TYLER, TX (KLTV) - There's a small church here in East Texas that just celebrated its third birthday. The music is loud and the message is clear, but the worship is unlike anything you may have ever seen. Like so many great ministries, this one started with a need.
"Well, I began asking different deaf people if they would like to have a bible study on Wednesday nights and they were saying, 'Yes they would love to' so we decided to go ahead," says Dirk Hill, Pastor of New Beginnings Deaf Fellowship.
That was in October 2011. It didn't take long for Dirk Hill to realize a bible study just wasn't enough, and New Beginnings Deaf Fellowship was born.
"There were 16 people who showed up. And we thought what would we expect the next Sunday, would they not come, but yes, every Sunday they came," said Hill.
They started meeting at Grace Community Church. Soon, they needed more space, and were led to the right place.
"At Calvary, mission is very important to us. We've been involved in mission work around the world but we wanted to do local work as well and part of that means planting churches. We were part of planting a church in Wyoming in 2007 and continued that the next year here helping plant Cross Baptist Church here in Tyler, Texas. And the month Cross left, Dirk gave me a call," said Fred Smith, Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church.
These days, New Beginnings meets at Calvary. Dirk's wife, Laura, is the worship leader and says many people are surprised by the sound.
"We turn our music up. The volume is loud. They like the beat. They can feel more involved in the worship this way. It's not me just up there leading, but they're totally involved. They have joy and it's really amazing to see," said Laura.
But more than that, the message that many deaf people have not been able to understand for so long is finally clear, because American Sign Language is visual, not spoken.
"Hearing church with an interpreter, you sit and you look but oftentimes they feel it's just kind of over their head, they're not really comprehending. In deaf church the message is so clear," said Laura.
Dirk added, "When I became involved in a deaf church, I really felt this connection. I could talk with the pastor one-on-one. He knew my language, he knew my expressions, it was cool."
Now the prayer is for more deaf churches to be planted and for Dirk to be able to do ministry full-time. That is the hope that keeps the Hill family and New Beginnings pushing forward."Even our members believe in the Power of Prayer. We tell them if you pray, God will provide. Without prayer, how will we succeed and go forward. We know that our God is in control and He will provide for East Texas," Laura said.
New Beginnings Deaf Fellowship meets on Sundays at Calvary Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m. in Tyler. Bible study is at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday nights. Hill says it is the only deaf church in East Texas with a deaf pastor that receives funding from the Southern Baptist Texas Convention and Smith Baptist Association.