Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples” is a constant compass that guides a believer’s decisions about where to live, how to work, and who to serve. However, it’s often not the “go” that Great Commission-minded Christians struggle with. It’s the “What do I say when I get there?”
Bookstore shelves and discipleship classes are replete with ideas about how to engage specific religious groups and peoples. Thought-leaders and practitioners have made great headway in developing meaningful ways to engage Muslims, oral cultures, atheists, and other peoples more visible in our Western culture. Yet, there remains a distinct group of people, hidden in plain sight, that is sometimes overlooked in our engagement conversations: the Deaf.
There remains a distinct group of people, hidden in plain sight, that is sometimes overlooked in our engagement conversations: the Deaf.
Just as with other peoples, bringing the gospel to the Deaf requires an understanding of their culture (yes, they have their own culture/s). It’s important to recognize how our misconceptions can be barriers and engage in a context that makes sense to them. Above all, it requires prayer.
Missionaries among Deaf peoples have put together a free prayer guide (below) to help you know how to pray specifically and intentionally for the Deaf peoples. When you are ready to engage, try these ideas from the prayer guide. Some require a knowledge of sign language, but there are others that also need people behind the scenes to support those engaging face to face with the Deaf. Everyone can have a place in God’s plan to bring the gospel to Deaf people in the United States and around the world.
8 Ways to Meet and Engage the Deaf
- Storying the gospel is the translation of Bible stories into sign language, which brings a visual representation of God’s Word to this visual culture.
- StoryOne camps are weeklong camps attended by the Deaf so they can see God’s Word through visual storying methods.
- Henna stories are another way this visual culture can learn the gospel, starting with illustrations of creation to the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.
- Cooking classes provide an opportunity for the Deaf to work with their hosts to create a meal, which creates space for conversations about how life intersects with the gospel.
- Deaf schools are a great way for teachers of sign language to meet Deaf students who are typically underserved by their education system.
- Deaf World Shake is a short-term opportunity for hearing and Deaf students to learn storying methods and serve alongside missionaries to the Deaf around the world.
- Deaf Theological Center in Tennessee provides a venue for professors and teachers to give theological training to the Deaf, as well receive education themselves on how to reach Deaf peoples.
- DeafGo Bible is a visual Scripture translation being developed and used throughout the world. Download the app for Apple or Android.
Rachel Cohen is a content editor for imb.org. She lives with her family in South Asia.