God wants to speak to us in the language that we understand. He wants to communicate even to those who cannot see, nor hear, nor talk. But how can God communicate with them when there is no Bible in the language that speaks to their hearts? How can they be reached?
These are pressing questions in light of the almost one million deaf Filipinos who are cut off from normal means of hearing the gospel. They need a Bible tailored to their condition and in their case, in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).
The Philippine Deaf Sign Language Association (PDSLA), in partnership with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) and the United Bible Societies, responds to this need with the ongoing Bible translation for the deaf. Nine Bible stories in FSL, produced in DVD format, have already been completed and were launched last May 27 at the PBS Ministry Building.
“The deaf cannot understand written words like the normal reader. Letters appear like figures and patterns to them. They cannot study the Bible on their own,” says PDSLA President Julius Andrada through an interpreter. He is also a deaf pastor serving in the deaf ministries of three different churches.
As there are unique challenges in teaching and counseling deaf people, providing them with sign language translation in their heart language will help them relate to God more deeply.
“We praise and give glory to God for this opportunity to make the Bible available to our brothers and sisters with hearing impairment, in the format they need. God has given us this tool so we can minister to them that they may know Jesus Christ in their life,” says PBS General Secretary Nora Lucero.
The process of making the FSL Bible includes rigorous review of the sign language translation for accuracy and faithfulness to the originally-intended meaning of a specific Bible passage. It also employs facial expressions, a unique characteristic of FSL. The videos were later tested among deaf students and businessmen to check comprehension.
One of the deaf translators, Pastor Jose Irish Pascual, shared that their work is both challenging and rewarding. “The Bible is so deep. I would often have to research the words for better understanding so I can translate it faithfully,” he says through an interpreter.
He also likened the video project to that of making a movie, with plenty of retakes and hurdles. Despite the difficulties, however, he excitedly shared that he becomes more eager and even sometimes moved to tears when he studies the Bible. “The creation story, Jesus’ suffering, and other Bible stories are just so interesting and captivating. I’m inspired by God’s amazing work and His goodness,” he added.
This FSL Bible is a five-year project which will be comprised of 110 chronological Bible stories, 32 of which is targeted to be finished by year end. Making it available through mobile applications and online platforms is also being explored. This Scripture translation will also be a feat for the Philippines, whose legislators are currently reviewing FSL as the national sign language through Senate Bill No. 1455. FSL is currently being used as the medium of instruction in schools for deaf learners.
The 9 FSL Bible stories are available at the PBS Bible Houses with contact number 526-7777 local 110.