Go into all the world: 1. Preach the Gospel 2. Teach them (Matt. 28; Mark 16:15). How can you preach and teach when you speak one language and they speak another language? Both must share a common language to understand the Gospel. Deaf people have their own culture and language. Deaf people are within all countries. Someone must learn their culture and language to go to them. Philip asked the eunuch, “Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?” (Acts 8:26-38). Philip taught him until he understood. There needs to be a “Now-I-understand moment.”
In The Story of My Life, Helen Keller wrote to Anne Sullivan, her teacher, to explain her understanding moment. “The most important day is the one on which my teacher came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the contrasts between two lives which connect. I was close to seven years of age. I was blind and deaf, but I sensed that something exciting was happening. I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my hand as I supposed it to be my mother. Someone took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and more than all things else, to love me. My teacher gave me a doll. I did not know what it meant but she spelled into my hand ‘d-o-l-l.’ I tried to imitate it. I finally did the word correctly. I ran to mother and showed her the spelled word. I did not know what I spelled or what it meant. I simply imitated my teacher. I then learned to spell and imitate other words. I spelled ‘m-u-g‘ and ‘w-a-t-e-r‘ but I did not know the two words had different meanings. I became impatient and dashed my doll on the floor. It broke into pieces. I felt no sorrow as I did not love the doll. She then took me for a walk into the warm sunshine. I could smell flowers. Then she placed my hand under a water spout. The cool water ran over my hand and she spelled into my other hand ‘w-a-t-e-r,’ first slowly, then my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness – somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I then knew ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant that wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave me light, hope, joy, set it free! I felt eagerness to learn more. Everything had a name. Every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. I saw everything with a strange, new sight. I went to the broken doll. My eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow. Words made my world blossom for me. It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.”
Helen Keller had a “Now-I-understand moment.” She learned everything had a name. Two lives connected with enlightenment and understanding. This story continues to be repeated as two lives are connected. The walls of communication are broken down and everything has a name and a meaning. This story was repeated recently in Africa by missionary David Bennett (SWMI) as he showed church leaders that unlearned and unreached Deaf people could learn a language. He had the deaf people stand before him. Then he sat down and signed “sit down” and pointed to chairs. They sat down. He then stood and signed “stand up.” It amazed leaders. David then pointed to himself and gave his sign name. He used a “point and sign” language until they understood that everything had a name! They finally had “Now-I-understand moment.” After he was saved in an Omaha meeting, a deaf man said, “Now I understand.” He had imitated a prayer and was baptized but wondered why people rejoiced and shook his hand. For many years as a church member, he imitated others. Thankfully, he had a “Now-I-understand moment.”
The Great Commission is when the wall of communication is broken down and two people connect and share a “Now-I-understand moment.” They become aware that everything has a name. What if Philip had not gone to the chariot? What if Anne Sullivan had not met Helen Keller? What if I had not gone to Omaha? Our goal is to tell the Deaf, “More About Jesus.” Why don’t you learn sign language and share an exciting “Now-I-understand moment” with a Deaf person?
Don’t forget the Deaf! Into all the world includes the Deaf!
(Sign Language Materials Available: catalog.SilentWordMinistries.org)