One of the questions we ask ourselves while working in media and missions is, how can we reach people with the least access to the gospel, in their own language and culture? Surprisingly, the largest and least reached unengaged people group are those who cannot hear. There are 70 million deaf people worldwide and only 2% know Jesus!
There has been a growing movement within the missions community to partner with media ministries to address this need. Frankly, we don’t have a clue how to create media for the deaf, so we attended an online seminar hosted by Chad Etinger, from Deaf Missions on the EMDC learning platform.
Using sign language to teach, which was then translated to spoken English by his interpreter, he explained that deaf people have their own identity, culture, experiences and gifts from God. However, because of language and communication barriers with hearing people, they experience isolation and often feel marginalized and oppressed by others.
Using Heart Language
In some countries, deaf children are rejected, seen as a curse, and given away. There is little support available for those parents. Nine out of ten deaf children are born to hearing parents and only 20-25% of those parents learn to speak the child’s heart language, which is sign language. Many deaf people eventually learn to read lips, but this is not the language that necessarily fully connects with who they are.
Deaf people need and want the gospel and to have God’s word in their heart language. The amazing thing is that this is happening now, not just in American Sign Language (ASL), but other sign languages as well. There are over 350 sign languages around the world, and ASL has a strong link to around 35 of them. Check out the trailer for The Story of Job using ASL. It’s amazingly passionate and vibrant!
“Deaf people need and want the gospel and to have God’s word in their heart language.”
Reaching those with the least access to the gospel takes an enormous effort and focus. The movement in the local ministry and missions community to reach the deaf with the gospel has been very inspiring! Check out this white paper on reaching the deaf worldwide with the gospel.
- Wendy H.