Same Continent, Worlds Apart
These brothers go through so much for the sake of making God’s Word available to their people
India~ Yep I’m Here
It was quite late in the evening when I landed at Bengaluru airport just North of Bangalore, India. Sounds and sights were what I had initially expected, but of course no amount of Bollywood Indian movies could prepare you to experience India for the first time. People weren’t dancing and breaking out into song when a climax in their day’s events were to occur. Actually I remember thinking that the people were quite somber. I suppose it must have been the heavy spiritual environment that they lived in.
I arrived a few hours later by taxi to the DOOR-India center, which to my surprise was in a village. It was truly a beautiful compound that was very and I mean very well built. However it wasn’t the building that impressed me but it was the people on the inside. The DOOR-India center is used for various things. Along with their video studios, editing rooms, conference and lunch hall they had their dormitory. This center is used for Sign Language Bible translation, and 2 by 2 team training (will explain more).
DOOR-India’s Translation Work and How it’s a Cross to Carry
It was my first morning and I was greeted by several of the guys down in the cafeteria. I was excited to meet several of them because I have seen their faces thousands of times as I worked on the Deaf Bible app and the ingestion of the Kerala Indian Sign Language translation. It was almost like meeting a celebrity! But oh how my heart grew for them as I was able to spend time with them and hear their stories of conversion, and coming to accept the call, carry their crosses, and take the Gospel to their own people.
I want to take some time to make you aware of a big issue in Deaf ministry, and why accepting a call to be involved in Bible translation is such a big deal for the Deaf. Whenever someone works on a traditional translation into a text. If I were to get my hands on that text I wouldn’t necessarily know who did it. So those translators have a level of protection. Even if I were to get my hands on a copy of the Audio recording, done by Faith Comes By Hearing, because of technology, the dramatization, and distortion of voices I still couldn’t pinpoint who took part in the recording. BUT if I get my hands on a copy of the Bible in a particular sign language I know exactly who that person is. All I have to do is find them and I already have their face!
These brothers go through so much for the sake of making God’s Word available to their people. Enduring persecution from their families and being kicked out of their homes and communities (the need for dormitory), and being recognized by the Deaf everywhere they go because their face is now imbedded into the Bible. They can not and will not be able to escape it. So, this is the cross they carry in answering the call to Bible translation. Please take a moment to pray for those involved in Sign Language Bible translation around the world.
Scooters and House Churches
I was still wide-eyed from my experience of riding in a simple car through the city of Bangalore on the way to the DOOR center when I arrived, and then I was to realize just how wide my eyes could get. It must have been a Wednesday or Thursday that I was planning to visit some of the 2 by 2 team members and house churches within the city of Bangalore.
I suppose now is a good time to explain DOOR’s 2 by 2 teams. Part of the problem with Sign Language Bible translation is that you need native/local people more than any other type of translation work. Not simply for language critique but they have to be the ones that sign the translation. Then of course how do you have a translation in a language where there are no believers? So you have Gospel proclamation! Of course it is nearly impossible for churches to sustain and continue without scripture. So they cycle goes on and we pray that in the proclamation of the Gospel we would see people come to Christ, and then God choose some for the work of Bible translation.
So DOOR has a model for Gospel proclamation and church planting called 2 by 2. This follows the model Jesus used to send out the 72 in pairs of 2. Because we all know how much more effective we are when we have a brother with us on the journey.
So back to Wednesday or Thursday (can’t remember which day… it was a long week). As we were discussing the plans one of the 2 by 2 guys says that going by car just wont be very efficient for our day. He then asks if I would ride on the back of his scooter. So I immediately say, “well of course.. No problem!” Then my mind begins to think…. On a scooter!?!? Am I crazy!?!? But none the less I continued with our plans and actually enjoyed the day. I even think I prefer to go by scooter or motorcycle than car. It was so much simpler, and not as scary.
We did some sight-seeing as they showed me some of the local markets, and then shared lunch together. Then in the afternoon we visited with a newly married couple who have both come to the Lord only about a year ago. The husband is now working with some of the 2 by 2 guys and is very active in sharing the Gospel. After this we proceeded to a home back behind one of the busy streets. When we arrived there were probably 25 Deaf people sitting in a room. Most of these were church planters, missionaries, pastors, and their families.
