How the deaf church ministry shares the Gospel with those who hear

A deaf Pennsylvania couple helps lead a ministry for the deaf community and encourages churches to understand the needs of the hard of hearing in their communities.

Pittsburgh residents Megan and Matt Chopek, who both became deaf before the age of 5 and are now in their 30s, have served in the Deaf Life Gatherings at Redemption Hill Church in Jefferson Hills since October 2018.

Using their past painful experiences in their previous church, the couple works to break down “false” stigmas throughout the ministry in hopes that other deaf people will not experience the “church injury” they suffered.

The Chopeks led the deaf ministry at Redemption Hill along with an American Sign Language fluent ministry leader.

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

The Chopeks know firsthand that there are problems with how some churches serve the deaf community, and there aren't nearly enough deaf ministries across the nation.

“There are so many people who are deaf, and they have had their own painful experiences or problems of experiencing hurt in the Church. But another thing is that there is also a low percentage of the deaf community that knows the Gospel nationwide,” said Megan Chopek.

“Maybe they grew up going to church, or they tried to go to church later. However, a common thing experienced is that there are no interpreters at the churches they try to attend to do sign language for them. That creates a massive language barrier between them and everyone else who hears in the churches.”

“Be healing spiritually”

Megan Chopek was 4 years old when she discovered she was legally deaf after failing a hearing test at school. Matt Chopek said he discovered he was deaf at the age of 3.

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

The Chopeks believe that God can still heal in the same way He did in biblical times when several deaf people received the supernatural ability to hear.

However, the two agree that churches should not promote the notion that “healing is for everyone,” and if someone is not healed, they “lack a strong enough connection to God.”

“Many deaf people associate the Gospel as just a message about the sick becoming healthy, and they fail to understand that the Gospel is not always about becoming healthy physically. But, it's mainly about being spiritually healthy,” said Megan Chopek.

“It's hard because there are many deaf people who don't understand this because of the way the Church has wired them to think. A large part of the deaf community involves how we all identify with something specific while being within the community. The culture is really strong. We're really attached to our deaf identity,” said Matt Chopek.

“We have to find out and say to ourselves, 'Yes, God loves you. Yes, you are deaf. That's fine. But that is not the priority of your identity. God wants you to understand that the priority of your identity should be involved in Him.' And that is huge. It's a lot to think about and change. The deaf community is struggling with that now,” he continued.

Matt Chopek said he can't fully understand why God allowed him to become deaf at 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 sign language with others.”

“He gave this to me. He gave me the ability to contact 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 problem, I believe God can perform healing miracles,” said Matt Chopek.

“I think He allowed us to bring about specific things – specific diseases, cancer, etc., whatever – to use these for His glory, to advance the Gospel.”

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

“We should not just sit back and do nothing with the skills. We will go forth and make disciples. Even if God can heal hearing, I'm still not sure why He didn't heal this,” she said, pointing to her ears. “But, He hit my heart. That's the point.”

A church wound that cuts deep

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

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

“It's hard because we built a good relationship, and having that relationship was essential. We also worked 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 we both recognized that,” he added.

“We were like, 'Where are we going?' What should we do?' It was really hard. We had to pick up from that because we didn't know where to go. If I remember correctly, everything just dissolved.”

“Everything just didn't work out. It was just really hard. It was difficult to communicate. That was difficult. And we lost track of what happened. That relationship was gone when the interpreter left. Everything evolved, and we just stayed. The priest did nothing to help with the matter, which was the most painful part about it,” Megan Chopek added.

A glimmer of hope in ministry

The Chopeks said they took time to pick up where they left off and find a new church home in Redemption Hill because few churches offer 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 priest himself, really, he didn't plan to learn how to sign. But understanding my situation, he went ahead and started taking signature. And now we have really good conversations with the priest,” he added.

“Before, he had no plans to sign at all. But, once he found out there was a need, he then built that skill through training. He takes the time to try to be able to communicate with deaf people. Because it really is the Holy Spirit. I mean, he has [the Holy Spirit]. He identified the situation. He didn't ignore it. He moves forward bravely in every situation,” Megan Chopek added.


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