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This Week in AG History -- Jan. 29, 1961

Missionary Sullivan Chainey and his wife, Addie, who were both deaf, came to the Lord in response to a woman's efforts of friendship and ultimately began ministering to the often-unreached deaf community.
Sullivan (1889-1973) and Addie (1889-1964) Chainey are unsung pioneers of deaf ministry in the Assemblies of God. Sullivan Chainey is believed to be the first deaf person to serve as a missionary to the deaf for the Assemblies of God.

Born in Sherman County, Texas, Sullivan Chainey moved with his parents to southwest Missouri when he was a young boy. He was living in Springfield, Missouri, when he married Addie Lee Breedlove in October 1910. They raised a large family, and both of them were deaf. In order to support his family, he worked various odd jobs during his lifetime. He worked as a painter for the Springfield Wagon Company, a laborer for the railroad, a laborer in a tailor shop, and a presser in a garment factory.

The Chaineys came to know the Lord because of a woman doing visitation work. Elsie Peters (who is believed to be the earliest AG appointed missionary to the deaf) knocked on their door one day in 1919, not knowing they were deaf. They carried on a conversation using a pad and pencil. Because Peters seemed to have a genuine interest in knowing them, Addie started teaching her a few things about sign language. Peter’s regular visits opened their hearts to the gospel, however, she soon moved to Texas.

After a few years, Peters returned to Springfield and began conducting regular services for the deaf, and the Chaineys began attending. Soon both Sullivan and Addie made a commitment to Christ.

In his testimony, Sullivan shares, “I had no religious background. When five years old, my mother started me to using tobacco, thus all my life prior to my conversion, I was bound by snuff chewing, tobacco, and a pipe.” But the Lord changed all that.

The Chaineys both received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and soon they felt the call to minister to the deaf in southwest Missouri. They started visiting some of the nearby cities. The first town they went to was Monett. They felt impressed to stop at one particular house. When they knocked on the door, they discovered that eight deaf people lived there. They began to share the Bible with these people, and they asked the Chaineys to come back and hold regular services for the deaf.

They next time they went to Monett, they found many more deaf people had gathered for the services. In addition to holding house meetings in Monett, the Chaineys began to visit deaf people in other nearby towns, becoming itinerant deaf ministers in southwest Missouri. They felt compelled to answer God’s call to “Go.”

For many years the Chaineys drove weekly to small towns and communities in southwest Missouri, holding services in homes of the deaf wherever they could. Hundreds of deaf people were reached with the gospel message, thanks to their efforts. Some of the towns they ministered to included Monett, Joplin, Exeter, Carthage, Webb City, Cassville, Seligman, and Granby.

In one testimony, Sullivan shared: “We held our first services in Webb City on November 20, 1955, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Beegle. There were 28 deaf attending both the morning and afternoon services. All of the deaf eagerly ‘listened’ as the Word of God was preached to them,” said Sullivan, who notes they were assisted by Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Johnson, also of Springfield.

The Chaineys worked out a schedule of visitation among these towns and rotated the place of services. They also visited some deaf people who were confined to their homes. Some of the people who attended their services would travel as much as 60 miles, testifying that they never had heard the story of Jesus until the Chaineys came.

The Chaineys lived in what some people describe as the “buckle of the Bible belt” — meaning that Christianity was a pervasive influence in the region. However, Christians, like others in society, often overlooked the deaf. When the Chaineys discovered new life in Christ, they set out to share their newfound faith with others who were deaf. The Chaineys’ story testifies that God can empower those who are marginalized in society to do redemptive work in their own communities and beyond.

Read, “Thirteen Years of Deaf Ministry,” by Sullivan Chainey, on page 11 of the Jan. 19, 1961, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “I Found the Messiah,” by Moses Proshansky

• “Revivaltime Originates at Kenosha, Wisconsin,” by D.V. Hurst

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Glenn W. Gohr

Glenn W. Gohr is the reference archivist at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri.