with the Rev. Mr. Swim to coordinate the 58 interpreters who will be on hand for the event's four days. There will be American Sign Language users, Pidgin Sign English users, deaf-blind interpreters and other hearing-impaired users.

        A staff of five to seven certified interpreters will trade off to sign the sermons, music and readings and will stand on a platform in front of the special section.

        “It'll be a straight line-of-sight to the stage, so they can see both Billy Graham and the interpreters,” the Rev. Mr. Swim said.

        Live captioning will also be available for people who would prefer to read along with the Rev. Mr. Graham's message.

        Interpreters have also been trained as counselors and ministers to the hearing-impaired.

        “If they come to the Billy Graham mission, there will be lots of opportunity to know Christ,” the Rev. Mr. Swim said. “There's not going to be any communication barriers whatsoever.”

        The Rev. Mr. Swim was attending a church for the deaf in Michigan and working for a car company in 1981 when he got a calling from God, he said Monday.

        After three weeks of restless sleep and hours of consultation with local ministers, the Rev. Mr. Swim decided to become a minister.

        “I really resisted at first. I was shy. I thought I didn't have the right personality to be a minister,” the Rev. Mr. Swim said. “Then I surrendered to God's will for my life instead of my will for my life, and I was at peace.”


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