International (MNN) — Deaf people in societies throughout history have dealt with severe oppression. This marginalization of the Deaf is called Audism — discrimination against a person based on their ability to hear.
The history of Audism has taken some dark turns. In Nazi Germany, more than 17,000 Deaf Germans were sterilized. Until about 60 years ago, sign languages were not seen as legitimate languages and were often suppressed in schools. In some developing societies today, Deaf children are hidden away and thought to be cursed.
While Deaf awareness today is growing, the Deaf still have to deal with social barriers and lack of access. It can be exhausting.
JR Bucklew with Deaf Bible Society says, “They are used to having to go to the store every day and deal with hearing people that don’t understand them, go to the movie theater and deal with people that don’t understand them, go to a restaurant, go to the doctor, go anywhere, go to their child’s school…. There are all these communication barriers they face every day, every day, every day.”
These barriers can even be presented in the Church when efforts are not made to welcome Deaf Christian brothers and sisters as equal members of the Body of Christ.
Bucklew shares, “I was speaking with a church after a conference one day, and they told me, ‘JR, we really enjoyed your presentation. We just wanted you to know, we have a Deaf ministry at our church!’ I kind of jokingly asked, ‘What corner do they sit in? Do they sit in the left corner or the right corner?’ Because usually in an interpreter church, [interpreters] are in a specific place.”
“They were like, ‘Oh, no, they are not allowed in the sanctuary. We have a place in the lobby where they are set up.’ I remember just sort of pausing, not sure what I’m supposed to say to this. He finally looks at me and his face gets real puzzled and he says, ‘Wow, that sounds really bad, doesn’t it?”
Deaf Bible Society is working today to bridge the gap between the Deaf and the Gospel. Today, there is still not one complete Bible in any sign language. Additionally, 97 percent of the Deaf are still unreached with the Gospel.
When Deaf people are able to engage with Scripture in their heart sign language, they can identify with biblical figures who were marginalized, oppressed, and left out — and the hope offered through Jesus Christ.
“There are stories like that in the Bible, not about a Deaf person, but about similar stigmas in the community and how the Gospel transcends all those things — neither Jew nor Greek [nor] Gentile — I mean, we are a people that God has brought to Himself. It’s not Deaf or hearing, but most Deaf people don’t know that because they haven’t been engaged with Scripture.”
Getting the Bible translated into all sign languages is critical for the advance of the Great Commission. That’s why Deaf Bible Society is working with ministry partners to get sign language translations of Scripture.
You can check out sign language Bible translations for free on the Deaf Bible app!
As Deaf Bible Society reaches Deaf individuals with God’s love, please pray for the ministry to grow for the sake of the Gospel. Ask God to prepare Deaf hearts to receive His Word. Pray that through Scripture, the Deaf would find true belonging in Christ.
Finally, pray for Deaf Christians to be embraced by hearing believers and ask God to show you how you can encourage Deaf access in a diverse Christian community.
Header photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society