Until all the Deaf have seen,
This past week I had the privilege of representing Deaf Bible at the Forum of Bible Agencies North America conference in Niagara Falls, Canada. This was a big event for me because there were going to be several representatives of Deaf ministries present, and there has never been this kind of representation of Deaf ministry work at FOBA-NA. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and networking with other ministry leaders! We were able to hear some very compelling presentations on the needs of youth and the need for more strategic and intentional ministry among them.
This was all wonderful! However, as I sat in this conference hall and thought about the dying lost world buzzing around us. I couldn’t help but think, “Surely there is more we could be doing.” I mean I realize that the organizations represented are doing incredible work! They are doing things that we could only have dreamed of 30, 15, or even 5 years ago. It wasn’t until I started to rethink one of the previous presentations that it actually hit me. Dr. Lawson Murray of Scripture Union Canada shared with us what he believed to be the problem at the roots of decline in scripture use. It was simple…. The problem wasn’t that the Bible just isn’t compelling enough, or cool enough, or boxed together and presented in such a way that someone is more inclined to read it. The problem was a salvation issue.The problem was and is their relationship with Jesus Christ.
This was such a timely and inspiring message for me. I was so bogged down with politics, and the feelings of strategy and distribution principals that I needed the reminder that Jesus is the answer. That even if I sit in my office, strategize, plan, and promote but do not get on the bus, ferry, train, or taxi and engage people in conversation, and actually share Jesus with them, all the planning and training is in vain. I teach and train and build programs that help people with Bible distribution and Scripture Use programs among Deaf communities, but how could I truly expect any of that to be successful if I am not intentionally out there doing it myself?
Sure we see fruit in our work. Sure we see people engaging with scripture. Sure we strive to glorify the Lord in all we do as a ministry. BUT what am I, J.R. Bucklew, doing to daily engage those in my community with the Word of God? So many times we get lost in our “ministries” that we forget to minister. We get so side tracked, because we work with Bibles day in and day out, that we forget to sit down and actually converse with the Lord over His Word. My prayer after listening to Dr. Lawson was that I truly feel the fire burn in me again with a passion to personally share Jesus with people every chance I get.
I am sure many of you have felt like this in the past. Maybe you are feeling these things now. However the Lord is faithful to His promises. If we delight in Him, and truly seek His face , He will establish our steps. He will make known to us where to go.
I began to pray about these things as we headed to Signs Restaurant and Bar in Toronto. This is a restaurant that is staffed by mostly Deaf individuals, you have to order your food in Sign Language, and the whole place is decorated with Sign Language themed art. Truly an awesome place to experience. While we were there we met a bus boy from Sri Lanka named Siva. As we talked with Siva we found out that Sri Lankan Sign Language is very similar to a Sign Language in Southern India used by Deaf living in Kerala. I was SO EXCITED because in the Deaf Bible app we have Bible portions translated by DOOR International in Keralan Sign Language! So I called Siva over and showed him Genesis 1 (the first portion in the set). His face began to change as a smile took over and not long after he was glowing! He then began to copy what was being signed in the Bible portion and then began to ask us where we got that from. I showed him how he could download the Deaf Bible app on his phone and watch it all he wants.
This story was such a simple example to me of how personally engaging people with God’s Word is to be a natural part of my life. Is it a natural part of your life?
Here are some things to consider as you strive along with me to make sharing His Word a more natural part of our daily lives.
Take part in His Word
You probably already know this, but in order to effectively share His Word we must know His Word. The more we are actively in the Word -> the more we are drawn to this precious savior -> the more we want to share Him and His Word with the world around us.
His Word has power. Take part in it! Find a daily reading plan and stick to it. Trust me I know how difficult it can be to stick to it, but push yourself. Work out in the Word. Build yourself up to being able to take in more and more and more.
To better understand the book we must be closer to the author. It is so important that prayer be a part of our daily lives. It is also important that we have real intentional conversations with the Lord. None of that “God is good God is great, Amen” stuff. A real conversation with a real living God! When you meet with Him in prayer ask Him that wisdom be granted to you. Ask Him for strength and a passion to share His Word with the nations. Ask Him for more understanding of His Word.
Have Good Resources
Finally, have some good resources in your pocket that you can use when you share. I say pocket because there are so many wonderful tools out there that you can download onto your mobile device FREELY, and have them ready to share. Let’s look at a few examples and how they can be used.
Deaf Bible – Deaf Bible is a good ministry and they have some great resources available when sharing His Word with Deaf people in your community. They have the Deaf Bible app which can be downloaded freely on your apple, android, and kindle fire devices. They also have content accessible in the podcast store, and in youtube. They work in collaboration with Sign Language Bible Translators around the world and are now providing access to Bible content in 14 Sign Languages.
