In 2024, DOOR is celebrating 40 years of Deaf ministry. To mark this important milestone and to recognize what God has done in Deaf lives and communities around the world, we are looking back on some of the most memorable stories from over the years.
This one comes from one of our DOOR-Africa staff members, *Mavuno.
Mavuno visited a Deaf church in Kenya with some other DOOR staff members. The church invited him to share some Scripture, and Mavuno chose “The Fall” from Genesis 3. He signed the story naturally and clearly in Kenyan Sign Language. The congregation participated in a lively discussion after he finished.
A Lack of Access to God's Word
This is far more common than you might think. Many Deaf churches, lacking access to God’s Word in their languages, are forced to rely on secondary sources of information. These secondary sources of information lead to many misinterpretations or misunderstandings.
Mavuno set the record straight. Adam and Eve’s eating of the fruit was not a sin in itself. In Kenyan Sign Language, Mavuno’s hands flew, creating a picture of what had really happened. The garden of Eden took shape in the mind’s eye of the congregation, with the two trees standing tall in the middle. One was the tree of life. The other, far more ominous, was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“Is it a sin to eat an apple?” asked one Deaf attendee. This question caught Mavuno off guard. Multiple other heads nodded, and they confessed to having the same question.
“Why do you think eating an apple is a sin?” Mavuno asked the group.
It turned out that the Deaf pastor at that church had preached that it was sinful to eat an apple. The apple was what Adam and Eve ate when God cursed them.
Genesis 2:16-17 says: “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Eve repeated the Lord’s command in Genesis 3:3 in her answer to the serpent: “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“Eve knew that God had forbidden them to eat from that one tree. But she went ahead and did it anyway,” concluded Mavuno. “And that was the true sin. It wasn’t the apple.”
The Deaf congregation digested this new information slowly. These people had stopped eating apples long ago. Yet, they wondered and puzzled over what they saw around them…hearing people eating apples as if they didn’t have a care in the world. The new information shared by Mavuno brought clarity and answers to their questions.
Freed at Last!
Later in the day, the Deaf church members went on an outing with Mavuno and the other DOOR staff members. Their path crossed that of a vendor selling apples.
Mavuno bought enough for the entire group. Everyone ate them, including the Deaf pastor!
“I feel liberated and free!” signed one of the Deaf men in the group.
“Today, I rejoice because these Deaf people have been freed of the guilt of having eaten apples in the past, “ signed Mavuno.
The Bible in Your Heart Language
This story is one of the many reasons why DOOR International is so passionate about sign language Bible translation. If this church had access to the Bible in Kenyan Sign Language, they would have understood that it wasn’t the apple, but the action that was the sin.
They would also have known that the fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the garden of Eden was never identified as an apple, but simply referred to as “fruit.”
Today, we rejoice that portions of the Bible, including Genesis 3, have been translated into Kenyan Sign Language. Deaf people in Kenya now have access to the truth about the first sin, the fruit eaten in the garden, and much more!
*—not real name