Until now Armenia’s Deaf children didn’t have any access to the Bible in their language. But that is about to change, thanks to the efforts of a fantastic young team of Deaf people who met in the same school in Yerevan and decided to minister to Armenian Deaf children.
Smiles. Big smiles. Lots of smiles. And lots of energy! This is the first impression you get when meeting the young Deaf people who are part of the Sign Language project of the Bible Society of Armenia. They have now completed the recording, which is in the hands of the technicians for the DVD to be released, and they are understandably proud of their hard work!
There are 35,000 Deaf people in Armenia. And until now no part of the Scriptures was available in Armenian sign language. – Communicating the Bible in sign language is crucial as, very often, Deaf people cannot read. They have never heard so they struggle to learn spoken language and its written form. Their language is a sign language.
365 stories of the Bible
The common aim of these young people, who all met in a state school for the Deaf, was to translate 365 stories of the Bible into Armenian sign language so that the Deaf children of their country could discover the Bible.
“I have personally been touched by Christians and by the stories of the Parables,” says Gevorge, 20, who is studying at the Pantomime Faculty State Institute of Theater and Cinema to become an actor. “Jesus is God, and he lived as a man on Earth, he is an example for us to follow and we need to learn from him. Not all children understand who God is, why Jesus died… I really wanted to present the Bible in a way that Deaf children can understand, the way hearing children do! I don’t want to keep the Word of God for myself alone! I want to share it!”
A daunting task
Even though they were strongly motivated, it was a daunting task, especially as they had never done anything like this before… They grew and learned a lot through this work. They deepened their knowledge of the Word of God, but they also got to know themselves a lot better…
“When I was asked if I wanted to be part of this Bible translation project, it sounded very difficult!” says Edik, 24. “And the first time I took part in a translation workshop, my heart was beating very strongly!”
“I really wanted to share the stories of the Bible, but I needed to learn to relax first, says Emma, 18… What I needed to do was to imagine that I was sharing them with the children.”
For Shushan, 27, who started attending the school for the Deaf much later than her friends, all this hard work really helped her to improve her knowledge of sign language:“When I started participating in this project, it was so difficult for me because I didn’t understand sign language as well as my friends here. But they helped me a lot, I worked by myself a lot, and succeeded!”
Two people were a big help in this adventure: Father Yessayi, an Orthodox priest, who helped them understand the Bible text. And Zubeida, who teaches sign language in the state school where they all studied and met. She was at the origin of the project and its coordinator.
“I know there are no other similar projects in the world, but I feel the youth should speak to the youth,” Zubeida says. And indeed, the fact that the translation was done by young people for young people is what makes this project so unique.
“The young translators have suffered a lot for these recordings, sometimes it was like torturing them, they were working so hard! But the translation is in pure Armenian… Glory to God, we did it! It took us three years but we did it! Each time after they signed the Bible stories I hugged them… I was so proud of them!”
Greta, who is studying to become a teacher now, approves with a big smile: “At the beginning, when she told us about this idea, Zubeida told us it was going to be a blessing for all of us to translate Bible stories into sign language like this! And we wanted to do it too for the glory of God. But really we couldn’t believe we could do it! Yet we did!”