How a church's Deaf ministry is sharing the Gospel with the Deaf community

Attendees participate in a deaf ministry at Redemption Hill Church in South Hills, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Attendees participate in a deaf ministry at Redemption Hill Church in South Hills, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. | Courtesy Redemption Hill Church

Correction Appended

A Deaf and hard-of-hearing Pennsylvania couple is helping to lead a ministry for the deaf community and encouraging churches to understand the needs of those hard of hearing in their communities.

Pittsburgh residents Matt and Megan Chopek, who both experienced hearing loss before age 5 and are now in their 30s, have served in the Deaf Life Gatherings at Redemption Hill Church in Jefferson Hills since January 2023. 

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Using their past painful experiences in a previous church they briefly attended, the couple is working to break down "false" stigmas through the ministry in hopes other Deaf people won't experience the "church hurt" they have suffered.

The Chopeks, along with an American Sign Language (ASL) fluent ministry 
leader and his wife, in conjunction with the oversight of Redemption Hill 
Church of Pittsburgh, has spearheaded the Deaf ministry at the church. 

“We just want to let Deaf people know God doesn't care if you're deaf. He loves us. His concern is your heart, your sin, where you're going after you die, whether that’s Heaven or not,” Matt Chopek told The Christian Post. 

The Chopeks know firsthand there are issues with how some churches minister to the Deaf community, and there are not nearly enough Deaf ministries across the nation. 

“There's so many people that are Deaf, who have had their own painful experiences or issues with experiencing hurt within the Church. But, another issue is that there is also a low percentage of the Deaf community that knows the Gospel nationally,” Megan Chopek said. 

“Maybe they grew up going to church, or they tried to go to church later on. However, a common issue experienced is that there are no ASL interpreters at the churches they try to attend. This creates a massive language barrier between them and everyone else who is hearing in the churches." 

'Being renewed in Christ' 

Megan Chopek was 7 years old when she discovered she was hard of hearing after failing a hearing test at school. Matt Chopek said he discovered he was deaf at age 3. 

In 2019, Matt Chopek had cochlear implant surgery. Since the procedure, he has been able to hear some sounds with a cochlear implant, but he is still considered legally deaf.  

The Chopeks believe that if God wills it, He can still heal in the same way He did in biblical times when several deaf people were given the supernatural ability to hear.

However, the two agree that some churches focus too much on the “deafness” needing to be healed, instead of focusing on a Deaf person’s relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Many Deaf people who experienced ‘church hurt’ have understood the Gospel 
to mean that Jesus will not accept them unless they are healed and become 
hearing again. This is a huge misunderstanding. Deaf people need to see the 
Gospel in their language of ASL to know that Jesus loves them as they are but 
wants to free them from their sins,” said Megan Chopek. 

“It’s difficult because there are many Deaf people who don't understand this due to the way the Church has wired them to think. A large part of the Deaf community involves how we all identify with our shared 'deafness.' The culture is really strong. We are really tied to our Deaf identity,” Matt Chopek said.

“We need to figure out and say to ourselves, ‘Yes, God loves you. Yes, you are Deaf. That's fine. But that's not the priority of your identity. God wants you to understand the priority of your identity should be involved in Him.' And that's huge. It's a lot to think about and change. That is a current struggle within the Deaf community,” he continued. 

Matt Chopek said he can't fully understand why God allowed him to become deaf from a young age. However, he said he knows God had a purpose and a plan for Him to take “the gift and share the Gospel in American Sign Language  with others.”  

“He gave this to me. He gave me the ability to reach out to people. God can use anything to share the Gospel, to allow people to see who He is. At the same time, whether a person is blind, deaf or has a mental health issue, I believe that God can do healing miracles,” Matt Chopek said. 

“I think He allowed us to have specific things happen — specific illnesses, cancer, so forth, whatever — to use these for His glory, to advance the Gospel.”

God gives certain skill sets to certain individuals for an ultimate reason as part of His grand plan, Megan Chopek said.  

“We're not going to just sit back and do nothing with the skills. We're going to go ahead and make disciples. Even if God can heal hearing, I'm still not sure why He hasn’t healed this," she said, pointing at her ears. "But, He's impacted my heart. That's the point." 

Church hurt that cuts deep

Megan and Matt Chopek said before they started attending Redemption Hill, they experienced their own “church hurt” from a previous church they briefly attended. 

“There was a small Deaf community in the area where our previous church was already established, and they had an ASL interpreter set up, and everything seemed fine. But, the interpreter left the church and the Deaf community just crumbled and they left the church also,” Matt Chopek said.  

“It's hard because we were building a good relationship, and having that relationship was vital. We had also been working closely together with brothers and sisters in Christ. There was a lot of signing. There was a lot of learning. There was a lot of praying together. Then, the interpreter left, and everything just dissolved. There was nothing there anymore. And the two of us recognized that,” he added. 

“We were like, ‘Where do we go? What do we do?’ It was really hard. We had to pick up from that because we didn't know where to go."

“Everything just didn't work out. It was just really hard. It was hard to communicate. That was tough. And we lost understanding of what was going on. That connection was gone when the interpreter left. Everything evolved, and we were just left," Megan Chopek added.

A glimmer of hope in ministry 

The Chopeks said it took them a while to pick up where they left off and find a new church home in Redemption Hill because few churches offer ASL interpreters and other options to meet the needs of the Deaf population. 

“This church, right now, wow. The senior pastor took the time to learn who we were even before my cochlear. He would pray for us. They saw and learned the situation. When I was struggling, they made the time to learn to sign,” Matt Chopek said.  

“The senior pastor himself, really, he had no plans to learn how to sign. But understanding my situation, he went ahead and started picking up signing. And now, we have really good conversations with the pastor,” he added.  

“Before, he had no plans to sign at all. But, after he learned there was a need, he has since built that skill through training. He takes the time to make an effort to be able to communicate with Deaf people. Because it’s really the Holy Spirit. I mean, he has [the Holy Spirit]. He identified the situation. He didn't ignore it. He moves forward boldly in every situation,” Megan Chopek added.

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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