The Estonian Deaf Community had waited 18 years for their first taste of Scripture in their sign language.
Finally, in 2021, they gathered to celebrate its arrival. They ate cake together and shared testimonies in honor of the completed Gospel of Mark and the Deaf Bible app.
Getting to this point was no easy feat. But the work gained momentum from another translation project halfway around the globe.
Challenges and Progress
For any language — written, spoken, or signed — translating the Bible into another language is a long, meticulous process. Many written and spoken languages have ample resources to assist with high-quality translation.
But Deaf people are too often excluded from the resources and teamwork that require hearing. Therefore, they have been slower to build their own signed resources to assist with Bible translation into signed languages.
On top of that, “spoken Estonian is one of the most challenging languages in the world,” a team member shared. Therefore, it’s hard to translate the written Bible into Estonian Sign Language.
But as of 2020, a new resource helped the team: the American Sign Language Version (ASLV) Bible was completed. This Bible is now a beacon of hope for many sign language translation teams around the world. The Estonian team, FOUND, relied on ASLV and three written Bible translations to guide its work.
Community and Cooperation
The Estonian Deaf community rallied together when they learned that FOUND would finally film the Gospel of Mark.
During a two-month term, “the translation team worked tirelessly to complete the project.” At first, they underestimated the hours of work needed. As their work piled up, their passion sustained them through seemingly endless hours. They overcame many obstacles, knowing how their Deaf community waited for God’s Word.
In addition, this project “strengthened the cooperation between different denominations,” a team member shared. FOUND consisted of Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran, and Methodist followers. They set aside their differences and focused on the truth of the gospel.
In the end, God’s Word became visual to many who were eager to see it — a great cause for celebration.
The Estonian Deaf community is eager to receive access to the rest of the Bible too, as soon as sign language translation can happen.