As I stood at the booth, I was both excited and nervous. We had just caravanned our entire team from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Las Vegas so that we could participate in the 2016 DeafNation World Expo. An overwhelming expectation of 30 thousand Deaf people, from all over the world, was anticipated.
Our booth, which was complete with a circular couch, large screen TV’s and gifts including free iPads encompassed the center of the ballroom. The goal? To engage complete strangers with the message of the Savior. Easy, right?
I wasn’t surprised when many people passed me by, waving their hand, indicating that they were not interested in what I was offering. They looked at our booth which was all dressed up in red, like the blood of Jesus, and determined that they “didn’t want any”. But none of that mattered to me, I knew that we were supposed to be there and it was only a matter of time.
That day, among all those people, an older man with gray hair, unshaven and baggy clothes approached me. He wanted to know what this large, red booth was all about. I smiled and started to tell him about God’s Word and how we were trying to accelerate Bible translation and engagement with Scripture. I told him about the American sign language (ASL) Bible and how our partners were working on the Old Testament.
At that moment, his face changed. He told me that he was from Mexico and that he went to church as a boy, but that he never understood the interpreter in his church. He never understood, fully, what his parents, who were hearing, tried to teach him. He never understood what all this fuss was about. He then told me that he knew American sign language, but that his true heart language was really Mexican sign language and maybe that’s why he never really “got it”.
I got really excited at that moment, because, as I explained to him, “we have portions of Scripture in Mexican sign language”.
I opened the Deaf Bible app, selected Mexican sign language and set my phone on the counter for him to see the person, in my phone, signing.
I really expected him to glance at my iPhone for a few seconds, but those seconds turned into quite a while as he watched Genesis, chapter 1, playing. Finally, he looked up at me and there were tears in his eyes.
“That’s my language, he signed! I understand what they were talking about all those years ago.”
I started to choke up and tears came to my eyes. I had to hug him. I told him he could download the Deaf Bible app for free and have it available, anytime.
“For free?” he asked. “Yes, for free,” I nodded my head, wiping my eyes. He didn’t believe me. F-R-E-E, he spelled the letters slow for me. I laughed and repeated myself. “Yes, for free.” He couldn’t believe it. His language in God’s Word which he could understand for free! He asked me if I could wait for him while he found his wife who had continued on to other booths. I agreed and as he left a great feeling came over me. I whispered, thank you, Lord, for him, and, for this moment.
Isaiah 61: 1b
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners…