Deaf Ministry Founder Passes Baton, Reflects on God’s Goodness
By Carl Stagner
If channel surfing has led you to children’s Christian television, chances are you’ve come across Dr. Wonder’s Workshop. A staple program for Deaf children across five seasons of thirteen episodes each, Dr. Wonder’s Workshop has also faithfully ministered to hearing children with its colorful imagery, quirky and fun-loving characters, and Bible stories. Time after time, people inside and outside the Church of God movement have been surprised to learn that such a widely recognized show was born out of a ministry within. Since 1996, Silent Blessings has blazed new trails for the gospel to reach Deaf people of all ages, and not just through television. As the baton has passed recently to new leadership, founder Rev. Marshall Lawrence takes time to reflect on God’s goodness to him and through their work for more than a quarter century.
“Since our goal was to reach out to Deaf people—especially Deaf children—our outreach needed to be based in, and communicated through, American Sign Language—a physical language based on movement and hand shapes, rather speech or sound.” Marshall explains. “That meant it needed to make extensive use of video.’ Thus Dr. Wonder’s Workshop, which runs currently on networks like TBN and Daystar.
Early seasons were recorded prior to high-definition capabilities; recent advances in technology have allowed Silent Blessings to remaster the first three seasons, a fact which further blesses Marshall’s upon reflection of how good God has been during his time at the helm of Silent Blessings.
Marshall Lawrence isn’t deaf himself, and might have never founded a ministry like Silent Blessings, were it not for his daughter Rachel, who was born deaf (her inspirational story is captured in a ninety-minute documentary). A Church of God minister, worship leader, and songwriter, Marshall had already made his mark in music on the Movement. In light of new circumstances, the Spirit moved in Marshall’s heart, and the rest is history.
Marshall reflects, “I feel very good that we were able to invent, create, produce, and distribute a TV program specifically designed to teach Deaf people about Jesus in their native language of ASL and, at the same time, made it fully accessible to hearing kids. It breaks down barriers between the hearing and Deaf cultures, and shows that Deaf people can do anything (except hear). It’s a fun show that presents Deaf people as smart, creative, confident, and capable of great things. And, it presents Christian morals, ethics, and teachings in a fun, unapologetic way.”
For much of its span of ministry, the offices of Silent Blessings were housed with Warner Press and Church of God Ministries near Anderson University. Several Church of God pastors have served on the ministry’s board of directors. Today Indianapolis is home to the headquarters of Silent Blessings, and the connections with many Church of God congregations remain strong. The executive director of Silent Blessings is now Tanya Polstra, a Deaf woman with three children. One of her children is hearing, one is deaf, and the other is partially deaf.
On July 1, a reception honoring the retirement of Marshall Lawrence was held at Park Place Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. Friends and family joined him and his wife Terry in tender reminiscence and sweet fellowship.
Thank you, Marshall Lawrence, for your contribution to the Church of God and the kingdom!
Learn more about Silent Blessings at www.silentblessings.org. Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Silent Blessings board of directors, April 2022.