When Uiko was growing up, she faced the kind of oppression many Deaf people experience. In school, teachers discouraged her from signing — from using the language she learned as a child — and commanded her to speak Japanese instead.
Her first encounters with Christianity were similar. Uiko was told she needed to read the Japanese Bible. “[I thought] I was already happy,” she remembered. “And if Christianity just meant more rules, I wasn’t interested.”
Then Uiko joined the Japanese Sign Language (JSL) Bible team.
To bring God’s Word to the Deaf in Japan, the project records a Deaf person signing the Scripture so that it can be presented in a video format.
Uiko serves the team as an on-screen signer, translator, and as project manager “When I began translating,” she recalled, “I had no intention of changing my mind [about Christianity]. It was just a job.
“But then I began to see Scripture in my own language as a result of my own work. I saw God’s Word come to life on screen, and it began to change me. I gave my life to Christ.”
Uiko continues to work with the project to make all of God’s Word accessible to the Deaf community in Japan.
“It is so important for Deaf people to have the Bible in their own language,” explained Uiko. “A lot of Deaf people can read, but it is very difficult for them because it’s not their first language and they would only understand a portion. With the video Bible in Japanese Sign, we can help them to understand so much more.”
Sakamoto, a Deaf Japanese man, shared, “Japanese comes easily to people who can hear, not for those who can’t. I’ve spent years learning to read, trying to derive meaning from sounds I can’t hear, fumbling my way through the Japanese Bible, picking up pieces here and there. I learned what I could.
“When I watch the sign language Bible, I can read all of the feelings — all of the anger, the sadness, the joy. I can see the faces, relate with the struggles. I can see and understand.”
Today about 31 percent of the Japanese Bible has been translated, video recorded and released on a Scripture app.* Through the app, Japanese Deaf can easily access portions of God’s Word in the language that speaks to their heart.
Around the world, there are over 400 sign languages. About 70 million people use one of these sign languages as their first or only language. Although only two percent of the world’s Deaf have been introduced to the gospel, God is bringing the Good News to them through projects like the Japanese Sign Language Bible project.
The JSL Bible project brings God’s Word to life for Deaf communities throughout Japan. Wycliffe Bible Translators is grateful for all who take part in supporting translation projects like this one, including those who give through the Combined Federal Campaign.