How Can You Make a Difference?
The number 70 million is difficult to truly appreciate. I am highly visual and not a mathematician, so I am looking for a way to wrap my mind around that in terms that I am familiar with.
There are 400 Skittles in a one-pound bag. It would take 175,000 pounds of Skittles to equal 70 million pieces. Summoning my inner Dr. Parrott (an amazing math teacher here at NSU), I find that comes to 87.5 US tons.
But this is not helping. People are not Skittles.
There are 70 million Deaf people worldwide. The International Missions Board reports that of that number, only 2% are followers of Christ. This means 98% of the 70 million have not yet accepted Christ or have been reached by the Gospel. I would have to get Kin Thompson (another beloved NSU professor) to help me work out that exact figure and create a nice chart to depict it, but I think we can agree that it is an unacceptable number. That is the kind of number that will keep a girl up at night.
That is more than the entire population of the United Kingdom.
More than the population of Texas and California combined.
IMB reports that 1,534 Deaf people die each day without knowing Christ.
In the US, approximately one in 20 have some type of hearing loss; 1 million are considered functionally or culturally Deaf. It is estimated there are 6.4 million unreached Deaf people across both North and South America. Just this past fall, the American Sign Language Version of the Bible (a video version) was finally completed after 37 years. For the first time, Deaf Americans have complete access to standardized Scriptures in their native language.
The Deaf of South Asia are the most unreached at 18.1 million and are followed closely by East Asia at 17.6 million unreached Deaf. Sub-Saharan Africa stands at 10.5 million unreached, Southeast Asia at 6.9 million, 5.5 million in Central Asia and 4.6 million in Europe.
None of these people groups have a complete translation of the Bible in their native Sign Languages. There are very few passages, if any, translated into Sign.
So many people. So many barriers. How can we possibly make a difference? Maybe you are thinking, "I don't know any Deaf people. I don't know Sign Language!" Guess what? I did not either, until I did.
I was already in college learning to be an interpreter when I finally met a Deaf person for the first time. The Lord placed this calling on my life and I became aware of it at the age of 8. It was over 10 years before I saw that seed begin to grow. Here I am many years later, seeing that growth thrive and branch out in ways I would never have dreamed of.
You do not know what you do not know, until you do.
I have only recently learned of the experiences of the Deaf in areas like Nepal. Nepal has 214,000 Deaf and only two small churches of about 10 to 15 people. They have only five Scriptures translated into Nepali Sign Language.
Let that sink in. Imagine only having access to five Scriptures.
In the Hindu Culture of the region, the Deaf in Nepal are treated poorly and "put away" as they are viewed as being cursed for bad things they have done in a past life.
In Malawi, there are 191,000 Deaf people. Malawi is considered superficially reached and the Deaf community there have little access to Scripture. There is no Malawian Sign Language translation of the Bible and educational opportunities are often quite limited so reading Scriptures can also be a challenge.
NSU's ASL club, The Talons, and BCM have begun a partnership with Barnabas Secondary School for the Deaf in Malawi to create a language exchange. We are excited to see what the Lord has planned for both their students and ours.
So how can you make a difference?
Get connected with your local and campus Deaf community. Take a Sign Language class. Get involved with a local Deaf ministry and support their efforts. Be willing to try to communicate. Be teachable. You never know where it could end up. Most importantly, until we can put hands and feet on heart's calling to go and fulfill the Great Commission for the Deaf community, pray...and the next time you reach for a handful of Skittles, remember those 70 million people.
"But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (messenger)" Romans 10:14 (AMP)?
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually -- regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age" Matthew 28:19-20 (AMP).
For more ideas on how you can get involved with NSU's ASL community and the Malawi Sign Language Exchange, email Jameie Combs at firstname.lastname@example.org.