Deaf-led training and resources accelerate sign language Bible translation

By June 15, 2023

Europe (MNN) — Last week, we mentioned that two-thirds of the Bible-less languages in Europe are sign languages.

Europe isn’t the only place where sign language Scripture is unavailable. Only one of the world’s 350 sign languages has a complete Bible translation.

DOOR International is one of many agencies working together to change this statistic.

“In spoken languages, there’s an approach [called] ‘gateway languages.’ For example, in Kenya, two languages tend to be the (gateway) languages of wider communication: English and Swahili. You might use one of those in the community, but then in your home, you might have a language you grew up using, like Kikuyu,” DOOR International’s Rob Myers says.

“Once we get a Bible translation and resources in the gateway language (English or Swahili), any other language user that knows [it can] effectively use that to translate God’s Word into their [home] language.”

Meeting Deaf needs on a global scale requires a different strategic approach.

First, DOOR’s Deaf leadership team ranks various sign languages according to the most significant potential impact. In other words, how many Deaf people use the sign language? Strategic sign languages are those used by a large portion of the global Deaf community.

DOOR’s Translation Resources Development team finished developing how-to videos for translation teams. Now, they are passing on their knowledge and experience to the brand new 2-by-2 Resources Development team.
(Photo, caption courtesy of DOOR International)

“An example would be Russian Sign Language because [it] was taught throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia during the former Soviet Union,” Myers says.

“Another thing we look at is the spiritual maturity of the Deaf Church in a community. Bible translation always has to be paired with theological education and spiritual formation.”

With this principle in mind, DOOR combines Deaf-led church planting with sign language Bible translation efforts. More about that here.

“Our organization most recently has been focusing on [creating] resources, not in written language, but in video format, so (Deaf) communities that want to start Bible translation work would have the tools they need to begin,” Myers says.

“Traditionally, there have been very few resources in sign language that help Deaf people understand, ‘How do I share my faith? How do I follow Jesus? What’s involved in planting a church? How do I begin a Bible translation project?’”

Sign up for regular updates from DOOR here. Most importantly, pray. “This is very new work. Many people leading these movements have only been believers for a few years. Pray for spiritual maturity and encouragement,” Myers requests.



Header image depicts a Deaf-led training session. Deaf people are part of one of the largest unreached people groups of the world. Part of that is due to a lack of training and resources available in sign language. With God’s help, this is slowly changing. (Photo, caption courtesy of DOOR International