According to the Deaf Bible Society, more than 350 known sign languages are in use around the world today. Yet only one of these has a full Bible in their language and only 5% of sign languages even have Bible translation work started.*
The Deaf, therefore, remain the largest unreached people group. And because they are a minority, the Deaf are often at a disadvantage when it comes to operating within ahearing culture.
But worldwide, the Deaf are hungry for the Word and they desperately want to share the gospel with their communities. Since sign language translation projects often face unique challenges, there are some important ways that you can pray for them.
Pray for sign language translation, that:
Accurate data and God’s guidance allow translators to make wise decisions about which Scripture portions or books of the Bible to translate first.
God will give translators of sign languages special insight so they can remain accurate in the translation while expressing terms in a way that speaks to the hearts of the Deaf.
Translation workers will be able to meet each community’s need for Scripture in a way that is meaningful to them.
The translators have insight into the best medium to publish a translation of the Scriptures.
Pray for unique challenges for sign language translation, that:
God will provide translation workers with the special ability to effectively communicate on a deep level with the Deaf. A Deaf person is generally welcomed into other Deaf communities. Conversely, hearing people have many more cultural barriers to overcome, even if they know a sign language well.
Those trying to translate Scripture will be sensitive to the Deaf culture.
Interpersonal relationships within local Deaf churches will be strengthened.
God will give sign language translation teams wisdom, skills and patience and that he will provide all that is needed to record Scripture drafts, check with the Deaf community and then revise.
Technology will continue to develop and be used to bring Scripture and Bible stories to the Deaf.
More workers will be available to survey and work in sign languages. Deaf communities often have a much smaller percentage of Christians than are found in other communities of the country in which they live.
Because of advances in technology, more and more people groups in need of translation projects have been identified over the last few years. And many of these are sign languages. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that sign languages are the final frontier of Bible translation. In some ways, we’re just beginning to explore most of these languages for the first time!
But one thing is clear — the need for Bible translation among the Deaf is great. Your prayers truly make a difference in the lives of people around the world.
*This is based on the translation standards established by the Forum of Bible Agencies International. The American Sign Language Bible was completed by Deaf Missions in collaboration with partners like American Bible Society, Seed Company, DOOR International, Deaf Bible Society, Pioneer Bible Translators and Wycliffe Bible TranslatorsUSA.