“The time: Sunday morning. The place: Ibadan, Nigeria. Dozens of youths and young adults arrive at the Christian Center. They come by bus, taxi, bicycle and foot from different parts of this city of two million residents. Dressed modernly, they “chat” heartily among themselves …
“Anyabonouwe starts the Bible class with hymn singing. Oladipo leads in prayer. Adebayo conducts the sword-drill. Young people take turns singing solos, duets, trios, and quartets. Finally, Akeju delivers the message; the audience ably follows with open Bibles.
“What’s unusual about these young people or the meeting itself? At least two facts. All are deaf! And instead of normal sounds, everything is rendered eloquently in the sign language of the deaf, plus speech by some. Yes, here is a deaf young generation in West Africa learning and sharing the Word of God!”1 These are the words of deaf missionary to Africa, Andrew Jackson Foster.
At the age of eleven, while living in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama, Andrew contracted spinal meningitis and became permanently deaf. After attending the Alabama School for the Colored Deaf, he moved to Detroit to find better employment, and it was there that he decided to live his life for God. Foster earned two bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree from three different universities, then God directed him to the African continent. Because no mission board would accept him, Foster started his own, the Christian Mission for Deaf Africans (later called Christian Mission for the Deaf).
When Andrew Foster arrived in West Africa, he noticed that the deaf he came in contact with were not literate in signing or reading, making it hard to witness abstract truths to them. He put all his effort into starting thirty-one schools for the deaf in fifteen West African countries. The goal of each school was to educate deaf Africans in sign language and reading so that they could “hear” and read God’s Word. Sadly, Foster’s life was cut short at age sixty-two by a plane crash in Rwanda, Africa.
Foster had been told there were no Deaf in Africa, but he rejected that ridiculous information. God used him to persevere and find the hidden treasure of deaf souls in Africa. It is said that his favorite verse was Isaiah 29:18: “In that day, shall the deaf hear the words of the book.”
Andrew Foster is a great example of one who sees an important, unaccomplished task, disregards personal limitations, and by the grace of God does great things. His example is being followed today by others who are going to foreign lands in search of the unreached Deaf. There is no country on earth where missionaries to the Deaf are not desperately needed. Pray ye therefore!
1Roots out of a Dry Ground by Dr. Andrew Foster