International (MNN) — Over 5% of the world is deaf, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Chances are you’ve crossed paths with at least one deaf individual during your lifetime. If you don’t know sign language, how can you possibly share the Gospel with them?
Over the next few days, MNN will be highlighting ministries that are reaching the deaf for Christ worldwide and looking at how you can come alongside their efforts.
Who’s reaching the deaf for Christ?
Rob Myers of Deaf Opportunity Outreach, or DOOR, says the international deaf community desperately needs God’s Word. He states, “There is no completed Bible in sign language yet.
“Of the 400 sign languages around the world, less than 25% of those languages have anything started at all.”
That’s why DOOR partners with groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators to bring Scripture to deaf communities in Africa and India. Translating God’s Word in sign language doesn’t look like traditional Scripture translation, though.
“Unlike spoken language, sign language doesn’t have a very effective written format,” Myers explains.
“So, when we do a sign language Bible translation, there is no written version of it. It’s actually a person standing in front of a camera, signing the translation.”
These “evangelism DVDs” are a far more effective way to share Christ with deaf communities than traditional methods, which often require reading Scripture.
“For deaf people who’ve grown up without sound at all, learning to read is very difficult. That doesn’t mean that they can’t; many deaf people are very well-educated. But that’s not their heart language,” Myers explains.
“Sign language speaks much more accurately to their heart because that’s the language they’ve grown up with. It hits their heart in a way that the written Word just can’t.”
Reaching the deaf for Christ can’t be done alone
At their training centers, DOOR staff teach national deaf believers and sign language translators how to lead Bible studies for the deaf, share the Gospel using evangelism DVDs, teach and disciple believers using Chronological Bible Storying, and form Deaf Believers’ Fellowships. DOORS staff also helps develop deaf leaders who can multiply this effect.
“Sign language Bible translation can’t just happen in a vacuum. We have a number of partners who help us do what we do,” notes Myers.
Over the next few days, ask the Lord how He would have you reach out to deaf people in your circles. If you don’t know anyone with hearing challenges, pray for guidance on how to support worldwide initiatives.