EARLY IN THE FOUNDER’S LIFE
Bro. Kendall A. Wilcoxson was in the U.S. Air Force for about 13 years when He went deaf working on the flight lines and runways. He received an honorable discharge because of his deafness. Before leaving the military, God placed a Baptist man nicknamed “Blacky” in his life as a military buddy. Blacky always tried to lead Kendall to the Lord and witness to him, but Kendall would run the other way. Finally, Blacky caught Kendall at an opportune time and led him to the Lord. Kendall stopped drinking and smoking immediately and searched for a Baptist church.
The Wilcoxson Family went from San Antonio Texas, to Enid, Oklahoma, back to San Antonio and then to Wichita, Kansas. It was there in Wichita that the Wilcoxson’s served at Bethel Baptist Church under Bro. Carl Bush. Kendall was an associate pastor there and also received his ordination into the ministry at Bethel. Bro. Bush had noticed it had become more difficult for Kendall to hear and told him to think about taking Sign language classes. Kendall and Lily then started going to Glenville Baptist Church to take sign language classes. It was there when Kendall realized that he wasn’t receiving the complete message that Lily did. While at Glenville, Kendall and Lily were introduced to another deaf couple that went there. The interpreter was very good but for Kendall, He wanted it to be more exciting to serve God, and he wanted to be more involved.
(First meeting in garage May 4, 1969 (left) moved to Tatum Hall of Temple Baptist (right)
THE BEGINNINGS OF SBBC
Kendall then received the call of God in his life in April and by May of the same year (1969) Kendall organized one of the first separated Baptist deaf churches in the United States. The name of the church was called Silent Bible Baptist Church. The “Silent” meaning that deaf serve God in silence.
By 1971, more deaf people were led to the Lord and became members of the Silent Bible Baptist Church. The church enjoyed having annual picnics in Linwood Park of Wichita for the church anniversary (Pictured above).
By 1972, the church relocated to 1855 S. Madison in Wichita where the building was all underground. It was small but they felt a sense of ownership with this building even though they rented it. The church also enjoyed annual camp outs, singing tours, Revival meetings, visiting evangelists and missionaries, Thanksgiving dinners together, Christmas programs.
The Deaf Ladies Choir
(Jerry Hodges, Joan Hansen, Mary Lewis, Dianne Haberman)
James Hansen (Deaf Treasurer) and Carl Rose (Only Deaf Deacon)
Craig Turtness and Charles Lewis (Deaf Song Leaders)
The church also supported several missionaries that were called to the deaf missions field. The church had it’s own deaf secretaries, song leaders, ushers, church clerks, Deacon, and Trustees. The deaf enjoyed having an important part of their church. They had problems just like any other church but worked through them with a heart of forgiveness and love. Their popularity was growing because of their love for the Lord and each other. The Wichita Eagle Beacon Newspaper printed the article below…
In the summer of 1975, the Wilcoxsons felt the call of God in their life to leave SBBC and bring in a new pastor while they went to Tyler, Texas to establish a new deaf church at West Irwin Street Baptist church (pictured below). The building for which the deaf church was serving in was a former home owned by the West Irwin Street Baptist church. The hearing church (West Irwin Street Baptist) had called in a new pastor that had no desire for a deaf work to be a part of their church and asked that the Wilcoxsons close the deaf ministry.
Bro. Kendall Wilcoxson and his family needed to wait until the children were out of school in May of 1976 before leaving Tyler, Texas. SBBC had been also experiencing some issues and asked for Bro. Kendall Wilcoxson to come back and take over as pastor again of SBBC. The Wilcoxsons moved back into Wichita and stayed from 1976 to 1981. However, in 1979, Bro. Ron Wilcoxson was at Tennessee Temple University studying to get his pastorate courses when his dad Bro. Kendall Wilcoxson had called concerned for the church in that his vision was becoming worse due to his diabetes. Bro. Kendall could no longer read his bible. Bro. Ron then came home from college to help his father with the church.
Jim and Joyce Sloan
In 1982, the church then called Bro. Jim Sloan and his wife to take over as pastor until 1990. They had the same members and activities with the enthusiasm and excitement as when the Wilcoxsons were there. Bro. Jim and sister Joyce were very good to the deaf at SBBC.
Through the years of 1969 to 2005 the church (which is the people, not the building) has had several pastors (Kendall Wilcoxson, Neil Long, David Whitcraft, Jim Sloan, and Ron Wilcoxson) The church changed its name to Beacon Baptist in 1990 for a brief time. The church struggled to keep together and were scattered abroad in the Wichita Area remaining faithful to God but lacking in what they called “a church service.” The deaf of SBBC were in several different hearing churches with interpreting services and not happy and growing spiritually as they had desired.
