History of New Life Deaf Fellowship
Our Southern Baptist history in Fort Worth began in the early 1900’s. According to the November 1906 report in the Our Home Field, John Walter Michaels had helped secure a property int he area of North Fort Worth for a Baptist church site. Michaels was excited about this development and he said, “contributions are being asked for and the prospects of having the first Baptist Church ever built it he world for deaf people to worship are bright and it will be in readiness for use by next spring” (Our Home Field, November 1906, p. 25).
The church was not finished by the following spring but it was completed in October 1907. The building was built by the deaf people themselves and it was a wood frame structure (24 feet by 48 feet with a 14 foot ceiling). What was interesting was that it was intended that “this church will be open to preachers to the deaf of other denominations of the Protestant faith” (Our Home Field, June 1907, p. 15). Michaels was called to be their first pastor and he was Baptist. Michaels often traveled and could not be there every Sunday.
In 1914, the deed to the property was given by Michaels to the Home Mission Board. Michaels ministered to the deaf church as often as possible. The parsonage was built in 1917 and this became Michael’s home when he was in town. This church was a place where Michaels would test new ideas for ministry to the Deaf.
This church was a place where deaf ministry workers grew up such as Lillian (Fitzgerald) Beard adn Bertie Mae (McDonalds) Hiner. They were “very close friends in their growing up days, and used to sit on the steps of the little deaf church in Fort Worth and visit while their parents were in the church service inside” (Gardner, Memories, p. 67).
The church grew and in the 1920’s they began seeking funds to help make the building bigger, however, the severe inflation that hit the nation prevented the church’s building project. They had to settle for remodeling and enlarging the old building. During this remodeling they built a parsonage. Michaels lived in this parsonage for several years before moving back to Arkansas in 1928. Michaels named Mr. Stanly Beeman as custodian of the property, however, it was necessary for them to have a stronger leadership to keep the church functioning properly (HMB, Minutes, 5 April 1928, p. 150). From time to time, Michaels would come to Fort Worth and make sure the church was going smoothly. In 1934, Michaels recommended Clarence Landon to the Home Mission Board to work with the Fort Worth church. Landon became the pastor of the Fort Worth church and remained in the position for about a decade. This Fort Worth deaf church stopped functioning about 1949.
In the early 60’s Bertie Mae McDonald started the deaf ministry at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. Some years later, Irma Kleeb Young helped begin a deaf ministry at North Fort Worth Baptist Church. This ministry was an interpreted ministry. The Bices, Olivers and Earwoods were a few of the leaders at NFWBC. Sign Language classes were offered at this church. In the 70’s Chuck Woody, while a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was the first pastor serving part-time. In the mid 70’s Donnie Wiltshire, while a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary served as their second pastor, part-time also. Under Donnie, the deaf were able to have their own worship services occassionally. In the early 80’s, Danny Bice, who grew up at NFWBC, moved back from Baytown where he served as pastor and becomes the third part-time pastor at NFWBC. It was under Danny that the deaf began to have their own worship services every Sunday morning. Danny Bice moved to Oklahoma to serve as State Consultant. NFWBC (hearing church) built a new building which was further north of Fort Worth and the deaf did not move with them. Many of the deaf moved to Travis Avenue Baptist Deaf Ministry.
(NEED TO INSERT HERE HISTORY OF TRAVIS AVE PASTORS TO DEAF AND MEADOWLANE BAPTIST DEAF CHURCH PASTORS TO DEAF)
In the late 80’s, Mont and Latonne Stout started up Deaf Inc., a organization geared with the purpose of serving the needs of retired/older deaf seniors. They started at Westchester House. It was during that time they were attending University Baptist Church and some of the deaf residents started coming to church with them. On April 1, 1992 Univeristy Baptist Church calls Aric Randolph, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as part-time pastor. The deaf had their own bible study class and worship services every Sunday.
Much has happened during 1993-1994. Mike McKee, part-time pastor for both Travis Avenue Baptist Deaf Mission and Mid-Cities Deaf Chapel moves to Shreveport, Louisiana. Aric Randolph approaches both churches about the possibility of all three deaf churches in the area combining to form one church. The Tri-Church Council is formed and its purpose was to meet and discuss the possibility of all three deaf missions coming together to form a Deaf Church. The representatives of the Tri-Church Council were: UBCDM – Aric Randolph, Allison Randolph and Hal Buie; TABDM – Amy Wickham and Regina Davis; MCBDC – Ron Nuzum, Clara Mahan, Sherrie Bodiford, Barry Hill and Sue Hill.
On February 19, 1993, the Tri-Church Council adopts the purpose statement and agrees to meet once a month for Bible Study led by Aric Randolph. A few months later, they agree to meet every Sunday evening and study the “Experiencing God” series. Early 1994, a search for a church location is begun…Handley Baptist Church offers their stone building for our place of worship. A cooperative agreement is developed and agreed upon.
March 13, 1994, the Tri-Church Council votes on the name of the deaf church, New Life Deaf Fellowship. Upon Aric Randolph’s graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in May of 1994, the Tri-Church Council votes to call Aric as their full time pastor.
June 12, 1994, New Life Deaf Fellowship meets for their first worship service.
1995 – Michele Buie is hired as part-time secretary for NLDF.
1997 – NLDF hosts its first annual Deaf Awareness Day at Hurricane Harbor.
1997 – Mark Stinson, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is hired as part-time Children’s Minister.
1999 – NLDF adopts the Deaf of Slovakia as our mission field.
1999 – Fall – Lori Lebo, a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is hired as part-time staff at NLDF to help out in various areas that are needed.
October 7, 1999 – New Life Deaf Fellowship is Incorporated
December 5, 1999 – New Life Deaf Fellowship adopts its Constitution and By-Laws.
January 1, 2000 – Sherrie Bodiford is hired as part-time secretary.
May 15, 2000 – Tarrant Baptist Association Executive Board votes NLDF as a Church in the Association.
October 2002 – Pastor Aric goes on the first trip to Slovakia which is the beginning of the five year mission strategy. March 2003, our first Mission team goes to Slovakia. Team members included: Pastor Aric Randolph, Allison Randolph, Jordan Randolph, Caleb Randolph, Rusty Lower, Valerie Barker and Billy Bouldin.
November 30, 2003 – NLDF has its last worship service in the stone building. The building which was built in 1939 was declared a danger zone due to its weakening walls. Worship service moves to the HBC youth building. Offices move to the HBC main building. NLDF begins searching for a place of its own. In February Pastor Aric and Randy Camacho go on a trip searching for a possible building for NLDF and find that the Brentwood Bible Church becomes available. Randy Camacho calls the tenants of the building and sets up a meeting. Pastor Aric, Randy Camacho, Latonne Stout and Mont Stout meet with Dr. Dan and Pastor Cliff (tenants) and tour the church building…we fell in love with this place! We meet again the following week and its been agreed upon that we will be allowed to move in the building rent free! During the month of March, NLDF members work hard cleaning up the building with the goal of having our first worship service there on Easter Sunday.
April 11, 2004 – Easter Sunday – NLDF has its first worship service in the old Brentwood Bible Church building. Building is now named, New Life Deaf Fellowship.
December 31, 2004 – NLDF purchases the 6 acre property from Brentwood Bible Church.
January 2005 – NLDF hires Allison Randolph as part-time music director.
October 2009 – NLDF hires Josh Bonjour as part time Associate Pastor.
January 2015 – NLDF hires Josh Bonjour as Full time Pastor.