Partnership helps sign language Bible translation projects go faster and farther

International (MNN) — There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Today, while there are many portions of Scripture translated into sign languages, there isn’t one sign language today that has a complete Bible translation.

(Image courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)

Deaf Bible Society is working to support sign language Scripture translation efforts, but at current translation rates, they are thinking it could be 200 years before there is a completed Bible in every sign language.

The question they’re asking is, how can ministries go farther and faster with sign language Bible translation projects?

JR Bucklew, President of Deaf Bible Society, says, “The idea [is] going from, ‘Wow, it’s going to take us 200 years before we see a Bible in every sign language,’ to ‘We can have more projects start, and so now we may be able to see a Bible in every sign language in the next 30 to 50 years.’ What that has required is partnership.”

He adds, “It’s by not just having partnerships, but by identifying key critical partnerships where we have organizational values that line up well, where we have goals that line up well, [and] where we have a vision that lines up well.”

One of those key critical partnerships is a newfound collaboration between Deaf Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators. Wycliffe has been a significant leader in the world of Bible translations for many years and has supported sign language Bible translation projects. And Deaf Bible has the ability to identify those Deaf leaders, or at least sign language-fluent leaders, in each community for these translation projects and foster a Deaf-centric environment.

Because of this, a partnership between the two ministries made sense to advance this critical Great Commission work.

(Photo courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)

Bucklew says with the recent partnership, “Deaf Bible Society is now handling the field coordination for Wycliffe Bible Translators sign language projects. What that looks like is Wycliffe certainly has a heart for sign language translation projects, Wycliffe wants to invest through prayer, through finances, through people, and so Wycliffe has a network and they’re going to continue to advocate for sign language projects.

“Deaf Bible Society on the other hand, working with Wycliffe, is going to be the direct interface with sign language projects on the ground. So it really allows Wycliffe to have a partner organization where if they want to bring on Deaf leaders, they can send Deaf leaders to serve within an infrastructure that is sign language-centric, where those Deaf leaders will be able to thrive.”

By the end of this year, they’re hoping to start 15 sign language Bible translation projects with Wycliffe Bible Translators, in addition to 15 projects with other organizations. So a total of 30 projects will hopefully be started this year, with the goal to begin another 50 new translation projects over the next two and a half years.

“That would be a huge win for acceleration, but of course we need continued prayer. That’s going to require a huge amount of resources,” says Bucklew.

Deaf Bible Society’s Africa Coordinator, Simon, and a Kenyan man watch the Deaf Bible in Kenyan Sign Language. (Screen capture courtesy of Deaf Bible Society)

They also will need ongoing prayer since one common barrier with these projects is discerning how to equip Deaf indigenous leaders and “having either a sign language-fluent hearing person who really knows Deaf culture, or better than that, a Deaf person who comes from that culture and language community who can go in and lead among their own people, help start a Bible translation project, help keep it on track.”

Please lift these prayer requests to the Lord — for resources to be provided, for Deaf leaders to be identified in these projects, and that in the end, all Deaf people would get full access to God’s Word.

Bucklew says you can also be praying for this new partnership. “We’re excited about this partnership with Wycliffe. We pray that it will not only strengthen the ability to see an acceleration in the sign language translation world; we pray that it brings strength to the overall Bible translation cause.”

Also, if you’d like to have a tangible impact on these projects, you can “give directly to translation projects and be a partner in this work. Or see how you can be an ambassador in engaging your church, engaging your small group and your community to say, ‘You know, I think we as a group can help support getting Scripture to one of the most unreached people groups in the world.’”

To donate to Deaf Bible Society, click here!