“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
—Romans 10:15b, ESV
The Deaf community, comprised of tens of millions of people worldwide, might better understand this verse as, “How beautiful are the hands that speak good news.”
And rarely is this Good News communicated to the Deaf. Approximately 2 percent around the globe know and follow Jesus—which, by definition, makes them an unreached people group.
The language barrier.
Facts About Deaf Culture:
- ASL and English are different. So, closed captions are often not effective.
- The Deaf don’t perceive themselves as disabled. Deafness is not a deficiency. It’s a unique way to interact with the world.
- Fourteen countries use ASL, but it’s not a universal language. There are more than 138 sign languages in use.
- Deaf can still enjoy music. It is a multi-sensory experience—the vibrations, lyrics, etc.
- The Deaf culture is a tightly knit sub-culture, bonded by the language, history and social norms.
- Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA) is a hearing person raised by Deaf parents and has an understanding of ASL and English.
“ASL is its own language, it has its own grammar, it has its own specific way of making a point with an emphasis,” explained Gail Markovich, an American Sign Language (ASL)-proficient associate at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
The uniqueness of ASL means most spiritual growth resources that the hearing world is accustomed to doesn’t translate well in ASL.
So, how do we evangelize to them?
Bridging the Gap
The most effective method to evangelize in ASL globally is through video. This is how BGEA’s Internet Evangelism ministry has expanded into the ASL language, starting with its Know Jesus ASL discipleship course.
To the knowledge of BGEA and ministry partners, nothing like the discipleship course exists in ASL.
The latest progress for the Know Jesus ASL course started with Alton Brant, a retired Clemson professor and a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult). He spent months rewriting the Know Jesus ASL course. His firm grasp on English and ASL enabled him to rewrite the course while keeping the content’s integrity.
Six months, six Deaf volunteers and several days in the recording studio later, the course was complete.
As of late June, the course is available online, free of charge, for ASL speakers who want to grow in their faith.
Equipping to Evangelize
The hearing world can advocate for change and support for the Deaf community, but the most effective strategy is to help the Deaf evangelize their own people.
Spiritual Resources for the Deaf Community:
One goal of the ASL ministry is to recruit Deaf volunteers to share the Gospel online. To become a volunteer, there are preliminary training videos for different ministry roles. Until this summer, the videos were offered only in English with closed captions.
Two BGEA interns, Meagan Bare and Sara Brewer, took on the ASL project for the summer, translating training videos for potential ASL volunteers.
Over the last couple of months, God has grown their hearts for the Deaf community.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware [the Deaf are unreached]—I wasn’t aware. Knowing that gives me more reason to know about ASL, the Deaf culture and how to reach them with the Gospel,” said Brewer.
Bare prayed that God would, “use my hands to communicate with them [the Deaf] … that we would be His voice through our hands.”
This summer, God has used their hands, along with Gail Markovich, to translate countless videos and complete the training modules.
Now, ASL users can become volunteers without piecing together a language that is not their own.
What Does This Mean for You?
We as followers of Christ have a calling.
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'”
—Mark 16:15, ESV
Not all of us know ASL or are equipped to learn the language, yet we are still called to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. There is more than one way to get involved.
If you don’t know about the Deaf community, keep learning and join us in prayer for them to know Jesus Christ.
If you do know ASL and want to serve, connect with our Internet Evangelism ministry and see how you can be involved.
Be the hands and feet of Jesus to the Deaf people who do not know Christ—particularly His hands.