Signing the Gospel

10 Apr 2024

Not singing the gospel… signing it!

Have you ever visited a country where no one spoke your language? Did you feel out of place? Did you need to either guess or gesture to communicate? Was it a challenge to ask for help, order a meal or share an opinion? If so, I suspect you were quite relieved when you finally got home and could seamlessly communicate again!

To be unheard or misheard is very unpleasant, yet this is an invisible daily reality experienced by the Deaf. Indeed, since most people in society are not fluent in sign language, this leaves the Deaf excluded and disadvantaged even in their own home countries. Imagine how tiring and frustrating it must be to always struggle to be understood. Imagine trying to understand the daily news or office banter or to follow a joke with family and friends when there is a constant language barrier. Imagine how easy it would be to be misunderstood every day!

Some interesting facts:

  • Worldwide, there are some 70 million Deaf.
  • The Deaf face common challenges no matter where they are in the world, but sign language is not one single global language.
  • Complete Bible translations are not available to many Deaf in their heart language.
  • The Deaf are not ‘needy’, they just have different needs.
  • Those who are born deaf often have hearing parents who lack fluency in signing.
  • Facial expressions and body language help communicate what is being signed, and line-of-sight is essential for effective communication.
Portrait of a Deaf man in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Every country has a Deaf community with its own language and culture. Pioneers is privileged to partner in Deaf ministry in Mexico, Tunisia, Croatia, Peru and, we pray, in the future, Japan!

Hailey, preparing to return to Japan to serve the Deaf, writes…

  • In 2013, law was passed to recognise sign as an actual language in Japan.
  • The deaf-mute I have met are very capable, independent, and obvious differences aside. Live ‘normal lives’; working, getting married, having children; they watch TV and use smartphones.
  • There are sign Christians and even a few sign churches! I’ve found books teaching sign Christian jargon. Sign communities seek community and are great at supporting each other. It’s not difficult to join and be welcomed into sign language circles to learn the language and meet people (even foreigners like me!). They love it when people come.
  • Sign communities recognise there’s a cultural difference between them and the hearing community in Japan. They are far more expressive in their body language because so much of the communication happens through expression. They speak more directly because sign doesn’t allow for as much nuance as Japanese.
  • Grammatically, Japanese sign is much easier to learn than the Japanese language!

Do you have a passion, experience or interest in learning to communicate and understand the Deaf? Could your passion be channeled cross-culturally to reach the otherwise unreached?

Is God calling you to join the mission field? Get in touch.

Jude Yap | Pioneers National Team Member and Singapore sign speaker

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