Unreached People Group

Kirk van der Swaagh,
Pastor, Neighborhood Church of Greenwich Village, NY

As we walk together in our “irreducible core,” seeking to love God, love others, and make disciples through the ministry of our local churches, there is an unreached people group in our midst that we need to be aware of – the deaf community.

Did you know that 98% of the world’s deaf population has not received a Gospel presentation?  That’s 68 million deaf people that need to be reached with the Gospel, with 1% of them residing in the US. This is a Gospel issue that the Church needs to mobilize and address together.

One might ask: why can’t the deaf just read?  That’s a logical question. But as I’ve learned, 65% of the deaf in the US are English-illiterate. For those that can read, reading the printed word is like a second language. American Sign Language (ASL) is not gestured English; it is a separate language with its own grammar, rules and syntax. To a deaf person, a book represents sound on a page, so for someone who has never heard sound, printed words are irrelevant. Remarkably, the world-wide illiteracy rate jumps to 95%.

Consider the following:

  • There are over 400 sign languages worldwide.
  • Not one of these sign languages has a full Bible, not even ASL!

Are we equipped to reach this group living in our midst? Thank God, we have help. I learned of this need from the Deaf Bible Society.  The Deaf Bible Society provides free access to Bible translations by video in 20+ sign languages, and they are working on more translations world-wide.  They also connect the deaf community by training leaders to establish Deaf Bible Together groups. And their Deaf Church Where tool points the way to Christian services and ministries for the Deaf.

What can we do?  

  1. Be aware of the deaf in our own communities, perhaps even in our congregations.  What are we doing to meet their Gospel needs?
  2. I would encourage you to learn more about the ministry of the Deaf Bible Society: https://www.deafbiblesociety.com/ 
  3. Pray.  Go to https://www.deafbiblesociety.com/prayweek1 to join in prayer for Deaf communities, or with your smart phone, text “PRAY” to 444-999; you will receive weekly prayer reminders with specific requests.
  4. Download the Deaf Bible App (which also includes The Jesus Film) from the Google Play or iTunes Store on your smartphone.  This will enable you to share Scripture with the Deaf.

As we work to make disciples of the nations, let’s not forget the deaf.

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