See below how Scripture in sign language is engaging many Deaf believers.
The most exciting news is happening –
For the first time ever, Deaf communities have access to all 66 books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, completed in American Sign Language – giving freedom to connect with God in a language of the heart!
Based on what I’ve seen through the years, there seems to be a healthy growth of impact in Deaf communities. We are seeing more and more of an impact because of the advancements in technology with easier access. When I first joined Deaf Missions, we made VHS tapes and DVDs. People bought VHS tapes and DVDs from us back then to receive the ASLV (American Sign Language Version Bible). That was about an 8-10 year span that we did that. Now, through technical advancements, people can download quickly through websites, apps, the Deaf Bible App, Deaf Missions Video App, and people can access those things now without a fee, using your phone, tablet, or computer. So, it seems to me, especially since the past few years, we are seeing an increase of people watching Scripture online because the more that people have access and see it, then, naturally more people will be impacted by the ASLV.
We are now in post production, with a few books left. We are finished with the translation, but we are working on the final edits before we release the content. The last book will be released by this fall. So, in the fall, I can finally announce that we are officially finished.
“For Deaf people, our sign language is a language of our hearts.
Sign language is how we best understand God’s Word.”
I think our work provides encouragement to translators who can see the finished product and say, “Look! If the Americans can finish 66 books in ASL, then we can too!” Hopefully, it’s an encouragement to translation teams to keep going, because translation is not easy – it’s hard work. Our work can help as an inspiration to other teams (when they struggle) to know that at least one sign language has been completed and that serves as motivation that it can be done! I do know that some [translation] projects around the world use the ASLV as a source text for their work. A source text can give the translators ideas about how to translate the Scriptures from the Hebrew and Greek into their own sign languages. Maybe the ASLV can provide a kind of help tool to the teams in that regard.
One Day at a Time
It’s hard work! I encourage teams to be patient. Take one step at a time and each step will get you closer to the finish line. And the finish line is when all 66 books are completed in their sign languages. I need to be careful about saying “finish line” because saying we are finished, forever, really is not true. Of course, we have translated all 66 books and the last content will be made ready by this fall. But, really, our work continues. We will go back to some of the work we did before in the 1980s and 90s and clean up and redo some of the things we think we can do better. We have received some great feedback from the Deaf community and we want the opportunity to incorporate that. There are resources that we are adding such as footnotes in ASL, translators notes, and commentary. So, in a way, we are saying that the future of the ASLV will look like a revised and expanded version of the ASLV for the next generation.
For Deaf people, our sign language is a language of our hearts. Sign language is how we best understand God’s Word. Also, for me as a Deaf person…
God’s Word in my sign language shows me that God values me as a person.
It shows me that God knows my language and can communicate with me in my language. ASL is not just a language, but
it’s part of me and my culture –
it’s my identity of who I am.
God’s Word in ASL is really a very powerful message. Not only my language, but again, my culture and my identity – a very natural connection to Jesus through the ASLV.
I think it’s the same with people who can hear. Hearing people have many different written versions of the Bible. Some people prefer the KJV, NIV, ESV, or The Message. Different versions have different usage of English, so people can choose which version fits them best. For Deaf people, I think it’s great that we have a choice. I know some Deaf people only want English and that’s great, some Deaf want ASL and the ASLV, while others prefer the ASLV in addition to a spoken language version for studying (whether watching or reading) and for spiritual growth. So, we are not telling people that one size Bible fits all. We praise God for the ASLV and are thankful to God for those who will be impacted by the Scripture and grow in their spiritual walk with the Lord.
We thought for a while our greatest challenge would be COVID-19, you know, the past few months, especially if we had to close our offices. This would have meant that we couldn’t have used our equipment or our studio. But, praise God that our offices are in Iowa. Iowa is one of the few states that have not required full closures or shutdowns. We’ve been able to keep our doors open and use our studios. And, so, we have been able to continue filming. In a way, I almost feel like God was “keeping our doors open exclusively,” so we could continue filming. We are grateful for that. Of course, we followed all the laws and guidelines to do as much as possible to keep everyone safe during this time and minimize the risk or impact involved surrounding COVID-19, as much as we can anyway.
After we finish the ASLV, we will start with the New Testament, especially the four Gospels, and probably Acts – the first five books of the New Testament. We want to update and revise those books and refilm them and include resources like footnotes, translators notes, all in ASL. Hopefully, we can make that available through advanced technology and the platform for a more Deaf user friendly experience. I hope as technology advances, people will feel more comfortable using God’s Word in sign language.
When I think of heaven, I see myself meeting and talking with others and thanking them for leading me to Christ! I envision myself thanking those who learned to communicate with me in sign language.
That’s how I understood and came to know Jesus – through great conversations in my heart language – American Sign Language.
It led me to where I am today, working with Deaf Missions. I’m not only leading Deaf Missions as the CEO, but leading as a servant. I just want to connect Deaf people to the Gospel and I know that the best way to do that is in sign language because that’s the way it worked for me.
I look forward to heaven and to having a big conversation in sign language with many people who know God, because we have been given access to Scriptures in sign language!
We received the opportunity to know Jesus, believe and follow Him. We received it through the opportunity [of a Bible in sign language] to believe and follow Jesus.
“And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him”– Mark 1:17-18.