International (MNN) — Tens of millions of Deaf people have no access to God’s Word in sign language. Fewer than 50 of the world’s 400 sign languages have any Scripture portions, and no sign language has a complete Bible.
Thankfully, these numbers are changing as Deaf believers translate God’s Word into their heart sign language.
George*, a Translation Field Coordinator with Deaf Bible Society, supports these Deaf translation teams in critical ways.
Field Coordinators aim to serve
George has been in the “Deaf world” for decades, working cross-culturally with Deaf believers in a variety of ways. He began serving in his current role approximately one year ago and is one of Deaf Bible Society’s four Field Coordinators.
“I’m working with teams in Eurasia, and then on larger-scope things, [I work with] maybe another eight to 10 groups that are just getting started or have a fledgling translation project,” George says.
As a Field Coordinator, George makes sure the team has everything it needs to finish the translation on time and under budget.
Through internet-based video calls, George gets to know each Deaf translator and the team’s overall needs. “One of the most important tasks of a Translation Field Coordinator is building and maintaining a close relationship with teams; building confidence, making sure expectations are clear… so that they can accomplish the translation of the Word of God on time and within budget,” he says.
Whether it’s resources or training, George makes sure each team in his charge gets what it needs to succeed. Plus, “I work behind the scenes to help facilitate… discipleship, sometimes just building skills so that they can be effective both in their translation work [and] in their personal lives,” he adds.
Going above and beyond
Sign language Bible translation is like a two-sided coin. On the positive side, Deaf teams are translating God’s Word into their heart sign language – a desperately-needed resource. When they finish their work, a Deaf community will have God’s Word in a language they know and understand.
On the negative side, Deaf translation teams often lack spiritual maturity. This is no fault of their own; it’s caused by the very same reason they started a translation in the first place. Without God’s Word in a language they understand, Deaf believers struggle to grow in the knowledge of Christ.
When Bible translators work on a “spoken language… you have trainers and [staff[ who are, in many cases, mature Christians. They have the entire Word of God, maybe one or two more translations available to them… and some foundational training that they’ve received,” George describes as an example.
“Often, with Deaf translation teams, they do not have access to the same opportunities.”
So, George walks alongside each team member through every struggle. “It’s actually been a great joy to encourage the team [and say], ‘Let’s look at Scripture together to find the biblical solutions for the challenges’,” he says.
“That builds hope that God has provided the answers they need.”
Visit Deaf Bible Society’s website to learn more about their ministry. Most importantly, pray. “Pray that Field Coordinators stay close to our Heavenly Father; that we would walk in the Spirit [and] understand how best to serve the teams in their context,” George requests.
Furthermore, “when you see a team grow… and you see them flourish, that has an impact not just on their personal lives in the team, but [it also] gives hope for other Deaf communities, other Deaf Christians,” he continues.
Seeing God work through the translation teams encourages fellow Deaf believers to pursue “impossible” goals, George says.
“If God can do that through them, God can also work in and through me.”
*— Name changed for security purposes.
Header image courtesy of Deaf Bible Society.