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God's Timing --Deaf ministry grows into own church

Messenger-Inquirer - 1/18/2020

Jan. 18--Danny Hinton speaks with his hands as easily as he does with his mouth.

And every Sunday, Hinton leads a worship service that caters to the deaf, and those with other disabilities, as the pastor of Gospel Community Church, which currently meets at the H.L. Neblett Community Center at 801 W. Fifth St.

However, the congregation will be moving to its permanent church home at 1205 W. Ninth St. after renovations are completed.

"There are only 39 to 42 deaf churches in the United States trying to reach deaf and hard-of-hearing people; every one of those -- minus one or two -- meet in a Sunday school room of a larger church," Hinton said. "I never imagined we'd have our own church or our own building."

Hinton, 43, is neither deaf nor hard-of-hearing but learned sign language as a youth when his parents considered adopting a deaf child who was part of a special-needs program in Kentucky.

He grew up around deaf people while his parents also taught sign language classes.

"I interpreted most of my young life; we knew deaf people and had deaf people in our neighborhood," Hinton said. "At age 13, I interpreted my first baby delivery."

In 2005, Hinton attended the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta that's geared toward the newest generation of church leaders.

It was there Hinton learned that deaf people were among the top four unreached groups in the world without access to the Gospel.

"Finding out that they were the fourth largest unreached people hit home," Hinton said. "Within a couple of weeks of leaving that conference, I got a call from First Baptist Church in Bowling Green that had a deaf ministry. Their pastor had left and they asked me to come preach. I wasn't interested in being a preacher -- at all -- at that time."

Hinton would eventually answer the call to preaching to the deaf, commuting from Owensboro to Bowling Green each week as the pastor of First Baptist Church's deaf ministry.

"Deaf people were calling me asking, 'Can I ride with you to go to church'?" Hinton said. "We were bringing more deaf people to Bowling Green than we had down there so we launched here."

On Feb. 1, 2015, Gospel Community Church was planted with 12 people -- all deaf -- making up the congregation. They were initially meeting in the youth room of Pleasant Valley Community Church but quickly outgrew that space.

The church has grown to about 70 congregants, drawing not only from the county's deaf population but also people with other disabilities and those without any.

And to accommodate the growing congregation, Hinton said the decision was made to purchase the former St. Vincent de Paul warehouse on Ninth Street and to convert the 8,000-square-foot space into their home church.

"Within about five weeks, we had enough money ($104,000) to buy the church outright," Hinton said. "Other than just God's provision, there was no other way we could've bought this building."

After purchasing the property, the roof collapsed, causing a setback that took renovation funds away to pay for the repair.

However, the remodeling has since commenced with Hinton and fellow church members contributing to the work as well as donated labor for jobs such as tiling.

Nick Sheffield, a deacon with Gospel Community Church, has been a member since the beginning.

Sheffield said his wife Amanda, who has a hearing device implanted in her ear, greatly benefitted from attending the church.

"There just wasn't that accessibility of interpreters," Sheffield said. "For her to come over here, it was like a whole new world. Danny is able to sign and speak at the same time. It was just a whole lot easier for her to understand. ...Danny was able to clarify God's word."

Much progress has been made with the new church's renovations but no move-in date has been set yet.

Hinton said everything is happening within God's timing.

"It's been 2 1/2 years; it was supposed to be eight months," said Hinton about the renovations.

For anyone interested in learning sign language, Gospel Community Church offers free classes from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Neblett center.

Worship service is at 10 a.m. on Sundays inside the Neblett center's gymnasium.

Although the seating and equipment have to be removed each week, Hinton said the church has been blessed by the experience.

"I didn't want to be in a set-up and tear-down situation," Hinton said. "But when we went to the Neblett center, it was probably the best thing that could've happened for us."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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