The Apostle Paul once wrote that "faith comes by hearing," but what about those who can't hear? Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), the world's leading audio Bible ministry, announced Monday that it has added to its collection of audio recordings a video-based Bible application for the deaf.
According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are about 70 million deaf people in the world today; FCBH estimates indicate less than two percent of them have been reached with the Gospel message. Over 690 audio recordings of the New Testament have been made available by FCBH, but on Monday the organization announced its first ever sign language-based Bible app.
"When I took on the mission to get God's Word to every person, I assumed He meant every person," said Jerry Jackson, founder and president of FCBH, in a statement (emphasis Jackson's). "If the Deaf community worldwide were taken as a whole, they would be the fourth largest unreached people group in the world."
The free app, Deaf Bible.is, not only allows deaf users to read the Scriptures, but it also allows them to watch videos of people signing in American Sign Language (ASL).
"Because of this amazing digital technology, we now have a method to reach millions more of the Deaf population," said Jackson. "We are excited to have so many great partners lining up to be a part of this project and provide the content that will make this app a powerful outreach globally."
Those partners, which helped by providing video content for the app, include Deaf Missions, DOOR (Deaf Opportunity OutReach) International and Bible Society partners.
As is the case with spoken languages, there are also many different sign languages – at least 200 are currently known – so ministries like FCBH that hope to reach "every nation, tribe, people and language" with the Gospel certainly face major challenges in the deaf community.
According to the Deaf Missions website, for example, the organization began translating the Bible into ASL via video recordings in 1981. It took 23 years to complete just the New Testament, and only about a third of the Old Testament has been translated into ASL thus far. At least 16 other nations have since followed the organization's lead and started their own sign language translations of the Bible.
In addition to providing an opportunity for the deaf to "hear" the Gospel, FCBH recently added another nine languages to its catalog. Together, these recordings can be understood by more than 3.4 million people in Cameroon, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Uganda, Mexico, Colombia, Russia, Guinea, Germany and some other parts of Europe.