Andrew Foster was a missionary to the Deaf in Africa from 1956 until his death in 1987. Andrew Foster 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, he founded Christian Mission for Deaf Africans in 1956, and set for Liberia, Africa.
Andrew Foster was the son of a coal miner, he and his younger brother became deaf through spinal meningitis in 1936. Educational opportunities for African Americans in that era prevented him from achieving more than a 6th grade education. At the age of 16, he moved to Detroit, Michigan to live with his aunt and attended Bethany Pembroke church where he later committed his life to the call of Christ. Andrew Foster completed high school at Michigan School for the Deaf.
In 1961 Andrew Foster was married to Berta, a German, and together they have 5 children. Gallaudet College awarded him an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters in 1977 for his accomplishment.
Deaf Education in Africa
There Andrew Foster encountered cultures so oppressive of deaf people that parents often hid their deaf children at home or abandoned them altogether. Hearing missionaries told him that deaf children didn’t even exist in Africa but, he found deaf children and established schools for them.
The challenges for deaf ministry in central and west Africa were two-fold: not only were there no churches for the deaf in the 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 the family servant and use rudimentary signs invented by the family. In remote villages, some deaf children were thought to be cursed by demons and abandoned to be eaten by wild animals.
Andrew 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 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, Andrew Foster would supplement their education with trade skills, and, most importantly, teach Christianity lessons. Andrew Foster convinced existing churches and missions to expand their ministry to include the deaf.
After staying on as the administrator of the school for three years, Andrew Foster moved on to Nigeria to repeat the successes he had seen in Ghana. It was in Ibadan, Nigeria, that he would eventually set up his headquarters and create a teacher-training facility as he continued to expand his work to over thirty countries in the West and Central regions of Africa. Andrew Foster’s 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 additional to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
During 30 years of service 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 Andrew Foster spent 6 months of the year in Africa establishing schools and the other 6 months in the United State raising money to support these schools. In 1977, the name was changed to Christian Mission for the Deaf.
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