A Useless Commentary

We all know that bible study tools are extremely helpful, but what if I were to tell you that creating a new Bible commentary would be totally useless?

One of the hats that I get to wear, as the president of Deaf Bible Society, is the advocacy hat. Many times, as I am out building our network and fundraising for the organization, I often have to take off my fundraising hat and put on my education hat. One story I would like to share, is a commentary story that had a major impact on one of my travels.

I was in the Southeast meeting with a newly introduced person, working within a pretty major organization. This organization specialized in apologetics and biblical philosophy and was quite known for its many publishings. As I was at lunch with this new friend, I was explaining our work in sign language Bible translation and distribution, and trying to help him understand the needs for this work. He immediately stopped me and said,

“but what about commentary? Don’t the Deaf need a good Bible commentary in American Sign Language?” Of course, all I could do was agree with him. I said,

“I believe that we should have several commentaries developed in American Sign Language, we should have Biblical and Systematic Theology resources developed in American Sign Language, and we should have resources for Christology and Christian hedonism developed in American Sign Language!” I then just sat there and looked at him. He then asked,

“So why don’t you develop one?”

“Because it is hard to commentate on something that doesn’t exist!” I responded. I went on, “There is not ONE sign language in the world with a complete Bible, and only ONE of the estimated 400+ sign languages has a new testament.”

How do we expect to develop good BIBLICAL resources in a sign language, when a BIBLE does not exist in that sign language?

After a moment of silence, this new friend looked at me and simply said,

“Brother, we have a problem. WE NEED BIBLES!”

Finally, the point I was trying to make sunk in. Their own organization can not effectively engage the US Deaf audience, as they do not have resources available in American Sign Language. We cannot develop these resources in American Sign Language because there would be no full Bible to reference back to! What we have to understand is that this goes beyond a literacy issue. If I were to quote the statistics of 65% of Deaf Americans being illiterate, you would assume that had something to do with intelligence rather than language difference.

Once my friend realized that the problem was related to language access, effective teaching and learning his whole world was changed. To this day, he is a faithful advocate and advisor as we try to educate other organizations within this network.

The problem still exists that millions of Deaf people live their lives without access to the Bible in their language… their SIGN LANGUAGE. While we are seeing great progress made in the area of Bible translation, there are still millions who are not aware some of these resources are being developed.

You and I have the opportunity to engage people with the Gospel in their sign language, unlike any other time in history. You and I have the opportunity to be a part of the final frontier of new language Bible translation. Through prayer, giving, and going we can make God’s name great among the sign language nations! I pray you will seek how you can be sure that, when it comes time for sign language commentary, it will certainly be a useful one.  12622095_10153966296493707_8524354221170163089_o

Super Bowl 50, Sign Language, & the Bible – We See You Deaf Community

A few Sunday’s ago, more than 110 million viewers tuned in to watch one of the biggest sporting events in the world — Super Bowl 50 with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. The Super Bowl ended with what seemed to be one clear winner and one loser. But there were millions of other Americans who, once again, lost. They are the ones who communicate in American Sign Language. As the national anthem was sung by Lady Gaga, Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award-winning deaf actress, gave her beautiful rendition of this most patriotic song in American Sign Language. It’s sad, though, that only a few seconds of it were seen.

It seems only fitting that after the success the National Association of the Deaf has had in getting Netflix and iTunes to provide captions and subtitles for deaf individuals to be able to watch movies, something like signing the performance of the national anthem at one of our country’s largest public gatherings would be an awesome sight to see and experience, as well as important to the deaf community. Whatever reason the media uses to explain this away, it comes down to the simple fact that they probably didn’t recognize the value in it and chose not to show it.

Several years ago, the Deaf Bible Society team spoke with people at a well-known ministry that holds large crusades. The crusades are streamed live. We were so excited to find that they offer an interpreter at the event – so we proposed that they should also live stream the interpreter, so that deaf from around the country could tune-in and learn of the salvation message. We were told that it would cost too much and would take too much time to accommodate such a small part of the community. This was frustrating but not unusual coming from a group unfamiliar with working with the deaf.

Deaf Bible Society believes that the best way to engage deaf communities with the Scripture is to provide access to the Bible in their heart sign language. We understand that communication is vital. A breakdown in communication results in a loss of information, leaving people without knowledge or understanding. The deaf are considered one of the largest unreached people groups in the world because we have not taken the initiative to make the Gospel available to them in their heart sign languages and in a way they can efficiently engage with it and share it.

The challenge for Deaf Bible Society is that we lack the resources necessary to make this happen. We need to help the media and other ministry organizations understand the value — transforming the lives of the deaf. It is not unlike the communities that were colonized or enslaved; people prohibited from education because “an educated man is a free man.” Historically, governments kept people down by creating a breakdown in communication and prohibiting education.

Showing the signed rendition of the national anthem was easy, inexpensive, and desired by the community. If this simple and easy resource is not made available, what happens to the more challenging situations? Those challenging situations are much more critical than the opening of the Super Bowl — they involve the eternal lives of people.

Deaf Bible Society believes it is the right of every Deaf person to have access to the Bible in their heart sign language — a language they communicate in effectively so that they can decide the relevance for themselves.. Whatever your religious views are of the Bible, as a literate person you have had the opportunity and choice to read or not to read it; to engage with it or not engage with it; and decide what you need for your own spiritual
benefit.

The same lack of understanding that the media had with showing the signed rendition of the national anthem has infiltrated the church at large. We allow ourselves to be persuaded that sign language Bible translation is difficult, expensive, hard to understand, and, ultimately, not valuable. However, if we truly believe the Great Commission, Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28, then we must agree that all nations includes all deaf people. It isn’t left to us to determine which people groups are worthy of the message, but it is left to us to take this worthy message to all people groups.

There is hope for tomorrow!

 

See more at www.DeafBibleSociety.com 

His Word to the nations…

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.

Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;”

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.

Isaiah 55:11

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

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.

Pray

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.

Matthew7:7

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

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,

J.R. Bucklew

New Year’s Resolutions

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,

 

J.R.

Back of a pick-up in Ethiopia

Back of a pick-up in Ethiopia