Bible.is – Bible.is is a great resource to have when sharing His Word with people from various nations. With Bible content available in more than 800 languages you can’t go wrong having this free Bible app loaded on your device. Bible.is specializes in Audio Bible recordings so that even those that are non-literate can still access and engage with scripture. This has proved to be a great resource when I have met people from different countries. Whether in Starbucks, the airport, or loading it up and playing the audio in the back of a taxi cab.
YouVersion – The YouVersion Bible app is a great tool if sharing with someone who not only wants to access Bible content, but also wants some more bells and whistles in the study features. YouVersion also provides some nice devotionals and other resources outside of the Bible that can come in handy.
Browser Bible – The Browser Bible, brought to us from the guys at the Digital Bible Society, is a tool that I use quite often. This wonderful free Bible web app allows you to have multiple versions open, and you can also access the audio recordings that have been created by Faith Comes By Hearing. A truly unique study experience and it is all available free online.
I hope some of these resources can be put to good use as you take His Word to the Nations.
Until all the Deaf have seen,
Same Continent, Worlds Apart
These brothers go through so much for the sake of making God’s Word available to their people
India~ Yep I’m Here
It was quite late in the evening when I landed at Bengaluru airport just North of Bangalore, India. Sounds and sights were what I had initially expected, but of course no amount of Bollywood Indian movies could prepare you to experience India for the first time. People weren’t dancing and breaking out into song when a climax in their day’s events were to occur. Actually I remember thinking that the people were quite somber. I suppose it must have been the heavy spiritual environment that they lived in.
I arrived a few hours later by taxi to the DOOR-India center, which to my surprise was in a village. It was truly a beautiful compound that was very and I mean very well built. However it wasn’t the building that impressed me but it was the people on the inside. The DOOR-India center is used for various things. Along with their video studios, editing rooms, conference and lunch hall they had their dormitory. This center is used for Sign Language Bible translation, and 2 by 2 team training (will explain more).
DOOR-India’s Translation Work and How it’s a Cross to Carry
It was my first morning and I was greeted by several of the guys down in the cafeteria. I was excited to meet several of them because I have seen their faces thousands of times as I worked on the Deaf Bible app and the ingestion of the Kerala Indian Sign Language translation. It was almost like meeting a celebrity! But oh how my heart grew for them as I was able to spend time with them and hear their stories of conversion, and coming to accept the call, carry their crosses, and take the Gospel to their own people.
I want to take some time to make you aware of a big issue in Deaf ministry, and why accepting a call to be involved in Bible translation is such a big deal for the Deaf. Whenever someone works on a traditional translation into a text. If I were to get my hands on that text I wouldn’t necessarily know who did it. So those translators have a level of protection. Even if I were to get my hands on a copy of the Audio recording, done by Faith Comes By Hearing, because of technology, the dramatization, and distortion of voices I still couldn’t pinpoint who took part in the recording. BUT if I get my hands on a copy of the Bible in a particular sign language I know exactly who that person is. All I have to do is find them and I already have their face!
These brothers go through so much for the sake of making God’s Word available to their people. Enduring persecution from their families and being kicked out of their homes and communities (the need for dormitory), and being recognized by the Deaf everywhere they go because their face is now imbedded into the Bible. They can not and will not be able to escape it. So, this is the cross they carry in answering the call to Bible translation. Please take a moment to pray for those involved in Sign Language Bible translation around the world.
Scooters and House Churches
I was still wide-eyed from my experience of riding in a simple car through the city of Bangalore on the way to the DOOR center when I arrived, and then I was to realize just how wide my eyes could get. It must have been a Wednesday or Thursday that I was planning to visit some of the 2 by 2 team members and house churches within the city of Bangalore.
I suppose now is a good time to explain DOOR’s 2 by 2 teams. Part of the problem with Sign Language Bible translation is that you need native/local people more than any other type of translation work. Not simply for language critique but they have to be the ones that sign the translation. Then of course how do you have a translation in a language where there are no believers? So you have Gospel proclamation! Of course it is nearly impossible for churches to sustain and continue without scripture. So they cycle goes on and we pray that in the proclamation of the Gospel we would see people come to Christ, and then God choose some for the work of Bible translation.
So DOOR has a model for Gospel proclamation and church planting called 2 by 2. This follows the model Jesus used to send out the 72 in pairs of 2. Because we all know how much more effective we are when we have a brother with us on the journey.
