Russian sign language Bible to open up Scripture to deaf millions

By March 7, 2016
DOOR International 1

International (MNN) — There is one on most everyone’s bookshelf, coffee table or, more recently, their phones. American Christians are used to having access to a Bible they can read in their own language, with a variety of translations.

(Photo courtesy Deaf Bible)

(Photo courtesy Deaf Bible)

DOOR International President and CEO Rob Myers would like people to consider what life would be like if there were no Bible to read in your language.

That is the case for the Deaf in much of the world.

Meyers acknowledges that they may have a written translation, but there’s a difference. A Deaf person can learn to read and can read a Bible, but it isn’t their native language–it isn’t their heart language.

Most people learn to read when they are young, but long after they have learned the language from listening and speaking it. The Deaf don’t have that experience. They don’t even have the benefit of that learning method. Language skills are decidedly linked to hearing and speaking. For the Deaf, reading anything is a second language–their first being sign language.

“The experience of reading for Deaf people is very different than the experience for hearing people. It doesn’t mean that deaf people can’t read, and it doesn’t mean that some deaf people don’t enjoy reading. But for almost all deaf people, reading–written language–is a second language to them. It’s not their heart language,” Myers explains. “We want to give every single person the chance to have the Bible in their own heart language.”

DOOR International is working with the Institute for Bible Translation in Russia and Deaf Bible Society to complete a Russian sign language Bible. Once done, the translation will represent one of the biggest advances toward reaching the Deaf. Such a translation would immediately give access to Deaf not just in Russia, but to those in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. An estimated 2.4 million deaf people would have access to a Bible in their heart language, Myers says. As a key language, the Russian translation would also make it easier to translate in other, similar languages.

“One of the keys to any Bible translation is engaging the local community,” Myers says. If a Western Country comes in and tries to do a project without local help, it is seldom used. “We help them set up a translation committee that is majority Deaf people but does include representatives from local and national hearing Churches. That committee is in charge of the process of translation,” Myers explains. Other local Deaf are enlisted to be the signers on the video.

4 Comments

  • Wouldn’t it be more efficacious to have two devout Xtians pray to heal their deafness? My understanding is that “if any two pray, it shall be done for them”…

    • Your Name says:

      I’m not sure if you know many Deaf. I do. If you ask the Deaf person if they want to be hearing, most would say a definite, “No!” Why? Because being Deaf is perfectly normal and good for them. There is a complete language and culture and people group for the Deaf. It is very rich in culture, in fact. I have had several Deaf friends “prayed” for and it only causes confusion and frustration. Reading the passage in OT where God calls Moses at the burning bush… God asks Moses, “Who made man deaf, seeing or the blind? Did not I? Now go!” God has made Deaf to reach other Deaf and for a purpose and has a plan for them just as they are. We don’t need to “fix” the deaf because they are not “broken.” Blessings!

  • Gary says:

    Hi. Really sorry if I offend you. But, the reality is, we don’t need 2 Christians praying for Deaf people to be healed. Deafness is not a sickness or a disease. The Deaf folks I know are wonderful, whole, adjusted and normal. They have an incredible culture, amazingly interesting worldview and, because Deaf people from different places have different Sign languages, phenomenially expressive and beautiful Sign languages. My guess is you do not choose to read, understand or believe the Bible, but in a passage we see as a clear insight into God’s detailed and amazing plan for each of us, God explains to Moses in Exodus 4:11 that it is He who decides who will be born hearing or Deaf. We do not see Deafness as a deficit, disease, disadvantage or disability. It is an opportunity to be a part of an amazing group of individuals and culture.

  • My understanding of sign is that though a standard usage might have been taught, that over time several distinct sign languages usually emerge from it over time. With this in mind, a single video format Bible for so large a number as you allude to in the article may not result in a real ” heart ” language Bible for many of them. Research into local deaf communities throughout the region should be done before mass production is commenced.

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