My father was stationed overseas when I was born. Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan. When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?” The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.
When I was 13, we moved to Germany. We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt. We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know. We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at. If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.
So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.
If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language. Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language. It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.
“Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)
Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL. My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter. It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages. Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.
This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf. In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”
“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible? They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.” I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people. But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me. Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English. Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.” They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words. “Give.”
“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents. But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language. Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett
Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage. When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page. They have never heard the sounds that they must read. While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger. Like this…
The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently. And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language. ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans. But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world. They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.
They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year. Would you be willing to help them out? You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017
Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.
“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed. I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.” Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)