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 

For Such A Time As This

It was around the year 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg began to work on something that would be revolutionary for the world. His invention of mechanical movable type printing changed the way information was shared for hundreds of years! This and other advancements led up to more efficient bulk printing and began to carry education and other literary resources to the nations like never before. We saw nations impacted by the mass importing of the Bible, teaching, and catechisms unlike anytime in history.

What would you do to have been able to contribute to such a movement as that? I know there are many wonderful causes and ministries that you are already giving to, but can you imagine what it would be like to have given to that cause? Imagine yourself having been one of the founding donors and partners in such a ministry. Imagine that for generations all of the ministries and organizations that would benefit from those foundational stones that you helped put in place with the Gutenberg press. It would be quite exciting huh?

Well what if I told you there is a similar opportunity for you to have such an impact TODAY? In fact there is a movement among us that is putting the foundational stones in place so for generations to come millions of people will be reached with the Gospel because of this effort.

Today we have the opportunity to build foundations and put things in place that will allow us to reach and engage one of the largest most unreached/unengaged people groups in the world. They are not specific to a geographic region or bound by the borders of nations. They are all around us. They are our worlds Signers. They are our worlds Deaf people groups.

Signers, or the Deaf, are a people unlike any other in the world. Everything they do, communicate, and share is visual. Their entire cultures and languages are based on visuals. They are exactly like you other than the fact that they communicate in a different language. Actually if you have been sitting in a Starbucks or any other cafe for the last half hour chances are a Signer has been through and you never even noticed.

You are probably wondering why I keep referring to them as signers and not just saying “Deaf people”. No, this is not a more politically correct term, or even something that is formally used in any particular setting. Actually to be honest this is just a personal term I like to use. I am a person who hears, but I am also a CODA (child of Deaf adults). Being a CODA I have been signing my whole life. Actually I sign in my sleep, and still today I seem to connect more with signed scripture than when reading it. We also tend to view Deaf people as a subset of our culture and community and then the only difference is that they can’t hear. When really it is much more than something related to the ability or inability to hear… Signers have a strong history, strong culture, and beautiful languages. It is because of these things, and my desire to be included :-), that I say signer(s). 

Signers have been severally denied access to scripture. This hasn’t been something intentional from the oral (hearing) christian community, but really is because of something I call “innocent ignorance”. The oral church hasn’t really understood the Deaf community and how to work with them. There haven’t been efficient platforms put in place for Deaf leaders within the church to lead effectively and have successful partnerships with major oral organizations. The fact is that the biggest barrier preventing signers from having access to scripture is the fact that there isn’t any. Did you know that of the 400+ sign languages in the world there isn’t a full Bible translated into a single one.

This is a big problem! Not one sign language has a complete Bible?!!? No wonder evangelism in the signing community is tough, no wonder it is hard to plant sign cultured churches, and no wonder missions among signers is difficult. There are not enough Bible resources translated into these signed languages so Deaf leaders can know how to move forward, but DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED! Today there is hope!

Just like the impact the Gutenberg press had on the world and missions. Today technology is at a place where we can make a significant impact in taking the Gospel to signers all around the world! Deaf Bible has partnered with Sign Language Bible Translators all around the world to provide accessibility to signed Bibles for any signer anywhere. Currently Deaf Bible provides signers with access to Bible content in 15 different sign languages through the Deaf Bible app, the podcast store, and online at DeafBible.com or Bible.is/Deaf.

This next year Deaf Bible will begin scripture engagement programs in these 15 language groups using our digital formats along with solar powered devices. Currently only 2% of the Deaf world has been engaged with scripture. It is our vision to see that 75% of the world’s Deaf population be engaged with scripture in their heart sign language by 2025. This is not just our vision, but it is a collaborative effort between us and some of our translation partners like DOOR International.

Today you have the opportunity to make a significant impact on a largely unreached people group. You have the opportunity to donate and see people engage with scripture for years to come because of this Gutenberg moment. We have our “printing press” but we need more languages, and we need more tools to engage these signers with God’s Word. Would you consider making a donation this Christmas to this Gutenberg moment in history, and see millions of Deaf lives impacted by having God’s Word in their Heart Sign Language.

For just as it was said to Esther, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

You have a purpose, and God has blessed you with resources and has brought you into His Kingdom. Who knows whether or not it was for such a time as this and for such a cause as this.

Every dollar you donate goes directly to bringing the Bible to the Deaf in their heart language. Would you join us?

Until all the Deaf have seen, 

J.R. Bucklew

©coda4christ

©DeafBible

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