DEAF Friendly Blog

Pastor Dirk Venter

As a Child of Deaf Adults, Dirk Venter has been rendering Sign Language Interpreting services since the tender age of 12. He has interpreted mainly at church and religious events but also has a vast experience of interpreting during/at the following:

• Courts of law
• Employment interviews
• Management meetings
• Psychological interviews
• Schools for the Deaf
• Seminars
• Social events
• Television programs
• Training
• Various Government Departments
Dirk is an ordained pastor of the AFM of SA and is the founding member and Managing Director of DEAF Friendly, which is a non-profit organization that aims to seek, serve and empower the Deaf with the Gospel.

Dirk is a pioneer of Deaf to Deaf ministry and has been involved in the developing, particularising and presenting of theological material to the Deaf. He is a member of the advisory committee of Deaf Christian Ministry Africa. He focuses on Pentecostal Theology and Church Planting and is a partner in the deployment and continuous support of deaf pastors.
In the last 10 years Dirk has, as the CEO of DEAF Friendly, facilitated with establishing 12 new ministry points in SA, 1 in Swaziland and 1 in Malawi. DEAF Friendly has its own television programme on KruiskykTV, that is specifically aimed at bringing the Gospel to the Deaf.

Dirk has been married to Elize for 25 Years. They have 3 children and the whole family shares his passion and vision.

His Motto: Let the Deaf See the Gospel!

Dirk loves God and he loves the Deaf. This has been his story… so far

Part 1 - A place for gays and nuns

My father, Jan Daniël Venter, somehow feared God, but hated church. To him church was a place for gays and nuns. He never spoke about it until my sister, Elizabé, dragged it out of him at a rather late stage of his life.

Dad had never really known his biological father, as he died when Dad was still a toddler. Grandma was left a widow with four children and no qualification or income. They were left destitute and extremely poor. Her third-born, my father, was profoundly deaf and had nearly no ability to speak. I know that he was not born deaf and I have heard several versions of how he became deaf, but I do not know which is true. I have learned that he was a very moody and difficult boy and that he was hard to live with. He had been like that most of his life.

As the family lived in Johannesburg, Dad was sent to a local Roman Catholic School for the Deaf when he was still a very young boy. Although he was born into an Afrikaans speaking family, there was no money to send him to any of the Afrikaans Schools for the Deaf as none of these schools were situated in Johannesburg. Even though his home was not too far from the school, less than 20 kilometres (12 miles), he stayed in the school hostel and hardly ever went home. It is clear that his family did not know how to deal with him and that it was easier, financially and otherwise, to just leave him at the boarding school over weekends. He never spoke of home and his fondest memories of his school years seemed to have been when some rich Jewish friend’s parents invited him for weekends or holidays.

Dad was still a very young boy when a group of teenaged boys molested and sodomized him during one of those stay-in weekends. When he spoke to his teacher (a nun) about it, he was scolded and made to feel as if he was responsible and therefore the guilty party. He became bitter, aggressive and even more difficult. His experience left him deeply disgusted and bitter towards nuns and gay men for the biggest part of his life. The saddest part was that this had an extremely negative influence on his opinion of the church.

All the kids from boarding school had to attend church if they stayed in over the weekend. Dad hated going to church. There was no Sign Language interpreting and he really did not understand the rituals and rites so typical of the Roman Catholic Church. He often related that he knew exactly how many bricks, window panes, floor planks, etc. were on the inside of the building. He would count them to try and pass the time every Sunday. It must have felt like an eternity. To make things worse, he would lose concentration and become restless. He always had a knack to make faces and mimic people in a funny way. This caused him to be punished severely for not behaving and making fun in church. The punishment just fuelled his hatred for nuns and the church.

The worst thing about church was, however, not the rituals and rites, the boredom or the trouble he would be in afterwards. The image of a mourning Jesus on the Cross, as is so often displayed in Catholic churches, was simply scary and very confusing to him as a boy. His (mis-)understanding was that this God, whom we refer to as loving and full of grace, did not even save His only Son. He gave Him up to die for sins. If He could do this to His only Son, who was perfect, imagine what He would end up doing to him! Jesus on the Cross was the overwhelming picture of religion that dominated Dad’s mind. He simply believed that he stood no chance trying to impress that difficult God and His agents - the nuns and those molesting boys. In his mind he might just as well have given up trying; and so he did. Dad was going to live his life until his day of reckoning came, like it did for Jesus.

Dad was intelligent and did reasonably well in English and Afrikaans (despite his deafness). He, however, excelled in Mathematics and Mechanical Drawings. After completing school, he qualified as an apprentice in Tool- and Die-making. He successfully obtained an artisanship in that highly specialized field. His superiors and colleagues invariably held him in high esteem for the precision and accuracy of his work. He always had a job and earned a reasonable income.

Dad met Mom at a club for the deaf soon after he had qualified at a factory in Port Elizabeth. Mom was a stunningly beautiful deaf lady from a farm near Alexandria, about 100 km (60 miles) north east of Port Elizabeth. Dad, who was an attractive man, certainly showed some rich farm boys, who had their eyes on Mom, a thing or two by stealing the beautiful Aletta Potgieter’s heart. They were the perfect (photo) couple. After a short and tumultuous courtship they got married in Alexandria. Mom’s father and Dad both arrived drunk at the wedding! Grandpa was extremely upset because he had wanted Mom to marry a rich neighbour’s son. He cried throughout the ceremony because he was sure that the deaf villain, who was marrying the apple of his eye, would not be able to take care of her. Dad, on the other hand was, I suppose, just being his untamed self. Despite those circumstances, Mom still said: “I do,” and my sister, Elizabé was born 10 months after that! I followed after two and a half years. They say I was a beautiful baby…