There are about 1,200,000 deaf people in Vietnam, many of whom haven’t gone to school due to poverty and a shortage of schools for the deaf. This means few deaf people know how to read well, so when a deaf person becomes a believer, understanding the Bible becomes a big challenge.
For this reason, the Vietnam Partnership program of the United Bible Societies is working on Scripture portions in sign language to help the deaf in Vietnam learn the Bible through videoed stories. As there is no standardized sign language in Vietnam, the sign language in Hanoi has been selected for videoing.
The deaf translation team is made up of 5 people from the north who hope and pray that all deaf people in Vietnam will see and understand the videos. The process includes reading the Bible, summarizing the story, drawing pictures to increase understanding, translating into sign language – which is very challenging when there is new term – and finally videoing the story.
Scripture changes hearts
Working on this project has been a spiritual blessing for each individual on the translation team. When the three year project is over, they hope to continue working together to evangelize the deaf as they firmly believe that Scripture changes hearts.
Ngo, 36, is the Project Leader. Fifteen years ago, he accepted Christ but only because he wanted to marry his girlfriend who had been sharing the gospel with him for a whole year. Then, one night, he had a dream. Ngo says, “God showed me heaven and hell and told me that he was my heavenly father. When I woke up, I proclaimed “There is a real God and He is in heaven!” This changed my mind about Jesus and I really began to know him.
Later, I went on a mission trip to a big town where we spent time with the Lord and shared the Good News with other deaf people in the region. When we ran into some problems, God connected us to good brothers and sisters. This experience strengthened my faith in Jesus and I prayed fervently for the salvation of the deaf community. But when two leaders stopped supporting us, we were all confused, worried and depressed. We did not have good biblical knowledge so we could not teach the Bible to other Christians. After a month of praying and crying out to God, we realized that the key is prayer and the Bible.
I thank God for this project as it develops my technical skills and I am learning the Scriptures more deeply and how to work in a team effectively. God is molding and transforming me through this ministry.”
Jesus has changed my perspective
Vu, 36, is one of the translators on the team. She was born deaf and also has three deaf siblings. Her parents suspect Agent Orange affected the pregnancies as neither they nor Vu’s children are deaf. This is her story:
“When I was 19 years old, a Japanese missionary shared the gospel with me using American Sign Language. I didn’t understand much at first but after a week I put my faith in Jesus. But when I read the Bible, I couldn’t understand anything and thought the Bible was too hard for a deaf person like me who had only studied to 8th grade. But I patiently attended Sunday services and learnt more about Jesus through a deaf leader who signed the Bible stories with our own grammar.
After 2 years, my parents found out that I’d been going to church and they were very upset, forbidding me to go to church again. Thankfully, I knew the gospel well enough to tell them that Christianity wasn’t just a religion, it was a relationship with the Creator. They saw the changes in my life and allowed me to keep going to church. By God’s grace, my older and younger sisters also put their faith in Christ.
In the past, I did not feel my parents’ love. They would ask me to do things that I did not like to do. They did not seem to understand my feelings. However, Jesus has changed my perspective. I now recognize that they love me but the way they show their love is different from the way I think or want. I talked to God and He opened my eyes and mind so that I can know and accept their love.
I hope to reach out to more deaf people so the number of Jesus’ followers increase. I thank God for the Sign Language Bible Translation as it is an effective method to evangelize non-believers and teach the Bible to deaf Christians.
The Bible showed me my true value to the Creator
Vu Thi, 25, is the youngest member of the team. This is her testimony: “When I was 9 years old, Vu, my oldest sister, took me to church but I did not understand who Jesus was or what he did. I only honored my sister and received her invitation to church. When Vu moved to Saigon with her own family and my second sister went to Korea to work, I was sad because there was no one protecting or comforting me when my friends bullied or made fun of me.
Many people at church told me about Jesus’ love but I couldn’t see or receive it because I still saw hatred, anger and selfishness among them. In 2006, I made friends with someone who really shared the good and bad times with me and helped me draw closer to God through his word. My other friends saw the changes in my life and were curious about my faith.
But when I moved to Saigon to study, I was lonely, bullied and had difficulties communicating as the grammar of the north and south sign languages are different. I felt very down about myself, but thankfully, the Bible showed me my true value to the Creator and I prayed to God to have enough strength to overcome the hardships. I continued to go to church faithfully and shared the Gospel with my school friends who at first rejected the message but later they saw that I really had peace and joy. I thank the Lord for his comfort and helping me get through this difficult stage in life.
I have learnt so much through this project since I have to read the stories, understand the meaning and translate them into our sign language with our own grammar. This work has helped me learn more about the Bible and our sign language as well.”
Do not follow the standards of the world
Nguyen, 34, was born deaf but has a hearing brother. He studied for seven years in a deaf school where he learnt American Sign Language.
In 2009, he heard the gospel from an Indonesian man. After having a nightmare about going to hell, Nguyen put his faith in Jesus! However, he found the Bible difficult to understand. With a friend’s encouragement, he began to read the New Testament and continued with the Old Testament. When he couldn’t understand something, he would compare it with the Revised Vietnamese version and it helped a lot in meditating and applying the Word to his life. He was married before becoming a Christian and after seeing the changes in his life after one year, his wife and 5 year-old-son decided to follow Jesus too. Even when his parents stopped them from going to church they did not abandon their faith.
Nguyen says, “I hope to help other deaf people know the truth, realize and accept their special value to the Creator, and not follow the standards of the world. As a deaf person, it is very hard to understand written books so when we translate into sign language with our grammar, we are helping both the Christians to grow deeper in God and non-believers have chance to know about Jesus through the Bible stories. In the past, I seldom shared the Good News with my friends. Since I have worked for the SLBT project, my faith has grown and I really want my family and friends accept the truth in Jesus and have eternal life. We’ve had a lot to learn about teamwork, however, if we all respect one another, look to God and strive for the same purposes, I believe that our team will succeed and bring the glory to our Mighty God.”
I no longer have fear
Tran, 42, is the Project Assistant to the team. This is her story: “I was born in Hanoi but my family moved to Saigon when I was very young. I became a Christian through an aunt when I was 13 but only really came to know Jesus eight years later after my boyfriend got very sick and died. This left me in a deep depression. For the next four years, I went to church for the Prayers at the Dawn at 5.00am. There I would meet with Jesus and he healed me powerfully.
In the past, I had a lot of fears and was not confident in front of people. However, 1John 4:8 says that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. So now that I know Jesus, I no longer have fear because Jesus’ perfect love has cast out my fear.
In 2005, by chance, I learned sign language at a class run by a friend. I was excited to communicate with the deaf and spent more time learning from them. I did not know that God was calling me to work in this ministry until when I read Philippians 2:10-11. Not many deaf people know that Jesus Christ is Lord so they cannot confess and give honor to the Glory of God the Father. Surprisingly, the more I work with the deaf, the more my faith in Christ grows. I believe that God has put them into my life for His mighty purposes and I give thanks to him that I was given this great opportunity to work with the SLBT team in Hanoi.
I never dreamt of bringing God’s word to the deaf people in their own language. Even though my mother stays alone in Saigon and she does not want me to work far from her, I obey God’s calling to work in Hanoi because I receive the peace from above. I hope that this project will help more deaf people know and receive the Message from God.”