Bishop Peggy Johnson is one of numerous people giving daily, 10-minute “UniTED Talks” at YOUTH 2015, the quadrennial national gathering for United Methodist youth groups, happening June 24-28 in Orlando, Fla. The event’s UniTED Talks are modeled on the popular TED talks typically given by experts in technology, entertainment and design.
The theme for YOUTH 2015 is “Go On,” an expression drawn from Scripture and from John Wesley’s sermons. Hebrews 6:1 invites disciples to “go on toward maturity in faith,” while John Wesley urges his followers to “go on toward Christian perfection” by participating in the means of grace, also called “acts of piety and acts of mercy.”
The Rev. Mike Slaughter, the reknown pastor of Ginghamsburg UM Church in Ohio, is one of about a dozen featured speakers and performers who will share wisdom in words, music and other forms of expression with the nearly 6,500 youth and youth leaders expected to attend.
The first UMC YOUTH gathering, which is organized by the Division on Young People’s Ministry, part of UM Discipleship Ministries (aka GBOD), took place in 1988. It is designed to teach and engage youth and their ministry leaders in meaningful, creative discourse and deeds guided by Christian faith and Wesleyan principles.
Bishop Peggy Johnson will speak on and illustrate the theme “God Can SEE a Sign-Language Prayer,” part of a series of talks on Means of Grace. She will recount her prior involvement in Deaf ministry as the pastor of Christ UM Church of the Deaf in Baltimore but also internationally through deaf mission visits to Kenya, in West Africa.
“I prayed that God would give us a chance to visit international Deaf people,” she confides in her remarks. “God answered my prayer and a team of Deaf people from my church traveled to Meru County in Kenya.” At the Kaaga School for the Deaf they discovered 300 Deaf students taught by hearing teachers and assisted by Deaf people hired to work as helpers.
One of those helpers was Margaret Mukami, who seemed more skilled than the teachers, especially since she knew sign language. What the children needed, Margaret told the visitors, was a way to attend church and learn about God.
“She told us that she felt God was calling her to be a preacher, Bishop Johnson recalls. “She prayed and prayed, and we encouraged her to pursue this calling. Then we found out that the Methodist Church there did not ordain Deaf people. The bishop said Margaret could not be a pastor because she was Deaf, and there was no way she could get the proper training because they did not provide sign language interpreters.”
After much prayer, says Bishop Johnson, “God sent us money to fly Margaret to America, and she and a Deaf woman from Canada took training classes to become ministers.
“When Margaret returned to Kenya the bishop allowed her to be a pastor. Today she serves an all-Deaf church in Meru. Many deaf people can understand the word of God because she signs her sermons to them.