So back to Wednesday or Thursday (can’t remember which day… it was a long week). As we were discussing the plans one of the 2 by 2 guys says that going by car just wont be very efficient for our day. He then asks if I would ride on the back of his scooter. So I immediately say, “well of course.. No problem!” Then my mind begins to think…. On a scooter!?!? Am I crazy!?!? But none the less I continued with our plans and actually enjoyed the day. I even think I prefer to go by scooter or motorcycle than car. It was so much simpler, and not as scary.
We did some sight-seeing as they showed me some of the local markets, and then shared lunch together. Then in the afternoon we visited with a newly married couple who have both come to the Lord only about a year ago. The husband is now working with some of the 2 by 2 guys and is very active in sharing the Gospel. After this we proceeded to a home back behind one of the busy streets. When we arrived there were probably 25 Deaf people sitting in a room. Most of these were church planters, missionaries, pastors, and their families.
It was such a blessing to spend time in prayer with them, worshipping in their sign language, and having one of the leaders share a devotion. This was a regular meeting that they had so they could fellowship and encourage one another as they often spent their time in the city with their church plants or villages in the midst of initial evangelism. I also had the opportunity to share the Deaf Bible app with them and talk about future scripture use programs using solar-powered devices. I was excited to know several of them already had the app. This was a blessing since their translation is in the app and Deaf people around India had already been accessing scripture.
Many of these leaders and families have also been removed from their families and communities. Many of these have come to Christ from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds and so they have endured much for their faith. However they continue to minister and proclaim the Gospel! God is being worshipped among the Deaf community of Bangalore! Would you take a moment now to pray for the Deaf evangelists, missionaries, church planters, and pastors in India.
Still Asia but Worlds Apart
Hong Kong – Capital of Asia
I arrived in Hong Kong early on Saturday morning, and was immediately aware that though I was still in Asia Hong Kong was nothing like India. Of course I didn’t really expect it to be the same. I knew that Chinese and Indian cultures were very different, but I suppose that typical American thinking caused me to believe that somehow there would be similarities. Hong Kong was very ordered and structured. Not just in how traffic moved but in their social lives, education, and language. It was all put together nice and neat.
Below the Surface
As we drove away from the airport I felt like something was different. It didn’t seem to be as busy as India. Actually not even as busy as the U.S. or other countries I had been in. The roads just seemed empty. It didn’t take long for me to understand that Hong Kong’s traffic wasn’t primarily on the streets but that their primary and actually their most efficient means of transportation all took place under ground. Like not just under the street but I mean it was like another world that took place under the surface.
As I met some of the people and had conversations on the street, in the churches, and among acquaintances I began to notice something. Every one in Hong Kong dressed up very well, and knew how to communicate with one another. Everything they did whether in business, education, or socially it was about keeping face. It was all about reputation and how people viewed you. Even when encountering people with the Gospel sometimes their initial response seemed positive, but after my time there I truly understood…. Reputation causes a person to respond in a way that will be most likely to produce a better outcome for yourself, or how you are viewed by the person teaching or inquiring.
I began to have more respect for the missionaries, pastors, and evangelists working in this region of Asia. I understood why so many endure such persecutions in their ministries. It wasn’t merely the Gospel message being preached that caused such retaliation. You see the Gospel is not a surface level thing. The Gospel penetrates our hearts and goes much deeper than the surface. In fact you can say that it literally resides below the surface of our lives.
When a person lives their life and follows their cultural traditions that is merely surface level and mechanical their reputation and face in all of that is everything. Then you bring something like the Gospel that goes below the surface and shows people the truth of sin. Human nature (born with sin in our hearts) inclines us to be hostile to such a message. Because that message now shows us that our true reputation, in the eyes of the Lord, is a reputation of sinfulness and wickedness. We no longer can hold to our traditions, culture, or perceived reputation but are now “in need”.
Missionaries, pastors, and evangelists continue to proclaim this Gospel. They continue to flip the world of the Chinese upside down and penetrate past the surface level of people’s lives. The beauty is that when God gives grace and the gift of faith and a Chinese person accepts their true reputation they are drawn to the Lord with such overwhelming joy. Because the Lord has a gift that changes our reputation! The Lord gives us a gift that allows us not to have to life with our own face but to be washed in the blood of Christ, and when the Lord looks at us it isn’t our face or reputation but that of Christ.
Deaf in China
I was able to meet some Deaf friends, and even talk strategy with a partner (cannot be named for safety reasons) about work among the Deaf in China. Though Hong Kong is technically China it is however still a very different place. Hong Kong is a good safe meeting location for planning and strategizing but the need of the Deaf community in main land China is tremendous!
