By Laura McKillip Wood
Chad Entinger began working at Deaf Missions as a way to give back to the ministry that had an impact on his life. When Chad, who is himself deaf, was 4 years old, his father attended a conference that Deaf Missions hosted. There his dad met the founder, Duane King, who encouraged him in his efforts to communicate with his son. Chad’s father returned home and used what he had learned to begin teaching deaf people about Jesus. “My father depended on resources and the training he received from Deaf Missions to teach me about Jesus in sign language. I am eternally grateful for this! So . . . now I get to give back,” he said. Chad is now Executive Director of Deaf Missions.
The Bible in Sign Language
Based in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the focus of Deaf Missions is to effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ with deaf people worldwide. According to Chad, “Deaf people are often an overlooked people group. We [Deaf Missions] exist to provide resources and training so churches may be more effective in sharing God’s Word.” In their headquarters they have a studio, translation area, training center, and offices. They also have housing for students in their training program. They focus on preparing students for international missions, sign language Bible translation, video production, and deaf advocacy and empowerment.
Deaf Missions has undertaken the ambitious project of translating the Bible into American Sign Language (ASL). This translation is presented in video format. When ASL is a person’s first language, as it is for most deaf people, written English is often a second language. Just as people who speak foreign languages need Bible translations in their heart languages, deaf people need God’s Word in ASL.
William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, once said, “Understanding Scripture in a language other than the heart language . . . is like trying to eat soup with a fork—you can get a little taste, but you cannot get nourished.” Chad hopes to nourish the hearts of deaf people by providing them with a translation of the Bible in their first language. The translators at Deaf Missions have finished the New Testament and are about half finished with the Old Testament. They hope to finish the entire Bible by 2020.
With more than 400 sign languages around the world, Chad feels that God has given them a huge opportunity to see the Word of God translated into every sign language, none of which has a complete translation of the Bible. “This year we are working to begin sign language Bible translation projects in Moldova and the Philippines,” Chad explained.
Worship Among the Deaf Community
Those outside the deaf community often have few friends or relatives who are deaf, so they know little about how deaf people interact with the world. Hearing people rely on spoken or written language for communication, so their culture tends to be auditory. Deaf culture relies on visual communication. Because of this, deaf people appreciate well-lit areas free of visual distractions during conversations, whereas hearing people tend to sit in quieter places or speak louder when there is too much noise around them. Deaf people, for example, typically sit across from each other at restaurants so that they can see each other clearly when signing. Hearing people may sit next to or close to one another so they can hear each other well.
Worship in a deaf church differs in some ways from worship in a hearing church. Obviously worship is done in sign language, as is the preaching and other parts of the service. While hearing people close their eyes during corporate prayer time, deaf people keep their eyes open to see and understand what the person signs during the prayer. As Chad explained, “During preaching/teaching time, there is sometimes a bit more interaction. Deaf people appreciate opportunities to ask questions as they receive, process, and apply God’s Word to their lives.” He added that “deaf churches tend to be very close-knit communities, and deaf people will linger a lot longer after church for fellowship.”
While hearing people tend to live around others in the same culture, deaf people are a scattered group. “We do not live in one specific geographic location. We exist in every country . . . every people group in the world.” The work of Deaf Missions to reach this varied group with the love of Christ continues to progress and grow. Learn more at deafmissions.com.
Laura McKillip Wood formerly taught missionary children in Ukraine and now works as registrar of Nebraska Christian College. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children (lauramckillipwood.com).