Africa (MNN) — Africa is a vast and diverse continent boasting 54 nations. The sign languages used among African Deaf vary between countries and regions.
However, 44 African sign languages still don’t have any access to Scripture. Those that do only have portions of the Bible translated in their heart sign language.
Deaf Bible Society is working to shrink that number until every Deaf person in Africa has access to God’s Word.
Fasil Kidane is a Deaf Ethiopian living in the US with his wife and son, and he serves as Deaf Bible Society’s Africa Bible Acceleration field coordinator. Part of Kidane’s job includes working with sign language Bible translation teams throughout Africa to provide support in various capacities.
Kidane says, “Deaf Bible [Society] is not doing the translations. We support the various teams. Being the field coordinator, I engage with all of these teams and I figure out what those translation needs are — whether it’s funding [or] whether it’s equipment such as laptops, cameras, [and] lighting.
“Then we also develop various trainings in regards to the technology. We provide various workshops on how they can request support. We also provide various trainings in regards to Deaf culture and how it’s different there, [and] provide consultant training so the teams can work with the consultants.”
Communication across the ocean can be difficult, so Kidane and other Deaf Bible Society staff will sometimes go to Africa to conduct trainings and offer support in-person.
The laundry list of African countries where Deaf Bible Society currently supports translation teams includes Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, and Rwanda.
“It’s actually essentially the first Scripture for Rwanda, so it’s the first time that they’ve ever done any type of Scripture,” Kidane says. “We’re definitely coming alongside them to offer any support that we can.”
Next year, Deaf Bible Society also has plans to support sign language Bible translation efforts in South Sudan, Mozambique, Burundi, and eSwatini (formerly Swaziland).
“There’s an additional 10 countries that have actually contacted Deaf Bible [Society] in regards to wanting a Bible translation. So we’re planning to start engaging with those countries, but we don’t know what their future holds currently. Some of those…countries [are] Cameroon, Malawi,…and then Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.”
Kidane is hopeful that several sign language Bible translation projects cycles will be completed in the next five years — which means Deaf people in those African sign language groups will have access to portions of God’s Word in their heart sign language for the first time.
Deaf Bible Society is also starting a training school in Israel called the Josiah School of Translation. Plans are currently underway to send translation teams from Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda to JST. Each team will include a project manager, two translators, and a video editor.
“Deaf Bible [Society]’s goal is to bring the teams up so they can continue the translations on their own…so that we can continue to get God’s Word out in all these sign languages.”
With so many eternities at stake among the Deaf in Africa, Deaf Bible Society is not wasting any time. But they need support from the global Body of Christ — both hearing and Deaf — to get God’s Word translated into African sign languages.
Kidane says, “We’re just asking for continued prayer throughout Africa so the translations can continue, and then continue to [be] widespread around the world.”
You can learn more about Deaf Bible Society’s work in Africa at their website, and follow the ministry on Facebook for outreach updates!
Also, Kidane invites those near Deaf Bible Society’s headquarters in Arlington, Texas to say hello! “If you guys want to get involved…we encourage people to stop by and visit Deaf Bible Society. We have interpreters on-site and we would be happy to show people around our facility.”
To support Deaf Bible Society financially and invest in a Deaf Gospel movement, click here!
Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.