Teams are now beginning to research and see exactly how many different sign languages and dialects exist among the signers of China. Once they have an idea of what the big picture is we will then be able to see translation projects started and the distribution and proclamation of the Gospel among Deaf in China. Please pray for the believers there that they be strengthened in the work of evangelism and that those who God reveals Christ to be faithful in service to translate the scriptures into the Chinese sign languages.
Until All The Deaf Have Seen,
Where do I even begin? I suppose it all starts months back when we were in a meeting at Deaf Bible’s home office in Albuquerque, NM. We were discussing FOBAI’s (Forum of Bible Agencies International) desire to have the inaugural meeting for the Deaf and Sign Language Development Group. I don’t think I knew what I was taking on when I said I would help organize it.
I had planned meetings in the past, but as it turns out trying to organize a meeting with different organizations coming together to discuss various topics related to translation and engagement wasn’t a simple task. Then throw in the fact that it all has to take place in a country in SE Asia! But I suppose things like that kind of excited me. I was eager to plan it and see it come to fruitfulness. I do thank my team, and our partners for all of the help that they provided. Whether it was emailing, having video phone calls, presenting on various topics, recording the whole meeting in video so we would have adequate minutes in ASL, and just simply being hands and feet. They proved themselves to be powerful servants in the Kingdom work and I was and am grateful for them.
We took off from the Albuquerque Sunport at around 11:59PM on April the 6th. Our flight to JFK was a decent one but trying to stay awake until my flight to Dubai was quite.. umm… exhausting! We were off to a wonderful start as we had a beautiful 4 1/2 hour layover in New York before our 2nd leg of the trip. We found our gate and one of the only open restaurants in the area, and so we sat down and ordered breakfast.
It became quite humorous as we started to play some card games. One of those games required you to use 4 quarters. Each time you “lost” you put in a quarter and the person who had quarters left won. The problem was we didn’t have quarters and so we improvised. We had dollar bills! In our fatigue and exhaustion in travels we began to realize just how odd we looked. We then recognized the fact that our quaint little breakfast place was an Irish Pub in which we were playing cards and using cash that was being thrown in a pile in the middle of the table. An innocent mistake… that could have been misunderstood. This gave us quite a laugh as we thought, “We’re just folks from a Bible agency headed to an International Bible conference.” I’m sure you can see the humor in that.
We finally made it to Colombo, Sri Lanka and were just walking out of the airport with our driver when we realized this was no ordinary day. You see we had arrived at the same time as the World Cup Champions Sri Lankan cricket team. It was certainly an exciting time for the Sri Lankans and being in the midst of their hundred thousand person crowd outside the airport was definitely exciting.
Arrival and Week’s Beginnings
It must have only been a few minutes after we arrived at the hotel that we met other Deaf friends in the lobby. There were folks from Kenya, Japan, India, and the United States! It was a very well mixed group and on tip of our variety we were meeting in Sri Lanka.
It must have been about 6 or 7:00PM by this time and we were quite jet lagged. I still needed to figure out where our meeting room was going to be and if all of the supplies were set up. This was an urgent task as our meeting would begin the next morning. So, I finally got all of the information I needed, had dinner, and then it was off to bed.
7:00AM rolled around quickly as we were now sitting down for breakfast. It really was an amazing hotel with an amazing view. What a great place to have a conference. I remember thinking that I might pay more at regular Marriott back in the U.S. just to look out at a parking lot but to have breakfast on a terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean… well… I couldn’t complain.
We started the Deaf Development group meetings at 9:00 that morning. Beginning with introductions of the various organizations and ministries, and their presentations about their international work. The day consisted of presentations and workshop type discussions on Bible translation methodology, Technology and distribution models, Scripture Use Models, and discussions on Deaf leaders within a hearing world (meaning how signers operate, manage, communicate, and partner with ministries within an oral hearing environment).
Now if you know anything about Deaf culture and how things operate we had meetings the rest of the week titled “Parking Lot Discussions”. This is simply an observation of the Deaf community and how information is usually shared and discussed. Conversations can carry on for a while in the Deaf world, and often times whether at Church, Deaf clubs, or other meetings the group will often end up still having their discussions in the parking lot even after the “official” meeting has ended. So any time a topic or idea was brought up that wasn’t on the meeting agenda it was moved to the Parking Lot discussion list. Then for the rest of the week the Deaf Development group simply worked through the list to attempt and cover as much as possible.
This was truly a wonderful time for these ministries to gather and discuss what is really happening in the Deaf world regarding translation and scripture use. It was a wonderful opportunity for networking and relationship building, but more importantly a time of fellowship and prayer.
