Kenya (MNN) — In some rural areas of Kenya, having a deaf child can be seen as a blight on the family. But that is completely the opposite of how God sees them.
“Deaf people are hidden in the rural areas. People think it’s a spiritual representation of their home that they have been ‘cursed’ with a deaf child, and that’s the way they think. So in order to have good standing spiritually, they’ll hide those deaf children,” explains Deaf Bible Society’s JR Bucklew.
Deaf Bible Society seeks to share God’s love and message of salvation with deaf individuals all around the world. They have sign language Bibles available on the Deaf Bible app and on their website, deaf.Bible.
But what about those who don’t have smartphones or internet access?
“Oftentimes, people assume that when a Bible translation is completed, that’s the end-all, that people have access. While celebrating the completion of a Bible translation in any language — whether that be a spoken language or a sign language — is a big accomplishment, merely having a translation in a specific language does not equal access to that Bible by that people group who speaks the language or signs the language.”
Bucklew says their ministry recently flew a team into a remote community in northern Kenya to hand out Kenyan sign language Bibles to deaf individuals. The Bibles were given in formats such as micro SD cards for basic mobile devices, a projector, and other tools.
These Kenyan deaf people groups haven’t had readily-available access to the Bible before. Their reaction was moving.
“[There is] overwhelming joy when we get responses from them where they’ve said, ‘We have begged ministries for years to come to us. We’ve heard of the Gospel through other missionaries years ago, we have a couple of guys in our village who remember those stories, but no one has come to us. We’ve never been able to get training, we’ve never been able to get resources, our people are hungry.’”
Bucklew says the Deaf Bible Society team even provided training for some of the community leaders, addressing topics like, “how do you bring your people together, and how do you use this, and how do you use this Bible to strengthen you as a leader in the ministry, to strengthen the Church as a whole, and to bring new people to Christ through introducing them to the Gospel.”
They also worked with several different components of the community to reach as many deaf people as they could and share God’s Word.
“This last event, we were able to engage a school with several hundred students. We were able to go into the community, we were able to go up into a nearby refugee camp and find several deaf people there. So one-on-one, you’re training and you’re engaging and you’re equipping several hundred leaders and people who can now go out and multiply the effectiveness of Scripture distribution in their community, with the goal that all 500,000 deaf people in Kenya have access to the Bible. They know where they can get it, they’re using it, and they’re coming to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Bucklew says it’s hard to estimate how many will be impacted by this, and how many more deaf people still need to be reached with the Gospel.
“There are nearly half a million signers, deaf people, in Kenya. And a lot of times, those numbers are very underrepresented in the sense that in a lot of developing countries, deafness just is really hard to track. It’s hard to know those numbers, because we just see so much oppression and marginalization…. To estimate the impact has been really challenging.”
One thing we can hope for is as one person’s life is transformed through the Holy Spirit, the potential for the spread of the Gospel from there can have a domino affect with eternal significance.
“I know we were able to distribute several hundred micro SD cards in this new community, but the ongoing impact that it has once someone finds the Gospel, once someone has a tool in their hand, it can’t be measured. Because now they’re going to their neighbors, now they’re showing their friends, now they’re showing they’re family, they’re showing people in even more remote areas than where we were.”
Bucklew offers these requests for action:
“Be praying for the development of new resources, for solar-powered devices, because all of these things, it’s free to the people we give them to, but it’s not free unfortunately to Deaf Bible Society to make those available. So people can be praying. For $1.88 per person, someone could be engaged with Scripture.
“Pray [also] that Deaf Bible Together programs all across east Africa and the world can have the workers needed to facilitate these programs and the funding needed to train them and provide resources to them. For $47, you can fund one Deaf Bible Together program which has the potential of engaging 25 deaf people in a community.
“So pray that we find the right partners, and pray and see what God would have you do in taking the Gospel to one of the world’s largest unreached people groups: the deaf.”