It was such a blessing to spend time in prayer with them, worshipping in their sign language, and having one of the leaders share a devotion. This was a regular meeting that they had so they could fellowship and encourage one another as they often spent their time in the city with their church plants or villages in the midst of initial evangelism. I also had the opportunity to share the Deaf Bible app with them and talk about future scripture use programs using solar-powered devices. I was excited to know several of them already had the app. This was a blessing since their translation is in the app and Deaf people around India had already been accessing scripture.
Many of these leaders and families have also been removed from their families and communities. Many of these have come to Christ from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds and so they have endured much for their faith. However they continue to minister and proclaim the Gospel! God is being worshipped among the Deaf community of Bangalore! Would you take a moment now to pray for the Deaf evangelists, missionaries, church planters, and pastors in India.
Still Asia but Worlds Apart
Hong Kong – Capital of Asia
I arrived in Hong Kong early on Saturday morning, and was immediately aware that though I was still in Asia Hong Kong was nothing like India. Of course I didn’t really expect it to be the same. I knew that Chinese and Indian cultures were very different, but I suppose that typical American thinking caused me to believe that somehow there would be similarities. Hong Kong was very ordered and structured. Not just in how traffic moved but in their social lives, education, and language. It was all put together nice and neat.
Below the Surface
As we drove away from the airport I felt like something was different. It didn’t seem to be as busy as India. Actually not even as busy as the U.S. or other countries I had been in. The roads just seemed empty. It didn’t take long for me to understand that Hong Kong’s traffic wasn’t primarily on the streets but that their primary and actually their most efficient means of transportation all took place under ground. Like not just under the street but I mean it was like another world that took place under the surface.
As I met some of the people and had conversations on the street, in the churches, and among acquaintances I began to notice something. Every one in Hong Kong dressed up very well, and knew how to communicate with one another. Everything they did whether in business, education, or socially it was about keeping face. It was all about reputation and how people viewed you. Even when encountering people with the Gospel sometimes their initial response seemed positive, but after my time there I truly understood…. Reputation causes a person to respond in a way that will be most likely to produce a better outcome for yourself, or how you are viewed by the person teaching or inquiring.
I began to have more respect for the missionaries, pastors, and evangelists working in this region of Asia. I understood why so many endure such persecutions in their ministries. It wasn’t merely the Gospel message being preached that caused such retaliation. You see the Gospel is not a surface level thing. The Gospel penetrates our hearts and goes much deeper than the surface. In fact you can say that it literally resides below the surface of our lives.
When a person lives their life and follows their cultural traditions that is merely surface level and mechanical their reputation and face in all of that is everything. Then you bring something like the Gospel that goes below the surface and shows people the truth of sin. Human nature (born with sin in our hearts) inclines us to be hostile to such a message. Because that message now shows us that our true reputation, in the eyes of the Lord, is a reputation of sinfulness and wickedness. We no longer can hold to our traditions, culture, or perceived reputation but are now “in need”.
Missionaries, pastors, and evangelists continue to proclaim this Gospel. They continue to flip the world of the Chinese upside down and penetrate past the surface level of people’s lives. The beauty is that when God gives grace and the gift of faith and a Chinese person accepts their true reputation they are drawn to the Lord with such overwhelming joy. Because the Lord has a gift that changes our reputation! The Lord gives us a gift that allows us not to have to life with our own face but to be washed in the blood of Christ, and when the Lord looks at us it isn’t our face or reputation but that of Christ.
Deaf in China
I was able to meet some Deaf friends, and even talk strategy with a partner (cannot be named for safety reasons) about work among the Deaf in China. Though Hong Kong is technically China it is however still a very different place. Hong Kong is a good safe meeting location for planning and strategizing but the need of the Deaf community in main land China is tremendous!
Teams are now beginning to research and see exactly how many different sign languages and dialects exist among the signers of China. Once they have an idea of what the big picture is we will then be able to see translation projects started and the distribution and proclamation of the Gospel among Deaf in China. Please pray for the believers there that they be strengthened in the work of evangelism and that those who God reveals Christ to be faithful in service to translate the scriptures into the Chinese sign languages.
Until All The Deaf Have Seen,