Mexico (MNN) – Not everyone realizes that sign language is made up of hundreds of languages. In fact, Deaf Bible Society and others estimate there to be over 400 unique sign languages worldwide. Deaf Bible has Scripture in 20 of those languages, making it possible to reach over 20 million of the 70 million deaf worldwide with the Gospel.
Deaf Bible app, growing: Mexican Sign Language
The most recent addition to the Deaf Bible app is Mexican Sign language. Deaf Bible, with the help of the Bible Society of Mexico, SIL International and the American Bible Society, now has five books translated, with plans to get five more books out next year.
There is a great need for God’s Word in Mexico and for people who communicate using Mexican Sign language.
Chantel Pagan of Deaf Bible says, “There are over [1,223,000] deaf people throughout this region. This deaf people group has so many people who are just waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus. And when I say hear, I mean in the sense that they are looking for a visual interpretation, a visual translation of Scripture.”
Deaf Bible wants to provide the complete Bible in their Mexican Sign language, and so they continue working on it.
Needs of the deaf community
Bible translation groups are working very hard to get Scripture into languages that don’t have the Gospel in their heart language — the language someone grows up communicating with and learning in.
“One thing that’s very unique about deaf people groups around the world is that their heart language is sign language,” Pagan explains.
It’s their primary mode of communication. But that’s something that we tend to overlook because many deaf people can read and write.
“I think that we have for many centuries put the deaf community into a box where we try to assimilate them to the majority culture,” she says.
We think that because they can read, they should function the same way as we do. But that’s asking them to make a jump that the rest of us don’t have to when we go to study the Scripture.
A beautiful language
Scientists believe that babies start developing familiarity with language in the womb.
“When you’re a child and you’re learning to speak, you hear your mom and dad talking in the room next door, you hear and engage in language from the get-go. Well deaf children don’t have that advantage,” Pagan says.
A child who is born without hearing cannot utilize phenomes—the building blocks of language for those who can hear. These phenomes are matched with letters which eventually make up written words.
“The very thing that developed our written language—what we read—has been what we hear. And so for a people group that has never heard those words before, reading that language, reading the text or reading the orthography is a second language to them.”
From the very beginning, those who are deaf depend on visual communication. Deaf Bible Society believes that these people deserve Scripture in their heart language just as much as anyone else.
“We’re seeing a huge request; we’re seeing such an earnest desire to have content in their heart language that they can engage with,” Pagan says.
Believers who have the Gospel in their sign language can better reach the deaf community around them.
“The Gospel pertains to every people group and when we are reading the Great Commission and Christ is telling for us to go into all nations and to all people groups proclaiming this message, it means for the deaf community as well.”
Translating the Gospel into sign languages is a way of valuing the language and the people who use it. “They are a people group, and they have a language, they have a culture, it’s unique and it’s beautiful and the Lord has developed it,” says Pagan.
Together we can reach them
Deaf Bible is excited that God has provided technology that allows them to better reach out to this community. If Mexican Sign Language is a project you would like to get involved in, Pagan says you are very welcome to join.
“Partner with us, come alongside us, help us offer access so that the deaf community can have the resources to make an informed decision where we can see life transformation and heart change and ultimately a change in community.”
Become a financial partner, or commit to praying for the people groups receiving and those waiting for the Gospel. Click here to see their current project.
Pray for the translation team and staff of Deaf Bible as well.
If you want to volunteer or have any more questions, contact them here.
Pagan says it’s all about sending this message: “We see you, we honor your language, and we want to offer you the resources that every person has the right to.”