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Sign language Bible to open up Scripture to deaf millions

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There is one on your bookshelf, coffee table or, more recently, your phone. Ugandan Christians are used to having access to a Bible they can read in their own language, with a variety of translations.

DOOR International President and CEO Rob Myers would like people to consider what life would be like if there were no Bible to read in your language.

That is the case for the Deaf in much of the world.

Meyers acknowledges that they may have a written translation, but there’s a difference. A Deaf person can learn to read and can read a Bible, but it isn’t their native language–it isn’t their heart language.

Most people learn to read when they are young, but long after they have learned the language from listening and speaking it. The Deaf don’t have that experience. They don’t even have the benefit of that learning method. Language skills are decidedly linked to hearing and speaking. For the Deaf, reading anything is a second language–their first being sign language.

“The experience of reading for Deaf people is very different than the experience for hearing people. It doesn’t mean that deaf people can’t read, and it doesn’t mean that some deaf people don’t enjoy reading. But for almost all deaf people, reading–written language–is a second language to them. It’s not their heart language,” Myers explained to MNN Online Organisation last week, “We want to give every single person the chance to have the Bible in their own heart language.”

DOOR International is working with the Institute for Bible Translation in Russia and Deaf Bible Society to complete a Russian sign language Bible. Once done, the translation will represent one of the biggest advances toward reaching the Deaf. Such a translation would immediately give access to Deaf not just in Russia, but to those in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. An estimated 2.4 million deaf people would have access to a Bible in their heart language, Myers says. As a key language, the Russian translation would also make it easier to translate in other, similar languages.

“One of the keys to any Bible translation is engaging the local community,” Myers says. If a Western Country comes in and tries to do a project without local help, it is seldom used. “We help them set up a translation committee that is majority Deaf people but does include representatives from local and national hearing Churches. That committee is in charge of the process of translation,” Myers explains. Other local Deaf are enlisted to be the signers on the video.

Courtesy Photo – DOOR International Celebrates the completion of DVD Scripture for sign languages in Ghana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria, and the completion of a video commentary (“The Deeps”) for Kenyan Sign Language. Charles Ojok, Ugandan Sign translator, lifts the completed Scripture DVDs in Ugandan Sign Language.

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