USA (MNN) — September has been a great month for the Deaf community. In the United States, September is National Deaf Awareness Month; and this year, September 23rd was recognized as the very first International Day of Sign Languages by the United Nations General Assembly.
During this month, ministries and organizations have sought to raise awareness on the realities of the Deaf community and eradicate some common misconceptions.
For hearing Christians, misconceptions about the Deaf negatively impact people’s ability to connect with Deaf brothers and sisters in Christ. They also hinder the Church’s ability to reach Deaf communities with the Gospel message and biblical resources.
Kristin Dodd with Deaf Bible Society explains, “There are a lot of misconceptions that hearing people have about Deaf people, and I think that’s mainly due to lack of education the hearing get about the Deaf community and just lack of information about the Deaf community in general.
“One of the top misconceptions that we get a lot is many hearing people think there is one universal sign language that is used throughout the entire world. There are actually over 400 different sign languages in the world.
“Just like you know most countries have their own language, it’s the same thing for sign languages. Even sometimes one country might have more than five sign languages just within that country.”
This assumption in the past meant there was less of a focus on getting Scripture recorded in all sign languages.
Today, there is still not one sign language that has a complete copy of God’s Word.
Another misconception hearing Christians have is that Deaf people are able to and want to read written Bibles available in their local spoken language.
However, Dodd points out, “Most hearing people don’t understand that Deaf people have a lot of lack of education in the school system when it comes to reading and writing a second language.”
For Deaf people, a written language is often a second language for them. In most cases, a sign language is their primary form of communication. Even if they can read and write, it’s not the same as engaging God’s Word in a way that connects with their hearts and souls.
That’s where Deaf Bible Society comes in. They recognize how false assumptions about the Deaf have led to ineffective missions, making the Deaf a least-reached people group. Approximately 98 percent of Deaf people are unreached with the Gospel.
By supporting sign language Scripture translations and offering biblical sign language resources, Deaf Bible Society hopes to change that reality.
“Our goal is, in translating the Bible into sign languages, that Deaf people would be able to experience God’s Word in their heart language that they’re able to connect with. Because Deaf people are so visual, that’s why it’s so necessary for them to have video Bibles where they can watch a person signing God’s Word.”
As we wrap up National Deaf Awareness Month, advocacy for and connection with Deaf communities needs to extend beyond September. Supporting Deaf ministry year-round is one of the best ways to do so!
“By becoming a Deaf advocate, becoming more aware of the needs of the Deaf community, the actualities of the Deaf community, and sharing that with other people around them,…we can kind of change that mindset that hearing people have as far as misconceptions about the Deaf.”
Deaf Bible Society and hundreds of their prayer partners have been praying some specific things for the Deaf community this month. You can join them in praying this list as well:
- Pray for Deaf communities to become aware of Scripture in their sign language.
- Ask God to make Deaf hearts aware of the magnitude of His goodness.
- Pray that Deaf communities would desire to engage with Bible content in their sign language.
- Pray for Deaf communities’ awareness of sign language Bibles to lead to their active involvement in the Church.
To get more prayer updates for the Deaf throughout the year from Deaf Bible Society, text the word ‘PRAY’ to 444-999.
Dodd encourages, “If anybody would like to come alongside us as a Deaf advocate, as a prayer partner, or even as a resource partner, they can help us reach more Deaf people with God’s Word in their language.”
(Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)