SINCE 2005 AT SBBC
For many years the church had went to hearing church services where their only contact with God was through interpreters. It wasn’t the same. The interpreters were limited in availability and skill. Interpreters do the best they can and it is much appreciated and needed by the deaf. Many times the sermon that is being interpreted is over their heads, and not to their understanding of the idioms and pronouns. It was in 2004 when the church began to inquire about starting a church like that of the “Old SBBC.” Some of the original charter members of SBBC had come to Bro. Ron Wilcoxson then living in Olathe, Kansas and a member of the Shawnee Mission Baptist Temple for many years. These former members of SBBC were emotionally upset as they explained of the issues, feelings and spiritual desires that they had. Their one desire was to have a church like Bro. Kendall Wilcoxson gave to them in the past where they could serve the Lord in their own capacity. They had asked Bro. Ron Wilcoxson if he would be interested in starting the deaf church again. After visiting for several hours with this deaf couple Bro. Ron immediately thought of Matthew 9:36 (KJV) …But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Bro. Ron told them to go home and pray hard about it and that he and his wife Betty would definitely make it a matter of prayer too. Bro. Ron had his own business (Wilcoxson Home Improvement) that was in full bloom with many steady clients and new ones always coming. Business was great, church was great, and life seamed great but something was missing. Bro. Ron and Betty prayed earnestly for God to make it real to them in knowing what to do and how to help the deaf that Bro. Ron loved so much. Bro. Ron prayed to the Lord a very specific prayer that was something like this… “Lord You know I love my church at SMBT, I love the Kansas City Metro area, I love our business and the financial status we have here in Olathe and some of our relatives are here that we love. But you also know that I love the deaf in the Wichita area that my earthly father had ministered to. I do not wish to move, relocate or even attempt at being something I am not, and I do not want to make this decision because of the sentimentality I have towards these deaf. Lord, You know that I am not that bright in discerning what your will is in my life. So, I am asking you to shut down my business Lord if you wish for our family to go and minister to these deaf people in Wichita. I am your servant, not the greatest, but a willing soul that wants to serve His Lord and Master and do what He wishes.” Typically, the Wilcoxsons phone would ring off the wall at times or people would see the business van and stop them wanting work to be done on their home. In a normal year, the business was booked for the rest of the year by February. Would you believe that God had completely shut the business down with not one phone call for a month and a half. No inquiries made…nothing. Bro. Ron and his wife Betty agreed that that they both felt like it was the call of God in their life. Another prayer was offered to God. Bro. Ron then inquired of God to supply one more job before moving to Wichita that would allow his family to rent a U-Haul van to move their items, pay off some debt, and give them gas money to be able to travel every week to minister to these few deaf that were hungry for the Word of God. Only one evening had passed after the prayer and God answered with a lady who owned a Daycare center in Overland Park and had held onto a previous bid from Wilcoxson Home Improvement for over a year.
The Wilcoxsons then had began to travel from Olathe to Wichita for several months until their son finished his schooling in a private Christian school and finish the big job they had started on the day care. After many phone calls to the State of Kansas, and the court house of Sedgwick county in Wichita, Kansas application was made to re-organize the old name “Silent Bible Baptist Church.” It was granted, and God’s people now had what they had long prayed for.
The Silent Bible Baptist Church was starting to grow when Bro. Ron Wilcoxson had called Bro. Steve Day (the Pastor) of Friendship Baptist church in Wichita and asked if his church would allow a deaf church to come and have a place for worship in their building separately. Bro. Day seemed excited at the idea and advised Bro. Ron that he had to bring it before the church of Friendship Baptist. They were in complete agreement in allowing SBBC to come and worship God and serve Him in their building. In 2005, the SBBC’s few deaf members started serving and worshiping God with Friendship Baptist church at 2209 E. Pawnee in Wichita, Ks. The SBBC deaf church are so grateful to this hearing church for allowing them to have their own office space, storage area, Sunday School room, Morning Worship room, times for service and usage of the facilities in every way. Friendship Baptist has lived up to their name and to the love for other brethren to come together for the sake of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Once again, SBBC is having church services with singing and signing tours to the elderly in retirement centers, annual anniversary dinners, game nights, camping, and fellowship like the deaf love to do. God has blessed the church so much. SBBC has had a high of 79 on a Wednesday night with Deaf pastors, Missionaries, and workers on their way to a DBFA (Deaf Baptist Fellowship of America) meeting in Oklahoma City. SBBC has had an average attendance that varies from 30 – 20 deaf and a few hearing on most Sundays. As in all churches, SBBC still has it’s ups and downs but they stay together.
God does not support removal, divorce, breaking up, tearing apart or destroying. God loves to build up, edify, remodel, rebuild, and bring together His church. Will you come and help us build this deaf work in Wichita? May the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob bless us by seeing more deaf souls come to know Christ and continue in their worship to Him.
WE ARE THE SILENT BIBLE BAPTIST CHURCH