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He's on a mission to bring the Bible to some of the most marginalized people around the globe

Posted August 16

The Deaf Bible Society is working diligently in marginalized communities throughout the world to connect deaf people with Christian scripture, offering an app that features 20 different sign-language Bible editions, among other tools.

The organization, which is led by J.R. Bucklew, has made its mission clear: to offer Bible access to as many deaf people as possible.

In the process of fulfilling this mission, the Deaf Bible Society has made headlines for its unique endeavors, including an effort in 2015 to fight against the Islamic State's reported attempts to indoctrinate deaf people into its ranks.

Bucklew also recently discussed a Deaf Bible Society initiative in a remote community in northern Kenya, during which his staff handed out sign-language Bibles to the deaf via micro SD cards, a projector and other related tools.

He said this was the first time the deaf groups in the region had immediate access to Bibles; the response to the outreach was "moving," according to Mission Network News.

"[There is] overwhelming joy when we get responses from them where they’ve said, 'We have begged ministries for years to come to us. We’ve heard of the gospel through other missionaries years ago, we have a couple of guys in our village who remember those stories, but no one has come to us. We’ve never been able to get training, we’ve never been able to get resources, our people are hungry,'" Bucklew said.

In addition to the Bibles, the Deaf Bible Society also provided training for community leaders about how to bring people together, how to use the Bible to train ministry leaders and how to lead people to become Christians.

This was seen as an important effort for the organization, as Mission Network News reported that the deaf face some unique cultural challenges in rural areas throughout Kenya, as some in society view the presence of a deaf child as "a blight on the family."

Bucklew said that these people see deafness as a "spiritual representation" of family homes — a punishment of sorts. It's a dynamic that tragically leads some families to hide their deaf children, he said.

This is a situation that was also covered by The Guardian in early 2016, with a reporter visiting a school for the deaf in Kwale, Kenya, where children shared their experiences. The article covers some of the plights of deaf children, noting that many Kenyan fathers leave when a child with a disability arrives.

Nyamula Mandoro, a 15-year-old deaf child, explained that many parents simply ignore their deaf children, sending them off to school and caring only for their "hearing children." She, in fact, is one of those kids.

"Deaf people are oppressed, hearing people don’t care," she told the outlet. "The parents don’t bring money, the teachers call the parents and ask them to come but they don’t, they only want to look after their hearing children."

Bucklew believes that his organization holds the power to help connect the deaf population to the Christian faith, an act that he hopes will transform lives.

"We were able to engage a school with several hundred students. We were able to go into the community, we were able to go up into a nearby refugee camp and find several deaf people there," he said. "So one-on-one, you’re training and you’re engaging and you’re equipping several hundred leaders and people who can now go out and multiply the effectiveness of scripture distribution in their community, with the goal that all 500,000 deaf people in Kenya have access to the Bible."

The Kenya project is just one of The Deaf Bible Society's initiatives, with Bucklew telling The Blaze last year that his organization responded to reports that the Islamic State was trying to recruit deaf people by releasing a video that would teach the deaf in the Middle East about Jesus Christ.

That clip, which was slated for release in late 2015, would feature a refugee living in the U.S. who was not named for security reasons; he said it would be distributed in an undisclosed country in an effort to counter extremist messages.

"Finding out that Jesus loves them and speaks their own language is incredibly affirming," Bucklew said of the effort.

The Deaf Bible Society is also working on projects in America, including a translation of the Bible into American Sign Language, as a full translation is reportedly not currently in existence. In fact, the organization proclaims that "the deaf in America [are] one of the most unreached people groups in the world."

You can read more about Deaf Bible Society projects in the U.S., the Middle East and Africa, among other initiatives, here.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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