A Tribute to Andrew Foster

[I had the privilege and honor to meet Andrew Foster several times. He is a great part of the heritage of the deaf, especially in Africa. It is an honor to pay tribute to this man who went where no man had ever gone before – Ted Camp]

Andrew Jackson Foster (1925–1987) was a missionary to the Deaf in Africa from 1956 until his death in 1987. He became the first Black Deaf person to earn a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet College and the first to earn a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, eventually receiving a master’s degree from Seattle Pacific Christian College also. He founded Christian Mission for the Deaf in 1956, and set out for Liberia, Africa. He established the first school of his mission in Ghana.

Andrew Foster was born in Ensley, Alabama, the son of a coal miner. His parents names were Wiley and Veline. He and his younger brother Edward became deaf through spinal meningitis in 1936. Educational challenges for African Americans in that era prevented him from achieving more than a sixth-grade education. At the age of sixteen, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, to live with his aunt and attend Bethany Pembroke Church, where he later committed his life to the call of Christ. He completed high school through a correspondence course with an American school in Chicago, Illinois, in 1951. In 1961 Andrew was married to Berta, a deaf German, and together they had four boys and one girl.

Deaf Education in Africa – There Foster encountered cultures so oppressive of deaf people that parents often hid their deaf children at home or abandoned them altogether. Hearing missionaries and school administrators told him that deaf children didn’t even exist in Africa. But shortly after opening a school for the deaf in Accra, Ghana, his school was filled to capacity and had a long waiting list. Over time, Foster travelled from country to country, opening some 30 different schools, churches, Sunday schools and centers for the deaf in countries all across central Africa, from Senegal to Kenya. The challenges for deaf ministry in central and west Africa were twofold: not only were there no churches for the deaf in most populous regions of Africa, but there were no schools for the deaf. Consequently, the deaf were completely illiterate. The most a deaf person could hope for was to become a family servant and use rudimentary signs invented by the family. In remote villages, some deaf children were thought to be cursed by demons and were abandoned to be eaten by wild animals.

Goal and Success – Foster began his work in 1956 by convincing school officials to let him use their classrooms after hours to teach the deaf. In Ghana he found a public school willing to allow him to use their facility after hours to teach the deaf, and within months the school had a waiting list of over 300 families wanting to send their deaf children to his school. As the deaf began to become literate, Foster supplemented their education with trade skills, and, most importantly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Foster also convinced existing churches and missions to expand their ministry to include the deaf.

After staying on as the administrator of the Ghana school for three years, Foster moved on to Nigeria to repeat the successes he had seen in Ghana. It was in Ibadan, Nigeria, that he eventually set up his headquarters and created a teacher-training facility as he continued to expand his work to over thirty countries in the West and Central regions of Africa. His work included schools, Sunday schools, churches, youth camps and teacher-training facilities reaching tens of thousands of deaf – teaching many of them not only their own names, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

During 30 years of service Dr. Andrew Foster founded 31 schools and 2 centers, successively in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Chad, Senegal, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire (presently Democratic Republic of Congo), Burkina Faso, Burundi and Gabon.

About the same number of Sunday Schools and churches were established in those countries, and also in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Congo and Guinea. For much of his life, Dr. Andrew Foster spent six months of the year in Africa establishing schools and the other six months in the United States raising money to support these schools.

In 1970 Gallaudet granted him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his accomplishments. Andrew Foster, at the age of 61, met his untimely death in a plane crash in 1987 and the Black Deaf community lost an extraordinary leader. On October 22, 2004, Gallaudet University dedicated an auditorium in Andrew Foster’s name, calling him the “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.” Andrew Foster is a great part of the history and heritage of the Deaf.

The Christian Mission for the Deaf – Click here for their website:
Source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

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