Memories of Deaf Ministries (ASL)
The History of Deaf Evangelism
1965 - Alta grew up in Iowa and had met two hard of hearing men in Newton, IA, Merlin & Paul Neufarth. They would come home during holidays and school breaks and would sign to each other. Once in a while Bonnie Hanse from northern IA would come to visit them. This was Alta’s first contact with Deaf people who used sign to communicate. Because they were all hard of hearing and could speak she didn’t feel the need to learn sign language, but the seed was planted. Alta married Daniel Bradshaw and attended Apostolic Pentecostal Church (APC) at 13th & Gravois in St. Louis, MO early in their marriage.
Kenny Arnold (Deaf) had attended the church with his mother until he was a teenager, but stopped coming because he couldn’t understand. On special occasions he would come. Daniel Bradshaw felt a desire to learn sign language so he could “talk” to Kenny. Bradshaw learned a little bit of sign language so when Merlin Neufarth came to the church in St. Louis, Bradshaw turned to Merlin and asked if he understood the preaching? Merlin replied with the sign “little”. Bradshaw was willing to interpret for Merlin but didn’t know he needed it because Merlin could speak well.
At that time UPCI HQ was on Grand and Gravois close to the church, Rev. Harry Branding was pastor. Most of the HQ people like Superintendent Stanley Chambers, the Home Missions and Foreign Mission directors lived close and would attend that church when they were in town. Rev. Branding had a friend pastor in TN, Rev. Harold Hodges. They would get on the phone and brag about how many they each had in church that Sunday. One Sunday Rev. Hodges says…”guess what happen this morning in our church?” He told the story about a Deaf guy who was healed. His ears were opened. Rev. Branding was so impressed by the story he asked his friend Rev. Hodges to bring Edward Wilson to give his testimony at APC in St. Louis.
When Kenny’s mother told her Deaf son that Edward Wilson was coming to church to give his testimony about his healing – Kenny said he would come and prove that he was a fake! Kenny did come and communicated with Edward in sign and knew that he was for real. As Bradshaw was watching them and hearing Edwards testimony, he felt the burden to reach out to the Deaf. He saw Kenny respond with excitement to communication on the hands.Edward wanted to sing (sign) a special in church, but Rev. Hodges told him to wait until he had a Bible study. He finally let him sing The Old Rugged Cross. The organist didn’t know sign language so she didn’t know when he was finished. Edward dropped his hands but the organist continued to play. When she did – Edward heard for the first time and his face showed the startled expression. The entire congregation witnessed this healing and rejoiced with him.
Daniel Bradshaw went up to Bro. Branding and told him that he would really like to learn sign language to be able to talk to the Deaf. Rev. Branding told Bradshaw about anAssembly Of God minister, Rev. Brotzman, who was the Chaplin of Good Will. At that time there were not many places for Deaf people to work. In St. Louis, MO, one of the first places the Deaf would go to find a job was Good Will. They had a Deaf group who worked everyday. Rev. Brotzman would invite other church pastors to come and speak for 15 minutes and he would interpret for them. Catholic, Jewish, Pentecostal, Lutheran anyone who was willing to come. Rev. Guy Roam had a Deaf brother, so when he was invited to come and of course went. Rev. Guy Roam remarked to Rev. Branding that he should see and hear what he witnessed at Good Will. Rev. Roam asked if it was okay to invite another Pentecostal minister down the street at 13th and Gravois to come and speak. Rev. Branding went to Good Will and preached for 15 minutes. Rev. Branding asked the Assembly Of Godminister Rev. Brotzman where do you learn how to sign? Rev. Brotzman told him about a book titled Talk To The Deaf. Rev. Brotzman had just moved to St. Louis from Springfield, MO. He was a new minister in town and had just started a sign language class for his church, but no one showed up except Daniel and Alta Bradshaw from the Pentecostal Church down the street for 30 minutes, once a week. They got that book and wore it out.
1966 - Bradshaw’s took sign language classes from the AOG minister. Kenny began to come again when he saw they were really trying to learn. Rev. Branding didn’t want to set up a Deaf class with only one Deaf so he put Kenny in the teen boys class where Bradshaw was teaching. Bradshaw attempted to sign and teach at the same time.
1967 - Bonnie Hanse moved from Iowa to St. Louis, MO. Bradshaw begged her to go to his church but she told him “no” she preferred to go to the AOG church because she would be the only Deaf person and plus he was teaching children. She didn’t want to be the only adult in the class with all those children since Kenny didn’t continue coming. Bradshaw was able to give her “truth” about baptism in Jesus Name and the understanding of One God verses a trinity. That’s when she became willing to go to 13th and Gravois with all the little children. She learned allot from Bradshaw as he taught 12 yr old boys and signed to her. Bonnie was hard of hearing so she could understand English where as Kenny was ASL. Bradshaw was still learning to sign and Bonnie helped Bradshaw’s learn Pigeon Sign English (PSE) sign language. The hard of hearing were the Bradshaw’s first interpreters to the Deaf because they didn’t know how to sign ASL until later.
1968 - Bradshaw’s were appointed Deaf Ministry Coordinators for UPCI. A prayer that lives on: W.I. Black wrote in the Deaf Ministry Publication Ephphatha Aug 1976 the following: Deaf Ministry has made our church one of the most unique places in our entire fellowship. The reason for this is the ministry of Dan and Alta Bradshaw, who many years ago brought our people to the realization that they can help Deaf people.No church can be bless unless they have a burden for people from all walks of life, regardless of social standing or physical differences. Apostolic Pentecostal Church, 13th and Gravois, has been made a great church because of the deaf. They are receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost and they speak in tongues just like anyone else! We pray that this vision will reach the length and breadth of our entire fellowship. We pray that every little church by the cross roads will find out what it means to be able to reach someone with the gospel who cannot hear the preaching of the word.
1973 - The General Home Missions Division announced a second appointment of active envangelist to the Deaf Ministry. The opportunities which had opened to the United Pentecostal Church in this field necessitated the addition of personnel to introduce the ministry and exploit the possibilities. Rev. Jerry Harper, a graduate of Gateway College of Evangelism in Florissant, MO was available to assist a church in establishing an active out reach and service to the deaf community. He was able to give short term instructions to interested workers to enable them to begin an immediate outreach.
1976 - Jerry Lee Harper was appointed National Deaf Ministry coordinator. (4 yrs)
1981 - Billie Savoie was appointed National Deaf Ministry coordinator. (14 yrs)
1995 - Rev. Ernie Murillo was appointed National Deaf Ministry coordinator. He has served for the past 15 years and continues to be a blessing to this ministry.