Ministry Translates Bible Stories in Sign Language

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KENYA, Africa -- People who can't hear face tremendous challenges. That's especially true in education because they need special instruction to learn to read.

Now, a Christian ministry is rising to the challenge with an ambitious translation project by recording key Bible stories in the sign language of every African country.

The first translations have just been published with great celebration in the sub-Saharan nation of Kenya.

The beat of African drums helped drive the message home at a recent celebration in Nairobi, Kenya. Yet aside from the drums, only a select few would understand the message, delivered in Kenyan sign language.

"Go, paint the doorposts of your house and you will be saved," the message said.

This message is in reference to the Passover story from the book of Genesis, translated for the first time for the estimated 340,000 Kenyans who are deaf.

"Deep inside I feel so happy," said Paul Njatha, of the Deaf Opportunity Outreach, also known as DOOR International. "It's hard to express what's in my heart, but my heart is so full."

DOOR trains pastors for Kenya's deaf communities.

"But as we began that training program we realized that how can these pastors and leaders teach in the church without a Bible in their language," asked Jojo Ninan of DOOR.

So they partnered with Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate 32 different Bible stories into Kenyan sign language.

"The deaf people can't read, we can't read, we don't understand the meaning of the words," said Florence Mbuthye of DOOR. "So the deaf people, how they're going to use it is they'll see the Bible in sign language and understand how Jesus relates to them very clearly. They'll use it for fellowships, in churches, in other people's homes."

The stories were signed on video and distributed on DVD. This was the day the Bible stories were finally presented to the public.

"Today I see what has happened and wow, let me tell you, I am just so excited," Mbuthye said. "We've been very busy and energized and passionate about this work."

The Bible stories played out on the stage will now go to the homes of the deaf.

"It will help my family," said Joseph Murighi, a tailor who leads a house church. "It will help other families there. I will use it to help other families there."

The DOOR ministry also plans to distribute copies to all the deaf schools in Kenya.

"We could understand the teaching," one student said. "And people will be blessed in a mighty way, and especially the deaf people in my school."

"And this is very important to be able to give out the DVDs and the signs," said Augustine Njunguna of DOOR. "I mean I'm so inspired, I feel relieved that it's finished."

They may be finished with the Kenyan version, but now the team is taking on an even greater challenge -- to translate Bible stories for every deaf language in Africa.

Translators are also working New Testament accounts. The ministry's goal is to record 110 Bible stories on DVD to create a primary Bible for the deaf community.

*Originally aired on March 26, 2010.  

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