Using Technology & Innovation to Reach the Deaf: A Fresh Perspective

Using Technology & Innovation to Reach the Deaf: A Fresh Perspective

Share

According to DOOR (Deaf Opportunity OutReach) International, the world’s 70 million Deaf are the largest unreached people group. Only 2% have been touched by the gospel.

Reaching the Deaf is no easy task. Around the world, they are ostracized and marginalized. Some are even seen as a curse. Deaf children often receive the message that they’re less important than their hearing siblings, and their economic and educational opportunities are often extremely limited or nonexistent. 

But when Deaf people receive God’s Word in their heart language, they learn that their lives are gifts. That they were designed by a good Creator with a specific purpose and identity. In Deaf churches, they find love and community. 

And recent technology developments, specifically in video, are showing new promise for reaching the Deaf with God’s Word.

 

Why Video Is So Important for the Deaf

One common misconception is that Deaf people can just read the Bible, so why bother with expensive video production? 

Nathan Fair, Seed Company Regional Director for the Americas, explains why:

“I think that because many Deaf can read the language of wider communication, we forget that it’s not their heart language. American Sign Language is not English with hand signals. It is a completely unique form of communication.” 

Using sign language, Deaf people express themselves through their bodies. A small hand gesture might communicate a shift in tone. A raised eyebrow or tilted head can say more than a written sentence, which carries little emotion or nuance for the Deaf. Because reading is like receiving God’s Word in a second language, neither a printed book nor the “JESUS” film with subtitles is the most effective way to reach them. 

Deaf people already live in a world that was not designed for them. In order for their hearts to turn to Christ, they need to know he sees them, values them, and communicates directly to them.

LIBRAS Brazilian Sign Language Team Member in front of green screen

 

A Jesus Film Designed for the Deaf

This year, Seed Company was honored by a visit from partner organization Deaf Missions. Deaf Missions Director Chad Entinger and Seed Company leaders celebrated the completion of the American Sign Language Version Bible (ASLV)—the first Bible ever completed in sign language—in partnership with organizations like DOOR International, Wycliffe, Pioneer Bible Translators, American Bible Society, Deaf Harbor, and Deaf Bible Society. 

But Deaf Missions had another exciting new development to share.

In conjunction with the Jesus Film Project, they’re currently working on a film about Jesus that will feature actors signing. At the Seed Company office, they showed a stirring trailer featuring the story of the woman caught in adultery from the Gospel of John. “We have subtitles for the signing-impaired,” Entinger quipped. Click here to view the film pilot and get more information.

 

Scene from Deaf Missions and Jesus Film Jesus Movie for the Deaf

 

Most exciting of all, Deaf Missions showed videos demonstrating green screen technology that allows both main characters and extras to be swapped out. Each Deaf community will see actors who look like them, ethnically and culturally. They’ll be able to see themselves in the story of Jesus, and they’ll see Jesus signing directly to them. This innovation will also save time on each translation project.

So far, the pilot has had well over 250,000 views, and it’s even been shared within a Deaf atheist Facebook group!

 

The ASLV: An Excellent Foundation for Future Sign Language Translation

The ASLV Bible was a long time in the making. Though work began in 1981, it took 23 years for the full New Testament to be translated. At the rate work was progressing on the Old Testament, the full ASLV Bible wouldn’t become available until 2033. But then, in the last three and a half years, funding was provided for six teams, enabling them to finish by June 2020—13 years ahead of schedule

“When we started, we were distributing this through VHS,” Entinger remembers about the 39-year ASLV translation process. “Now we’re distributing it through social media apps, online … so much has changed.” As the first complete sign language Bible in the world, the ASLV is paving the way for millions of Deaf to learn about Jesus in their own language.

 

Chad Entinger, Deaf Missions CEO, visits Seed Company

Reaching Millions Through the Power of Partnership

Entinger explains that each sign language is typically related to 30 or 40 others, so future translations can save time and money by building upon previously completed translations. Therefore, while the ASLV alone will reach around 2–3 million Deaf with the gospel, it will also serve as an excellent source for dozens of other sign languages.

In addition, the ASLV demonstrates the ability of the global body of Christ to partner together for the gospel. As Seed Company Chief Field Officer Mark Farr stated, “When everybody’s not concerned about who gets the credit, much more can be done. Yay God! Humility really is powerful.” 

Entinger agreed, “It’s amazing to look back at how God accomplished this through partnerships. This would not have happened without those partnerships and the collaboration we had.”

Nathan Fair added:

“One of the incredible things about the American Sign Language Version process is that it hasn’t been hearing people ‘doing something’ for the Deaf, but it has truly been done by the Deaf for the Deaf.” 

May that be true of all the remaining sign languages, as organizations continue to come alongside Deaf believers and churches around the world, sharing resources and strategies for the sake of the gospel.

 

Seed Company and Deaf Missions Pray Together

 

How to Pray for Sign Language Translation

1. Pray for provision of financial resources.

Video is often much more expensive than printing.

2. Pray for God to raise up more translation consultants.

While the Bible translation movement needs more translation consultants in general, sign language translation consultants are especially rare.

3. Pray for the revision of the ASLV to be completed by 2025.

Some of the videos completed decades ago need to be redone to better engage the younger generation.

4. Pray for the sign language projects Seed Company has completed:  

  • American Sign Language
  • Tanzanian Sign Language
  • Burundi Sign Language
  • Ugandan Sign Language
  • Ghanaian Sign Language
  • Ethiopian Sign Language
  • Mozambican Sign Language
  • South African Sign Language
  • and others we cannot name publicly for security reasons. 

Ask that God’s Word will continue to go forth in these areas and that local churches will use the completed Scripture resources to minister to the Deaf community.

5. Pray for the sign languages Seed Company is currently working in:

  • Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS)
  • Mexican Sign Language
  • Ethiopian Sign Language
  • Kenyan Sign Language
  • and others we cannot name publicly for security reasons.

Please lift up these translation teams and ask for God to provide everything they need. 

Still shot of Chad Entinger from ASLV Celebration video by Wycliffe saying, "We love and appreciate you more than you know."

 

Watch a Video of the ASLV Celebration

In 2021, we celebrated the completion of the ASLV. Today, we continue to celebrate the technological innovations that accelerate sign language translation. And looking to the future, we thank God for the millions who will be refreshed by God’s Word and awakened to new life in Christ.

As one Deaf believer says in this video from our founder and partner Wycliffe, we “cannot forget those who have yet to see.”

Share

Read More Stories

Linguistic expertise and a thorough understanding of cultural context are essential to communicating God’s Word in a clear, accurate, natural, and acceptable way.
October 15, 2020
The faith of two families fuels Bible translation and discipleship efforts.
December 20, 2019
[VIDEO TESTIMONY] A translator and king forsake earthly treasure for eternal gain.
June 2, 2022

Help Reach People Waiting for God’s Word

God’s Word changes everything. And everyone deserves to have God’s Word in the language they understand best. You can help make that happen.

"*" indicates required fields

Please enter your email to download the report.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

"*" indicates required fields

Please enter your email to download the report.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.