Radical Requests for Immediate Impact
We know that the Deaf are one of the largest most unreached and unengaged people groups in the WORLD. With only 2% exposure, and only 5% of Deaf Americans attending church at any time in the year. Now this is a people group who have long gone not only unrecognized but have also been misunderstood by the hearing/oral community. Their culture, their people, and their languages are the primary things that the Hearing/Oral culture have misunderstood.
It isn’t necessarily because of intended oppression or un-interest, but there has been a lack of education. You see, in the Deaf world there often times is a lack of understanding, because lack of communication leads to a lack of information and therefore you are left with a lack of understanding. This is largely why the Deaf are so unreached with the Gospel. This is also why the Hearing/Oral Community are so unaware, but make no mistake efforts are being made and sometimes we tend to fight against awareness. So we must make sure that as the needs of the Deaf and Sign Language community are presented that we open up our minds to accept awareness because it is then that change will take place.
It is this reason that myself and others have been fighting for the Deaf community to be recognized, and not only to be reached but that Deaf leaders be welcomed into places of leadership within the missions world. Because those that can best reach and educate are those from the Deaf and Sign Language Community. So this year we were finally given space to have a Deaf and Sign Language development group under the Forum of Bible Agencies International. However if you know anything about me this wasn’t going to be enough.
I had a couple of meals with some of the FOBAI leadership. I explained the needs, made the case, and introduced them to several Deaf leaders. It was after this (and much prayer) that I felt the Lord would bless our request. So myself, and a brother from Japan approached the board and CEO’s and asked that the FOBAI annual conference theme for 2016 be Deaf and Sign Languages. Meaning that the whole conference will focus in on the needs of the Deaf and Sign Language community. With workshops and presentations centered on Sign Language Bible translation, Scripture Use models, Deaf children’s ministry, Church planting within the Deaf community, Sending Deaf missionaries, and more.
This is a wonderful opportunity for our community to be recognized officially and have such an opportunity to impact and bring awareness to the many Bible ministries in the world.
Isaiah talks about the world falling apart, scoffers, and idolaters. He then records the Lord saying in 29:18-19
“In that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel”. (ESV)
What an opportunity we have in this day and age for the Deaf to experience the Bible in their heart sign languages. To have access that is unprecedented to anything before. We rejoice and continue to rejoice as Deaf all over the world are obtaining fresh joy in the Lord!
Pray friends for the needs of the Sign Language community and for the Gospel going forth in the world. Be on the look out for my next Blog detailing my time in India and Hong Kong. Also be watching out for a Blog series that I will soon begin posting titled “My Deaf Heart”.
Until all the Deaf have seen,
So it is a new year and it seems everyone is coming up with their new year’s resolutions. Well when I normally fight against this time of year when most make vain attempts at something which is not intended or just probably won’t last. I ended up listening to John Piper’s Podcast in which he addresses resolutions (https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/a-little-theology-of). He talks about mere human will power vs. seeking the Lord for true spiritual resolutions.
Well with that being said I have come to the conclusion that there are actually a few things that I could change which would definitely benefit me spiritually.
The first one is to come up with a “hobby” for myself. When at first this might not seem so “spiritual”; it does seem that having something wholesome that I can do to relieve stress and something I enjoy doing would help me in my day to day walk. As I think about King David and the many Psalms he has written. I think about where he might have been while he was writing them. The vivid images that he portrays to us in the text had to have been something he saw and in which he made comparisons. Maybe he was out “hiking” or even just sitting on the hillside taking in the view. He certainly had something that he enjoyed doing which in turn caused him to meditate on the Lord. So, a hobby is something I seek to find this next year.
Second, I seek to fulfill some intellectual needs in my life. I too think these things will equip me spiritually. So to read a book a month! That is the first challenge and this does not include devotionals, or books I might use for Bible study. This is just a good, spiritually encouraging, theology building, love growing book that I might read. Also I seek to learn or at least begin learning one language this year. I think this is something I am just generally interested in and with my extensive travels and communication with friends, and partners around the world this would just be an overall benefit.
Third, the umm not so fun resolutions. I seek to get myself into a habitual jogging or running routine, and to find a bicycle. Paul did tell Timothy that exercise profited little. So I take that to mean that yes it will have some profit for your life. It will allow me to be more mobile and more successful in my travels. This is definitely a contribution to my spiritual life. I mean how can I take His Word to the ends of the earth if I can’t walk across the yard without panting for air?
I suppose we reach the end of these resolutions. Who knows what activities I may find entertaining and encouraging but I do pray that the Lord provide. It is also my desire to be one who truly seeks the Lord in His Word. To have it with me always, know it to it’s fullest, and share it that He may be glorified among all the people of the World.
Until All the Deaf Have Seen,