Deaf People Need Access

President of DOOR International, Rob Myers shares why Deaf people need access to God’s Word in sign language.

Really, if anyone wants to develop a personal relationship with God, they need to have access to Him. 

Just this morning, in leadership meetings, we were discussing different topics related to ministry.

We looked at John, chapter 15, Jesus talks about the importance of abiding in him. If you abide in Christ, you will produce much fruit, and your fruit will multiply. But, if you do not abide in Christ, you will not produce any fruit.

I saw those verses and thought if anyone wants to do ministry, they must abide in Jesus, but many Deaf people worldwide do not have access to God’s Word. How can they connect with Jesus? 

I have a story to share with you.

There is a couple named Sherri and Emmanuel. They are from Ethiopia. A long time ago, neither had access to God’s Word in their language. They had a written Bible in the local Amharic spoken language, but it was very difficult for them to read it.

Reading is based on sound, but many Deaf people are born and grow up without sound, which makes connecting that language to sounds they don’t know, very difficult. 

So both Sherri and Emmanuel would go to a hearing church, every week. Even though the church was very accepting of them, they didn’t feel that the service or the written Bible were not really their own.

The people were very friendly and warm, but the couple didn’t connect with or understand God. Everything they received, they had to go through someone else. They had to depend on someone else and their concepts, their reading, and understanding of God’s Word.

In 2008, DOOR partnered with a local community and started Bible translation in Ethiopian Sign Language.

The translation team was brought to Kenya to train and began doing translation work. This lasted for a while, and then in 2013, alongside this work, two people – Solomon, and Wondwosen – were recruited and trained to begin work in Ethiopia in a program called 2-by-2.

Their 2-by-2 training equipped them to do evangelism, church planting, etc. within the Ethiopian Deaf community. As the translation was completed, it was given to the 2-by-2 team to use in teaching and other work.

Getting back to my story…Sherri and Emmanuel were invited to a class. This was the first time that they had been given access to God’s Word in their sign language and culture.

This was the first time they realized that they didn’t need to depend upon another person to explain Scripture. They now had access in their own language to the Scriptures. That was a very powerful moment for them.

They were both impacted and changed, and they could quickly see evidence of their growing fruit.

“I can see that having God’s Word in your sign language has really shaped and grown your lives, and that’s so important, but God’s Word is not only for you, but so that you can have it and then help others.

About one year later, Wondwosen approached Sherri and Emmanuel and said, “I can see that having God’s Word in your sign language has really shaped and grown your lives, and that’s so important, but God’s Word is not only for you, but so that you can have it and then help others. I would encourage you to consider hosting a believers’ fellowship in your house.”

Both of them said with uncertainty, “We’ve never been leaders before, and we don’t know a lot about God’s Word. How would we host a believers’ fellowship?

But Wondwosen told them, “You can! You have direct access to God’s Word and I will be there to support you.”

Both of them hesitantly accepted. As they invited people and the fellowship began to meet, they were so surprised. They saw God use the two of them to share what they knew with others, to start teaching and training others. They said, “If I never had God’s Word, how would I be able to grow spiritually myself, much less be able to take it into my community, serve God, and teach others?”

That was very powerful! Wow! When I heard that story, I thought, “that’s the goal of all our ministry as believers!”

God wants to use each person with their spiritual gifts and beautiful talents that He has given them – but to do that, people need to have access to His Word in their language.  

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1 Peter 4:10