International (MNN) — How important is God’s Word? You’d probably say it’s essential to know the Lord and share your faith. Yet Scripture doesn’t exist for millions of Deaf people worldwide because it’s not in their heart sign language.
“Out of about 375 sign languages worldwide, only one sign language has a full Bible. No other sign language even has the New Testament completed yet, and roughly 80- to 85-percent of those sign languages are still waiting to start a single verse,” DOOR International’s Rob Myers explains.
Since Deaf people can see, we often assume they’re fluent in written language. More about that here. “Some Deaf people can read very well. In fact, some Deaf people have PhDs,” Myers says.
However, “a majority of Deaf people in the world struggle with written language,” he continues.
Hearing people become fluent in written language through a sound-based process. If you’re reading this as a hearing person, “you became fluent in [English] by talking to your parents, listening to them, copying what they were doing,” Myers says.
“By the time you enter school, you have a vocabulary about five- to 10,000 words at least. Then, in entering school, you’re sounding out letters connected to a language that you already know.”
Most Deaf children, at least in the United States, are born to “hearing parents who don’t know how to communicate with them and never learn sign language,” Myers says. As a result, “they’re completely cut off from the spoken language surrounding them, which then causes them to be cut off from the written language, too.”
This disconnect places God’s Word, whether it’s a traditional paper Bible or online, simply out of reach for many Deaf individuals.
“Written language is not the best way to provide access to information; Deaf people really need sign language. That’s why sign language Bible translation is so critical,” Myers says.
DOOR’s Deaf leaders train Deaf teams in sign language Bible translation. More about that here. Brand-new “Studio In A Box” technology helps expedite the process. “The initial training process takes about a year for us,” Myers says.
“We’ll implement this (Studio In A Box) with several teams, and then we’ll know within a year how successful these were. [Success is determined by] the teams being able to set up their own studios and continue in their translation work.”
“Many people assume Deaf people don’t need sign language translation, or they are totally unaware of it (the need for sign language Bibles),” Myers says.
“There’s a huge need for awareness within the Church.”
In the header image, Deaf believers assemble the first-ever “Studio In A Box.” (Photo courtesy of DOOR International)