International (MNN) — The International Week of the Deaf is just over two weeks away. Celebrated annually on the last full week of September, the International Week of the Deaf draws attention to needs in Deaf communities.
Sign languages are the only means of communication for many deaf people. But around the world, many Deaf people are denied access to formal education and sign languages.
“One country that I’m aware of, the statistics say that 97 percent of Deaf people have no access to formal education, and 99 percent of them don’t even know their own sign language,” says Rob Myers, President and CEO of DOOR International. “So in other words, they have no language access at all.”
Without language access, there is no way for these Deaf individuals to learn about Jesus.
“You can imagine trying to share the Gospel with somebody who may not have access to Scripture, but imagine trying to share the Gospel to someone who doesn’t even have access to a language. That’s the case that we find in Deaf communities in many of these countries.”
DOOR International works to give the Deaf the tools they need to know Jesus through ministry efforts like sign language Bible translation and church planting.
Myers says, “Our hope is that the International Week of the Deaf would be another highlight even within the Church to help the Church understand…it is a disability rights issue, but really it’s an issue of equal access to the Gospel for every single person on this earth.”
However, it can’t stop there. Peer-to-peer ministry is the most effective way to advance the Great Commission — to make disciples of all nations for Christ. For Deaf ministry, that means equipping Deaf believers to reach their communities with the Gospel.
DOOR helps Deaf Christians become faith leaders with Deaf leadership development. The importance of this work was emphasized to Myers by a comment from a Deaf leader.
This Deaf man attended a hearing church and would watch the sign language interpreter every service. He grew up in a Christian home and appreciated understanding the sermons, but sitting on the sidelines wasn’t enough.
“As he sat in the church pews, [he] became excited about the Gospel message,” Myers says. “But he realized that in that context where he was sitting in the church, he would never have the opportunity to use his gifts — the gifts that God had given him to teach, to preach — in a way that he felt like could be effective for the Kingdom.
“He told me, ‘I sit there and I am a ministry of the Church. But I don’t want to be a ministry of the Church. I want to be a minister of the Church. The only way that can happen is for me to be able to serve in a context where I can use my first language.’”
Myers says they want to enable Deaf believers to lead in their first language, their heart language — a sign language!
“That happens within contexts where Deaf people are meeting together, [where] Deaf leaders are leading, teaching, and sharing the Gospel in their heart language.”
Want to encourage the Deaf Church this International Week of the Deaf? Supporting DOOR International is a great place to start!
“We want to train Deaf leaders to be able to take the Gospel and bring it into these communities to truly become, as Jesus said, the Word becoming flesh,” says Myers.
“Just in the same way that we are all ambassadors of the Gospel, Deaf communities and Deaf leaders need their own ambassadors for the Gospel too.”
Please also pray for Deaf believers. Ask God to equip them with resources that highlight their spiritual gifts and raise up leaders in their midst. Pray for Deaf people who don’t know Jesus to meet Him through the ministry of faithful Deaf Christians.