By Melissa Paredes
Photos by Marc Ewell & Heather Pubols
Every language needs the Bible in a format that people can clearly understand, whether it’s oral storytelling, written text, audio recordings or video. While the number of languages still waiting for Bible translation is progressively decreasing, none of the Deaf communities around the world have a full Bible in their own respective languages. Some have books and some have portions, but most have nothing at all. Deaf people worldwide are still waiting for a full Bible that they can understand.
Japanese Sign Language is one of those languages. Although multiple Japanese Bible translations have been published, they cannot be used to reach the Deaf community. Many Japanese Deaf only learn written Japanese as a school subject, never hearing it spoken to learn it naturally; a translation must be done specifically for the Japanese Sign Language community.
The “JESUS” film is already available in Japanese Sign Language, but the Deaf community still needs more—they need access to the Scriptures in their own language, one that speaks directly to their hearts.
That’s why they’ve been working on a Japanese Sign Language Bible. Deaf signers are bringing the Scriptures to life on a video screen. They aren’t just translating the words from the Japanese Bible; they are creating an entirely new translation, and every draft is done through recorded video. The team then goes back — often multiple times — to ensure that the signed footage is presenting the Bible passage clearly, accurately and authentically.
Roughly 20 percent has already been completed, and while work on the JSL Bible is still ongoing, the team is beginning to see the results of their labor.
Mr. Ogata does IT work for the ViBi team. He’s a hard worker, putting in long hours to make all the equipment work, but he’s not easily excitable. On one particular day, though, he was ecstatic.
“Last week I was alone at the office and we got a Skype call,” Mr. Ogata shared. “ViBi had had a visitor from another part of Japan who was so excited about the Japanese Sign Language Bible. He took three full DVD sets with him, and one went to a gentleman on the coast (where the tsunami and nuclear meltdown wreaked havoc).
“Well, it was that gentleman who called. He’s from [a church that doesn’t allow the ViBi translation], and he was so excited. ‘I’ve been a Christian more than forty years, and could never understand the Bible. I just had to try and do what the pastor said. I knew I should read the Bible, but I never ‘got it.’ This is totally different. It’s so clear! Now I can really know what the Bible is saying.’”
That’s why Mr. Ogata and others on the ViBi team do what they do—for that moment of clarity when suddenly, everything clicks into place and the truth of the Scriptures is finally made clear. And what a beautiful thing it is when God’s Word speaks directly to hearts in the way they understand best. It’s definitely something worth feeling ecstatic about!
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