Last revised: June 25, 2012
The History of Deaf Evangelistic Adventist Fellowship
The Gospel work among the deaf in the Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church dates back to the late fifties, when Ms. Mazine Davidson began giving Bible studies to her deaf friend in sign language. Because of Ms. Davidson's witnessing to people who are deaf, Ms. Joan Hodge was baptized and joined the Seventh-day Adventist church. A committee was also formed in Silver Spring to work on behalf of the deaf ministry.
In March 1968, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Church called Pastor Arthur W. Griffith on loan from the Oregon Conference for a six-week evangelistic campaign at Gallaudet University, a leading university for the deaf in Washington D.C. The meetings focused on the "Transplanted War", which explained how sin and conflict began first in heaven and then later moved to earth, where it remains to this day, as well as God’s glorious plan to eradicate sin in the earth made new. The Holy Spirit drew a large crowd of deaf students, some of whom were later baptized and became members of the Silver Spring Church. One year later, Arthur became the first ordained deaf pastor for the Deaf in the entire Seventh-day Adventist church.
After the evangelistic series, Pastor Griffith's eldest hearing son, Alfred, came to Silver Spring to lead the ministry for the deaf and follow up on the momentum generated by the work at Gallaudet. About this time during his ministry, one ardent supporter of the deaf was Ms. Ann Schroeder, a hearing Bible worker, who devoted her time as an interpreter, song leader and a “pastor”. In 1974, Potomac Conference let Fred go; however, he remained in Silver Spring for almost a year, supporting himself by repairing appliances while serving as a lay pastor to the deaf group. In 1975, the conference called Elder Arthur W. Griffith back to pastor the Silver Spring church and he became a chaplain at Gallaudet University. After Arthur left to lead a self-supporting school for the deaf in Arkansas, his youngest hearing son, Ben came to lead the flock at Silver Spring in 1980 for a couple of years. Then Elder Raj Witteborg came to minister the congregation between 1988 and 1999 as the third deaf pastor ordained in North America.
In the year 2000, Pastor David Trexler came to lead the Silver Spring deaf congregation in fall of 2000 and functioned as the Seventh-day Adventist chaplain at Gallaudet University. This was sort of like a "homecoming for Trexler because while he was a Gallaudet student, another student who was a Seventh-day Adventist introduced him to the Voice of Prophecy Bible study lessons. As David studied the lessons and fellowshipped with other deaf students, David was baptized in the Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1969.
When Pastor Trexler started his pastoral duties in Silver Spring in 2000, the deaf group was small. The group was functioning as a department within the hearing Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist church. On March 31, 2001, thirty-two years after his baptism, David was ordained as the fifth deaf Seventh-day Adventist pastor in the same church at Silver Spring. Under his leadership, the popular annual Deaf Eastern Autumn Retreat which is now called Deaf Eastern Autumn Revival Camp Meeting (DEAR) began at Camp Blue Ridge in Virginia, providing a yearly spiritual revival for deaf members and visitors from towns near and far, in the mountains away from the frantic city life. In addition, the High Sabbath Big Day was created to bring spiritual blessings through fellowship between the two deaf groups that were meeting in Silver Spring and Vienna, Virginia twice a month.
On Sabbath November 4, 2006 in what is now called Spring of Hope Silver Spring Seventh-day Adventist Church, the deaf group stepped out in faith and became an independent organization. Twenty-six charter members joined together and formed Deaf Evangelistic Adventist Fellowship (DEAF). DEAF is the first deaf company in the history of Potomac Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist. Trexler continued to serve as the pastor to the DEAF company for nearly a year until he was called to return to Three Angels Deaf Ministries (3ADM) upon the retirement of its executive director.