Many times the words I write cannot express how God worked through someone’s life. Such is the case with Lillian Beard. The more I’ve learned about her, the more fascinating she is. Below is a short obituary on her that I wrote on the deaf ministry leader. For more information on her, click here.
HOUSTON – She learned to speak without saying a word. And because of it, she spread the Word across the globe.
An orphan, Lillian Beard, commonly called “Miss Lillian,” was “given” and cared for at the age of three months by a couple who could not speak or hear. Her first language was sign language and she used it to start the deaf ministry at First Baptist Church in Houston, lay the groundwork for Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church in Houston and work instrumentally in bringing people to Christ around the globe, including some who continue serving as missionaries.
She died June 10 at the age of 101.
Considered a pioneer and leader in Texas Baptist deaf ministry, Beard became First Baptist Church’s first deaf interpreter in 1924 at the age of 15, signing for her parents and a few other deaf members. Because her interpretation made the services accessible to deaf individuals, they increasingly came to the church and the congregation launched a Sunday School class and ministry for them.
That ministry eventually became Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church, which serves the deaf community, families with deaf individuals and their friends. Among a variety of ministries, the congregation reaches out to deaf offenders in prison.
Beard helped start the Southern Baptist and Texas Baptist conferences for the deaf, the latter which receives financial support from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. She spoke at a variety of seminars and was one of the founders of the national registry of interpreters for the deaf.
“She laid a tremendous groundwork for deaf ministry not only in our church but across the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Arthur Craig, pastor of Woodhaven Baptist Deaf Church. “She was an incredible mentor to interpreters. She was an encourager to interpreters and families. She was committed to children hearing the gospel.”
Beard was the primary sign language interpreter for the 1952 Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in Houston. She also went on mission trips, sharing the gospel around the world. As a result of her service, there are deaf Southern Baptist missionaries in a number of areas, including Thailand, South America and Central Europe.
Beard’s funeral is scheduled for June 18 at 10:00 a.m. at Second Baptist Church in Kingwood.