Sign language skill grows into ministry for Burch

The hand of God has guided Daniel Burch’s hands for a life of service.

Burch, a member of University Presbyterian Church, works for governmental agencies and others as a sign language interpreter, a craft he started years ago as a college student.

“I needed a summer job, so I started working with mostly handicapped kids and two of the kids were deaf,” he said. “So my boss hired a deaf woman to teach us how to sign. I always tell people you never see the Lord’s hand in your life until you look back and say, ‘Oh.’ ”

Burch, 62, has made signing his life’s work. He and his wife, who also signs, run a sign language interpretation business.

“Everyone has a mission in life, and my wife and I have seen this as ours,” he said. “Basically, what we provide is a heightened awareness that there are in fact deaf people in the community and they are just as interested in all of the activities of life as everyone else. I think it makes people a little bit more sensitive, a little bit more aware, a little bit more accepting.”

Burch is a familiar face in Baton Rouge.

“I also do a lot of plays; those have large audiences. So people get to see me work a lot,” he said.

Burch’s most recent large audiences were TV viewers tuning into news conferences in late August about Hurricane Isaac. Burch said his faith allowed him to carry on his work even after the death of his 43-year-old son David Minor Burch, who was deaf.

“We had his memorial service the Saturday before everything started on Sunday,” he said. “In some respects, (the storm) really kind of took my mind off of that.”

Burch said the death of his son, whom he had adopted at age 3, was difficult but he wouldn’t necessarily call it a test of his faith.

“I consider it a part of being human,” he said. “There’s life and there’s death. We’re very sad, of course, but at the same time, we’re comforted by the fact that my son’s church (the Baptist Deaf Church) and my church both came together to our assistance as far as the stuff we needed to get done.”

Gospel-focused ministry

The Gospel should be shared and not shoved, the Rev. Tommy Middleton said.

“It is not something we’re forcing upon people. It is the greatest good news one could ever have,” said Middleton, the executive director of the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge and former longtime pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church.

Middleton’s message — with the theme “Gospel focused and Gospel faithful” — was delivered Sunday at one of the two 10th anniversary celebration services for the Rev. Jon D. Bennett at Belfair Baptist Church. The sermon was based on Acts 17.

“A church, a pastor that has a strong ministry and has a long ministry is Gospel-focused,” Middleton said.

Middleton told the story of sharing the Gospel recently with a young woman while doing door-to-door evangelism. He said she quickly declared that she was an agnostic, so Middleton asked her what caused her to be agnostic.

“She said, ‘When I was growing up, I felt like it (religion) was shoved down my throat,’” Middleton said. “I said, ‘I’m so sorry, because I want to tell you something: the Gospel message is not to be shoved. It is to be shared.’ ”

He said he then saw tears swell up around her eyes.

Gospel-focused ministries are encouraged to share testimonies of salvation, Middleton said.

“If we don’t have a place and time where we weren’t saved, then we don’t have a testimony,” he said. “You have not always been saved. You were born in sin. You were lost, and there was a time in your life when you realized you were lost, and you cried out to Christ and he saved you.”

But too many people mistake their testimony for the Gospel, Middleton said.

“The sharing of our testimony is not sharing the Gospel,” he said. “It is only our experience … Our experiences don’t save anyone. The Gospel is what saves.”

Bennett is an example of a leader is focused and faithful as he shares the Gospel, Middleton said.

“Ten years of Gospel-focused ministry — it’s obvious Pastor Jon you are faithful,” Middleton said. “Your folks have a love and appetite for God’s word and a love for the God of the word. That doesn’t happen with slip-shot sermons. It doesn’t happen with downloads from the Internet. It comes from a man who studies to show himself approved and rightly divide the word of truth and is Gospel-focused.”

Farrakhan at Southern

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at Southern University.

The free event will be held at the F.G. Clark Activity Center. Doors will open at 5 p.m.

“The honorable minister Louis Farrakhan wishes to address our people here in the city of Baton Rouge and will give timely and divine guidance to get us through the dark hour that is approaching,” according to the Nation of Islam Student Association-Southern chapter, the sponsor of the event.

‘Taming the Bully’

Too many kids are subjected to bullying, and longtime children’s ministry leader Sheila R. Smart takes on the subject in the new novel, “Unbridled: Taming the Bully” (West Bow Press).

The 125-page book may seem a little far-fetched but could offer some insight on bullying for young readers and parents. The book mentions suicide as the possible ramification of bullying tactics.

Smart’s solution to handling bullying involves showing courage and love — both coming from faith in God.

“Unbridled” follows the story of 12-year-old twins Timmy and Lilly Wahl and how they stood up to longtime bully Billy Ormsby at their new school.
The twins’ willingness to finally confront Billy not only changed his life but the whole Ormsby family.

The best part of Smart’s book is the slew of Scriptures and it basically turns into a guide on evangelism — even to bullies.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Reach Terry Robinson at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com