When Jon and Randi Redditt received a Facebook message one day in January 2020 from a stranger named Janvier Nkurikiye, they had no idea how God would use that message to span two continents, unify numerous ministries, and bring one special individual to Christ.
Janvier was born and raised in Burundi, East Africa. Though he was born with hearing, he became deaf at a young age due to a mysterious illness. As a young Deaf man, he learned American Sign Language (ASL) as a primary means of communication along with basic reading and writing skills. His heart, however, wanted more. He wanted to know God. The local churches he knew of did not offer him biblical teaching or preaching in sign language.
Janvier did not give up. He searched online for a ministry which offered ASL and discovered the Facebook page for the Deaf Ministry of the International Church of Christ (DMICOC). He reached out through Facebook Messenger and met the Redditts, ASL users who help interpret for Deaf disciples in their Riverside, CA, congregation. They connected him with two brothers, Harold Smith and Zach Lotane, from the Deaf Ministry in the North Region of the Los Angeles Church of Christ. From that point, the Bible studies were launched remotely across two continents and various platforms. Every Saturday, Janvier “met” with the brothers from Los Angeles on video chat through Messenger or WhatsApp to study through the scriptures. Every Saturday, Janvier became hungrier for God’s Word and on fire to share what he learned with other Deaf individuals in Burundi.
Janvier, however, needed a local church home where he could “hear” the message preached and fellowship with believers. The Redditts connected Janvier with the Bujumbura church led by Tom and Diddy Akello, and initially fronted funds to hire sign language interpreters so that Janvier could be a full participant in their services. The DMICOC then collected a special contribution to fund one year’s worth of interpreting services at the Bujumbura church. Janvier began to bring other Deaf friends to church, including one young Deaf woman who is now in the process of studying the Bible remotely with Diddy and sisters from the Deaf Ministry in Los Angeles. The number of Deaf visitors who are “hearing” the message has begun to steadily grow. Tom, Diddy and the other hearing disciples are slowly learning signs to communicate, and providing a warm, welcome home for their new Deaf friends. God is merging all his children into the family.
On February 23, 2021, Janvier Nkurikiye was baptized in the waters of Lake Tanganyika, and became your brother in Christ. He is the first Deaf disciple in the Burundi church.
Janvier’s dream is to spread the gospel to the Deaf community throughout the villages of Burundi. He longs to provide a better life for local Deaf kids, who are overlooked by the education system, the social system and even religious institutions. He regularly journeys to surrounding villages to teach Deaf children sign language, and actively raises money for their tuition so that they can receive a formal school education. This past Christmas Janvier raised enough funds through donations from disciples in the Deaf Ministries in Los Angeles and Austin, TX, to throw Christmas parties in several villages and provide food for more than 600 Deaf children and adults. Surely Janvier is bringing good news to the Deaf community in Burundi – that God’s heart is to give them hope and a future.
We pray that Janvier’s baptism is the beginning of a work to spread the good news to all God’s Deaf children, not only in Burundi, but throughout Africa and the world.
“God…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth .” – 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)