USA (MNN) — When it comes to ministry, it’s easy for Christians to leave the outreach to pastors and non-profits. When it comes to the Deaf community, the sign language barrier can be pretty daunting — enough to turn away would-be witnesses to the Gospel.
However, JR Bucklew, President of Deaf Bible Society says they can’t do ministry alone. They and the rest of the Deaf community need more Christians to step up, build relationships with Deaf people, and be Jesus to them.
“Over the years, statistics have shown us that more than 98 percent of Deaf people around the world have never been engaged with the Gospel. The same statistics have generally been shared about the Deaf community here in the US — that still around 98 percent don’t really know the Gospel message,” Bucklew explains.
“Less than one percent of the Deaf community in the United States frequents any kind of Bible church at least once a year — Mass at Christmas or the Baptist church at Easter once a year. That is a very low percentage of that community that is engaging with the Bible at all. A lot of that has to do with the historical fact that there wasn’t a Bible for them to engage with well.”
The American Sign Language New Testament is the only completed New Testament in the world in a sign language. Deaf ministries hope to have a full American Sign Language Bible translated and available for distribution by 2020. Still, today, there is not a full Bible translation in any sign languages.
“It’s really hard to create a Bible study without a Bible,” Bucklew says. “It’s really hard to create discipleship materials without a Bible. It’s really hard to plant churches on the Word of God without the Word of God. The Bible is the centerpiece of all ministry work we do. I think a lot of engagement challenges in Deaf communities all around the world has been a lack of access to Scripture that they can engage with.”
The efforts of ministries like Deaf Bible Society have made outreach to Deaf individuals more possible today. Deaf missions continue to develop more and more sign language Scripture translations and discipleship tools.
That’s where the Body of Christ comes in.
“The local Church is the one in Scripture that has been tasked with Scripture engagement — meaning to make disciples, to plant churches, [and] to do this work in their community. Not for me, Deaf Bible Society, a parachurch organization-type thing to come in and bypass the Church. What we’re here to do is to say, ‘How can we equip you and give you the tools and resources you need to do better ministry?’”
Bucklew lists a few ideas for you to start engaging the Deaf in your area. First, he says, “Go online, use these tools like Deaf Church Where so you can actually begin your process of going, of being hands and feet that Christ would use to make His name great among Deaf communities.”
Finally, please commit to praying for Deaf men and women to see the truth of the Gospel and come to know Jesus.
“You can text PRAY to 444-999 and join our weekly prayer texts as we continue every week to pray for different needs of Deaf communities around the world. Encourage your family, your friends, [and] your congregation to pray. There is so much need,” Bucklew says.
“You have the ability to do so many things to not only bring the hope of the Gospel to a Deaf person who has never seen it, but to provide a local Deaf ministry or Deaf congregation with tools, with resources, with prayer support, with ideas, [and] with community support so they can do ministry well.”
Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.