1993 – After twenty productive years of ministry at the Bill Rice Ranch, we decided to relocate SWM to our home town in Trenton, Georgia. Having been away for over 30 years, we returned home where I was saved, baptized, married, called to preach, ordained, and called to minister to the Deaf. I told Carlene that it was time for us to “soar as the eagle.” As we began our new ministry Carlene gave me a beginning gift with a plaque inscribed with Isaiah 40:31 and a picture of a soaring eagle. It was titled “The Year of Renewal.” This plaque and picture still remain on my office wall with many other “eagle” gifts and decorations.
A Special Calling – As the ministry grew, we saw the need of helping more local deaf ministries. I asked myself the question, “If Paul worked with the deaf, what would he do?” Most deaf ministry leaders were working people who knew some Sign Language, but very little about leadership and how to build deaf ministries. I promised the Lord that I would help them help the Deaf. I saw the need to travel to major cities and invite area workers to come to us. It worked! We conducted annual “Fantastic Saturdays” and “D-Days” in more than twenty major cities. We were teaching and training Deaf and deaf ministry leaders how to reach their area Deaf for Christ. These special meetings continue annually in about 25 different areas. Many churches attend and bring their Deaf. We specialized in reaching Deaf and helping deaf ministries in local churches.
1995 – “The Silent Word” newspaper was born. Since 1966 I had a “bulletin” called “The Silent Word” mailed “free” to the Deaf. I discussed with Eddy Gifford, publisher of our hometown newspaper, The Dade Sentinel, the need of again sending a “bulletin” to the Deaf. He listened and then asked, “Why don’t you publish a ‘real’ newspaper?” He stated, “You can do it, and I will help you.” He personally prepared and printed the first few issues. We printed our first newspaper, The Silent Word, with 5,000 in circulation. For years, we had desired to begin a newspaper for the Deaf. Finally, I held it in my hands. A real newspaper. It was a dream come true!
At that time, the ministry consisted of only Carlene and me. The first few years we were able to survive on love offerings from our meetings. It has always been our policy to invest all funds above our support level into the ministry. We started with a copier, 486 computer, a few lessons, 10 deaf Bible courses, and some tracts. We remodeled a two-car garage for our office. As the ministry grew, the Bob Hicks family joined to help.
1998 – Mission Board Established – During a “Fantastic Saturday,” Allen Snare, a Deaf pastor, signed to me, “The Lord wants me to join Silent Word Ministries.” I told him, “No way!” It was all we could do to take care of our own ministry, but the Lord did it again. He used a Deaf man to open my heart to another new ministry. SWM became incorporated and a mission board was established. Allen and Debbie Snare quickly joined. Soon others followed. We now have eleven missionaries serving with SWMission Board.
Spring 2000 – In a board meeting in our home, Carlene simply said, “I want my home back.” God touched the heart of a board member and the land was donated to start an office building to headquarter the ministry. Then a group known as the Men of Action from Cleveland, Tennessee, led by Leon Spurgin (brother of our first Deaf person, Alvin), donated labor to construct the office building. This was done again in 2004 and again in 2007, finishing our office headquarters. The ministry remains debt free and only builds as the Lord provides. SWM started in 1966 as Alvin Spurgin sang in signs, “More about Jesus would I know.” God touched my heart to tell the Deaf more about Jesus. This burden to “Tell the Deaf more about Jesus” continues to be the goal of our ministry. These 20 years the Lord, friends, supporters, and churches continue to make our unique ministry possible! Thank you for your prayers and support. Carlene and I often say, “It is amazing that God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” The ministry continues….!