Pastor who inspired first American Sign Language Bible dies

Duane King
Duane King | Facebook/Deaf Missions

Duane King, who started and oversaw the creation of the first American Sign Language translation of the Bible, died at the age of 84 and is being remembered for introducing Christ to millions of deaf people worldwide.

“Duane was able to witness the completion of American Sign Language Version of the Bible in June of 2020. This awesome accomplishment came about because Duane allowed God to work through Him,” writes Jo Krueger, a Deaf Missions staff member since 1998, in his tribute to King, who died Jan. 25.

The life and legacy of King, who founded Deaf Missions “to reach Deaf people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” are “a story of God at work,” he adds.

In 1966, King met a deaf couple and told them, “If you will come to church, I will learn sign language,” Krueger recalled.

“That statement set in motion a chain of events that would change the Deaf world forever,” Krueger added. “Soon Duane began holding church services for Deaf people at First Christian Church in Norfolk, Nebraska.”

In 1969, King and his wife, Peggy, moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to establish Deaf Missions in their home.

“It became quite apparent to Duane that many Deaf people struggled with reading and understanding God’s Word in English,” Krueger explained. “Beginning in the early 1980s, God provided godly and skilled people to work with Duane on a project that would produce a Bible in American Sign Language, the native, heart language of Deaf people.”

Krueger concludes that while King is “with Jesus now,” his accomplishments “will live on in the hearts and lives of countless people who ‘saw’ Jesus because of his faithfulness and vision.”

The funeral service was held last Saturday at First Christian Church in Council Bluffs.

Deaf Missions CEO Chad Entinger recalled King as “a giant” who has helped lead millions of people to Christ. One of the many lessons Entinger said King taught him was to “be faithful.”

“Duane and his wife, Peggy, were married for over 60 years and have raised children and grandchildren who love Jesus,” Entinger said. “Duane directed Deaf Missions for 37 years. Through Duane and his faithfulness to God, millions of Deaf people and their families and friends in more than 100 countries around the world have been impacted with the Gospel of Jesus!”

Friends and family shared fond memories of King on his online obituary.

Kevin and Julie Rens write, “We had the honor and privilege of not only calling Duane a friend but also a neighbor, what a great man, a true disciple of Jesus.”

King attended school in Skidmore, Missouri, where he was born in 1937. He attended Nebraska Christian College in Norfolk, Nebraska. 

“Duane lived his life with purpose, confidence, humility, creativity, and fun. He wanted to eliminate any kind of barrier that might get in the way of all people knowing Jesus as their Savior,” the obituary reads. “He also loved ice cream and told many it would be served at his funeral. It will!”

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