International (MNN) — Today marks the halfway point of the International Week of Deaf People. It’s an annual observation spotlighting the communities, cultures, and sign languages of the world’s 70 million Deaf people.
Each day of the week has a specific theme, and today’s theme is “Sign Languages for All Deaf Learners.” Acquiring sign language from birth “is critical to the cognitive and social development of deaf children,” reads a description on the IWD website.
“We get this very strange phenomenon that only happens in the Deaf community where kids grow up in a family where they have no language access,” DOOR International’s Rob Myers explains.
“Unfortunately, a vast majority – somewhere between 60 and 80 percent – of hearing parents of deaf kids never learn to sign with their deaf children.”
Without language, “you don’t have access to information. Christian ministries would emphasize that also means access to the Gospel,” Myers says.
“How can our children get access to the Gospel without language and without information?”
As a Deaf-led ministry, DOOR equips Deaf believers to reach Deaf communities for Christ. More about that here.
“We view International Week of the Deaf as a way to highlight and help people understand that Deaf ministry is much more than just accommodating special needs. It’s empowering and equipping Deaf leaders with access to the Gospel,” Myers says.
“We train local teams to translate Scripture in their various sign languages, and we train Deaf leaders in evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.”
3 ways to change the “norm”
Less than two percent of the global Deaf community has any Gospel access. Myers describes three ways to help change that today.
“Awareness is, for us, one of the first key issues,” Myers says. Use buttons at the bottom of this page to share this article on social media. You can also share these “fast five” facts on Facebook.
“Anybody [reading this article] may not themselves have direct interaction with Deaf people, but you may know others who do. By spreading the word, you begin to give Gospel access to those people who are two or three [connections] from you.”
You can use the prompts listed alongside this article to guide your intercession or download a monthly prayer calendar from DOOR.
“The overall theme for International Week of the Deaf is ‘Celebrating Thriving Deaf Communities.’ How can Deaf communities thrive if they don’t have access to Scripture and if their leaders aren’t really able to lead?” Myers asks.
“Many strongholds in these Deaf communities have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Bringing down these spiritual strongholds requires prayer.”
There are at least 350 known sign languages in use worldwide. “The need for Bible translation and the need for training local leaders is incredibly great. Out of the largest 20 sign languages…only about half have any active translation work going on,” Myers says.
Header image is a graphic courtesy of the World Federation of the Deaf.