Wycliffe Associates plans to invest an estimated $150,000 on an international project for a type of Bible translation that has largely gone unmet around the world.
According to Mission Network News (MNN), which reported Thursday of the recent investment, more than six million people around the world use a sign language as their first language. However, out of the more than 500 different sign languages in the world, very few are being used to spread the message of the Bible.
Since August, Wycliffe Bible Translators has been recording and filming the Scriptures using sign languages by building specially designed studios, according to the latest report from Wycliffe Associates, a support organization for Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Currently, efforts are expanding so as to translate the Bible into even more sign languages, each used in different parts of the world.
"We've been working with some experts in this field and are cooperating as part of a project to create some local studios in different studios around the world where unique sign languages are being signed," Wycliffe Associates' President and CEO Bruce Smith said in an interview with MNN.
"Recently we sent a team to Costa Rica to help complete work on a video studio so that sign language translation could be done in that location," Smith added.
In the latest report from Wycliffe Associates, released in mid-August, the organization said two more studios were being planned for Latin America in addition to the Costa Rica recording/filming studio now being formed. Also, as many as ten similar studios are to be built in the future.
Smith told MNN that the project aims to deliver the Word of God to deaf people in their heart language, noting that fact that sign languages are not based on the spoken language in the country of origin.
"When we see somebody who's from perhaps, Costa Rica, we'd like [to assume], Well, they're signing in Spanish. Well, that's not true. What they're signing in is sign language, which has its own unique expressions," Smith said, using Costa Rica as an example.
Even the complex spatial grammars of sign languages are markedly different.
So to help lead all people to Christ, Smith said there is a need for us to bring the fullness of Scripture into that expression.
That is the expression that they understand in their hearts, he added, and it moves them from the heart level."
In the most recent report from Wycliffe Associates, Smith encouraged the supporters and volunteers of the sign language translation, citing a statement by Helen Keller, the American author and lecturer who became blind and deaf from an undiagnosed illness at the age of two.
"Being blind separates you from things, but being deaf separates you from people," Smith quoted Keller as saying.
"We want to make sure that being deaf doesnt separate you from the Bible," Smith added.
Wycliffe is asking people to pray and financially support this project, which it says will produce the Bible in DVD or video and produce other resources that will not only lead the deaf to Christ, but help them grow in their faith.