As usual, the latest news out of South Sudan is grim. According to Reuters, South Sudanese soldiers are bringing the fight into parts of Uganda.
Years of violence have left no communities – Deaf or hearing – untouched. More than 2 million people are internally displaced, and more than half of all children are refugees.
Nonetheless, hope remains.
On September 16, DOOR International and South Sudanese Deaf will celebrate the very first Scriptures ever translated and published in South Sudanese Sign Language.
DOOR’s Deaf translators completed the first 32-passage section of the Chronological Bible Translation, “Know God How?” this summer. In the coming weeks, the team plans to publish and distribute this translation with the help of Deaf Bible Society and DOOR’s Deaf church planters.
Before publication, every translation must be “tested” in a Deaf community. Community testing provides valuable feedback to DOOR’s translators about the clarity, accuracy, “naturalness”, and acceptability of their work.
One community test had an especially powerful impact.
South Sudanese Deaf changed by Genesis 18
A few months ago, Deaf translators brought a draft version of their translation back to South Sudan for community testing. The section being testing included an account from Genesis 18. In this narrative, Abraham receives three strangers with kindness. He prepares a meal for them, and invites them to rest while he serves them.
These passages introduced South Sudanese Deaf to a “radical” concept.
As they watched the scenario unfold, the Deaf were visibly shocked. They could clearly understand what was happening, but it did not reduce their astonishment.
During tea break, a Deaf woman explained why the passage had so much meaning to her and most of the Deaf people in attendance. She signed the following:
“Here in South Sudan, we have grown up divided. Most of us have seen our family members killed or maimed. Some were sent to jail for many years. The people who do those acts of evil are often the same people who live around us.
“The relationships among people in South Sudan—particularly the Deaf—are shallow and mechanical. It takes a long time to find a meaningful relationship. That is why seeing Abram welcome strangers to his house goes completely against our worldview.
“God’s Word is teaching us that our past experiences do not have to hinder us. We can experience real blessings from relationships. Even good relationships with strangers can lead to answered prayers in our lives.
“There is so much more to learn from God’s Word. I want to go back to the next session, please!”