The 21st annual Passion Conference just wrapped up. Passion, led by Pastor Louie Giglio, is a conference for college students that focuses on helping students prepare to spread the Gospel message, and to “leverage their lives for what matters most.” This year’s 3 day event sold out in 4 locations, and the more than 40,000 students in attendance raised over $400,000 to translate the Gospels into various sign languages.
The Seed Company is a foundation that both partners with groups doing Bible translations, and creates its own translation projects as well. Along with the Deaf Bible Society, they identified the more than 350 different sign languages around the world as a key target in not only achieving the Vision 2025 goal of having started translation in every different worldwide language by 2025, but also in helping bring the Gospel message to approximately 70 million people worldwide who have no good way to connect with that message without sign language.
A common misconception is that the deaf can read, so why would they need the Bible translated into sign language? The answer is much the same as why the Seed Company and other Bible translation groups are working to bring the Bible to every single people group in the world. Reading is more of a second language for the deaf community. Sign language is their heart language, or what you can think of as the language that is most innate for them, and will connect at a much deeper level. For example, they dream in sign language. The Bible’s message, especially that of the Gospels, needs to make a much deeper connection in people than can typically be achieved through second languages, or for deaf people, through reading. It is estimated, for example, that only 7% of deaf people in the United States will encounter the Gospel message in a way that they can really understand it. Therefore, translating the Bible into all of the different worldwide sign languages is a vital task.
At this time, only American Sign Language has a full New Testament, and there is no translation available in any sign language for the entire Bible. Only about 2% of deaf people worldwide have access to the Gospels in their heart language. The Seed Company is working with researchers in neuroscience and artificial intelligence to try to find ways to speed up the translations, in hopes that they will be able to meet the Vision 2025 goal. The first step will be finishing the ASL Bible, as a foundation that they can build from to complete other translations. The hope is that it will be finished in 2020.
With the money raised by these Passion participants, the Deaf Bible Society hopes to be able to translate the Gospels into sign languages for Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Moldova, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan and Russia. The Seed company also has current active projects in ASL, to finish the Old Testament, as well as Brazilian Sign Language, with Brazil being home to a very large population of deaf people. The Seed Company has helped move Bible translation along much faster than when they were founded as a subsidiary of Wycliffe in 1998, putting in place new processes and partnerships that have greatly multiplied the speed at which the Bible can be translated into both natural and sign languages. The new processes require, in part, more people actively working on the translations, computers, video equipment, as well as research, as previously mentioned, into new ways to help with sign language translation. The over $400,000 that was raised for the Deaf Bible Society to assist in the translations is an enormous blessing for such necessary projects that require much funding.
The Seed Company talks about imagining a world where there are no people left in the world who do not have access to the Scripture in their heart language. Can you Imagine Zero?