Translators serving with DOOR International, a Wycliffe affiliate that works with Deaf communities to translate Scripture, encountered an unusual challenge recently. When asked to demonstrate the sign for “forgive,” members of a Deaf community in South Asia could only come up with signs for “sorry” and “apology.”

At DOOR’s recording studio in Kenya, translators record a signed translation of Scripture. Photo by Alan Hood.

While observers might view their response as a setback to the translation work, DOOR president and CEO Rob Myers says translators view it instead as an opportunity to fill in missing concepts in the sign language they’re helping to translate.

“The hard part about that,” says Myers, “is that it’s not just that a particular word in their vocabulary is missing. Conceptually, [they don’t have] the idea of ‘I am forgiven . . . [that] when I stand before God, he doesn’t see my sin anymore but He sees me righteous.’”

Myers was not surprised that the sign language had no word for forgiveness, because it was a Deaf community that had never heard the gospel message. And while it would be easy for DOOR translators to come up with signs on their own, they choose instead to address the problem with input from members of the Deaf community involved.

“Their language is one of the only things that belong to that Deaf community,” says Myers.

Experts believe there may be more than 400 sign languages in use worldwide. According to the most recent statistics compiled by Wycliffe Global Alliance, about 284 have no Scriptures available.

 

Source: Missions News Network

Learn more: DOOR International