USA (MNN) — Even if someone doesn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, it’s often assumed in the United States that people are at least familiar with the biblical Christmas story. In the classic movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, Linus recites Luke 2:8-20. Many Christmas carols sing the story of Jesus’ birth.
However, for Deaf men and women in the US, most references to the Christmas story — even in pop culture — are not in their heart sign language. Spoken languages are second languages for the average Deaf person.
Many American Deaf individuals today don’t know the true meaning of Christmas and have never encountered God’s Word in American Sign Language. In fact, to this day, not one sign language has a complete Bible translation.
Ryan Sims with Deaf Bible Society says having a sign language Bible is critical to reaching Deaf individuals with the Christmas message. Deaf Bible Society offers their Deaf Bible app free to download! The Deaf Bible app has portions of Scripture available in several sign languages, including American Sign Language.
“The Deaf Bible app is actually in our language. It’s in sign language. So it is our native language. People can look at it and see ASL and they are actually able to picture and envision what the story is supposed to be like.”
As a Deaf individual himself, Sims says access to Scripture in sign languages makes the Word come alive. “Instead of just reading the written Scriptures and seeing the words and trying pair pictures and having that, it’s more of a full immersion and it’s in our language. It has our expressions, the things that we hold dear, that we are captivated by. So they are able to see that and attribute that to their own vision of the story, what they attribute to their meaning.”
In light of Christmas Day tomorrow, here are a few ways Christians can encourage outreach to Deaf men and women and draw them into the true meaning of Christmas.
One option is to have an ASL interpreter available if your church is putting on a Christmas service.
“Those typically draw a lot of people — both people who can hear and people who can’t hear. They are looking for the joy of that season and they want to take what they can and grab those experiences of Christ. [Christians] have those opportunities to plant seeds at all of these events, and when they are interpreted, they have more access.”
If your church has a Deaf ministry or you attend a Deaf church, you can check Deaf Bible Society’s online tool Deaf Church Where and make sure your church is registered. Doing so will help other Deaf individuals find you if they are searching for a local body of believers.
Deaf Bible Society also offers Scripture engagement training where they teach both Deaf and hearing Christian leaders how to use biblical sign language tools to better engage Deaf individuals with the Gospel.
Growing up, Sims was heavily involved in a Deaf church with his family. During the holidays, he remembers helping with outreach projects and meeting other Deaf families they served.
“Those Deaf children my age didn’t always have the same experiences I had. That was always really inspirational and impactful to me — how God could use me and my family to reach out and provide to the people that are neglected. I was able to spread the Gospel through that. I noticed the joy and the light that was transformed in just their eyes…. That was always a wonderful time for me.”
The need for better Deaf ministry, especially during the Christmas season, isn’t limited to the United States. Approximately 98 percent of the Deaf population worldwide is unreached with the Gospel message.
Sims explains, “Out of the 400 [sign] languages, about 25 to 30 have access to [portions of] the Bible in general and some of them don’t have any access, so some of them don’t even know about this holiday season.”
If you’d like to learn more about ways you can pray for and with the Deaf, text 444-999 to become a prayer partner!
You can also go to DeafBibleSociety.com/rooted to give to Deaf Bible Society. Your donation will be doubled dollar-for-dollar this month!
For now, Sims says, “One of the most important things we want to pray for is that all Deaf people can really have that opportunity to really understand who Christ is and how He affected each one of us and have a personal relationship with Him.
“One of the other things we could have prayer for is some of the specific countries that don’t have Scriptures or they don’t have access to it.”
Finally, he asks, “Some people don’t have food or finances during this holiday time. Pray for those people as well.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.