Do You See What I Hear?
According to the World Federation for the Deaf, there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. Because statistics for deafness are difficult to evaluate, many estimates for the global deaf population are more than double the World Federation numbers.
While population statistics vary, there is near universal agreement among mission agencies that the Deaf people of the world are among the least reached people in the world. Only 2% to 4% of the Deaf people in the Western world are Christians. In the majority world or developing countries, the estimates fall to under .05%.
The task of reaching the Deaf with the gospel is made even more challenging in that there are as many as 400 different sign languages in use in the world. Of those languages, 95% have no Bible. Of the remaining 5%, most have only portions of scripture and only one translation (American Sign Language) of the entire Bible is nearing completion. The Deaf Bible Society is making great strides in its work on multiple languages, but this is still a ‘work in progress’.
According to the Director of one mission organization to the Deaf: “Ninety-five percent of deaf children are born into hearing families, but only 10 percent of parents learn enough ASL to have a conversation beyond ‘pass the salt’ and ‘be quiet.’ When parents have limited signing skills, it’s very difficult for them to teach their children about Jesus.”
While these are rather daunting statistics, there has been a renewed interest in reaching the Deaf in recent years. Deaf churches have been ministering to the deaf with great passion for decades. Now, bolstered by new technologies and methods, the movement has made significant progress. Multiple mission agencies and Christian NGOs have been working to be catalysts in the Christian community to use these new technologies to address this significant need.
In the past two weeks, Clear and Simple Media has had conversations with two such organizations about the possibility of using our simplified English content. Because the books are built around a more concise vocabulary set, the content is more accessible. According to one experienced ASL interpreter, ‘This is exactly the kind of material that we are looking for’.
While it is premature to announce this new partnership, we are scheduled to continue the conversation in the weeks ahead. We are exploring the possibility of having the stories on our Hear A Story website translated into American Sign Language (ASL). The video stories would then be distributed through a proprietary YouTube channel and also given to our project partners to use at no cost.
Like many of the projects that we have become involved with in the past 5 years, this one has come as a surprise to us. Like our first little book that seemed to ‘escape’ the limits we had imagined for it, the stories we have recorded and new books we have written are going places that we never imagined when we started.
Please pray for wisdom as we manage our resources and determine how to best leverage them to impact the greatest number of people. And pray for the millions of Deaf people around the world who are yet to see the name of Jesus in their language.