Deaf Ministry Pioneer Dies

Arthur W. Griffith, first ordained deaf pastor and pioneer leader, died Jan. 16 at a hospital in Stockton, Calif. He was 89.

On Jan. 31, deaf members and ministry leaders from North America gathered at the Vancouver (Wash.) Church to pay final respects to Griffith, a tireless worker for the deaf ministry. Many attending had become church members because of his ministry.

Griffith was born to an Adventist family in 1920 in Minnesota. The family later moved to Alberta, Canada. As a young child, both he and his brother contracted spinal meningitis. His recovery was slow and he became totally deaf.

Griffith attended deaf school then went on to college to become a machinist. He met Alyce Grove at Gladstone Camp Meeting near Portland, Ore., and thought she was beautiful the moment he saw her. They were married in April 1944.

The Griffith's built a home in Portland for their growing five children. But tragedy struck in 1956 when their oldest daughter, seven-year-old Linda, was struck and killed by a speeding vehicle while riding her bicycle.

This was a true turning point for Griffith, whose desire to see Linda at the resurrection became a driving force in his life.

Griffith led the Adventist deaf group in Portland for eight years while working as a machinist. In 1961, the Oregon Conference called him to full-time pastoral ministry for the deaf.

Griffith searched for a way to make signed Bible studies on film for the deaf. He built a small home studio, wrote a script and produced a sample. North American Division leaders then sponsored the development of twelve 20-minute Bible study films. These 16 mm films were finished in 1969 and copies spread around North America.

Griffith, published Deaf Advent Witness News (DAWN) for many years.

In 1975, the Griffiths moved to the Potomac Conference, and from there to the Christian Deaf Center, to serve as leaders during the 1980s. When Christian Deaf Center and Christian Record Braille Foundation joined, the Griffiths became traveling missionaries. covering many states in the U.S.

Even after they moved to Grants Pass, Ore., in 1991 to retire, he continued to minister to the deaf, wrote articles and served on the board of Adventist Deaf Ministries.

"Many people's lives have been touched by this great man of God," reflects David Trexler, pastor and speaker/director of Three Angels' Deaf Ministries (formerly Adventist Deaf Ministries). "Arthur left behind a legacy for us to follow. His example greatly influenced [my wife and me] to be loyal to the Lord and His church, the Adventist Church, no matter the difficulties we experience in our lives."

Judy Johnson, a deaf member from Vancouver, Wash., summarized the Adventist deaf community's thoughts well by saying, "We will never forget him! He is like a father figure to our deaf Adventist people."

April 01, 2010 / Oregon Conference