Deaf 316 Ministries
The Grand Vision
Here you’ll find a detailed explanation of Deaf 316’s grand vision, starting with where we came from, where we currently are, and where we feel God is leading us.
From an island to the Deep South
The idea of Deaf 316 Ministries casually began in 2015 as my husband Andrew and I were finishing a year of living on an island in the pacific. We realized we were nearly done with our volunteer teaching year and had to ask ourselves, “what’s next?” We had no job prospects, little money and no plan. Thankfully right before we returned to the United States, Andrew secured a job which would take us into the heart of the next step of our journey – Columbia, SC. Because of the great need for sign language interpreters across the country, I knew I would be able to easily find work for myself.
A new idea
After a few months in SC and working freelance for two different agencies, I thought about this casual idea we had while on the island for a nonprofit start up and out of frustration asked God boldly, “What is it you want me to do?!” I don’t think I have ever in my life heard the voice of God more clearly and with more direction and force than I did on that afternoon in our apartment. I grabbed my computer as ideas began to flood my mind and in a short time, I had several pages typed out and a heaviness in my heart wondering how in the world will this happen.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t make up the ideas and the reality that because God gave it to me, He would surely guide my every step moving forward. The ideas were innovative, unique and completely unaccomplished by anyone serving the population of the deaf, both reached and unreached by the gospel in the world. The first step was to write devotionals, followed by translating that content from English into written American Sign Language (ASL) and then finally filming myself interpreting them in ASL. These are the very devotionals that now appear on the website.
Going all in
In 2017 I quit my job to work full time on this ministry and in 2018 we moved forward to obtain nonprofit status. We were very focused about wanting others to perceive us with the same serious fierceness that we felt inside. We also moved back to Texas to be close to our support network. In October of 2018, Andrew and I went all in. He quit not just his full time job, but stepped away from his career in order to partner with me in the workload and also with childcare for our son.
First step: Current status
In January 2019 the ministry and website went live. We began adding devotionals that are uploaded every week. We also started fundraising full time in hopes for others like you to partner with us and understand that this isn’t a hobby or a casual idea, but a vision and ministry no one is pursuing to reach deaf people with the gospel. Otherwise, they end up lost, wandering and separated from God for all eternity.
Leaning on God
It’s been a challenge, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The beginning. The grand vision isn’t even close to being accomplished.
So just how big is Deaf 316’s vision?
Ummm, big. Well, big would be nice. It’s more than that. It’s impossible really. At least under my own human power. But like I said before, it’s not my vision, it is God’s. And He has the power to achieve it.
If this project was easy enough, I wouldn’t need God. Too many people run away from the assignments God gives them because they think they are too big, so they dream small and use their own power. Nobody likes to ask for help, or worse, feel helpless. After all, if they can do it themselves, they won’t need help, let alone God’s help.
If it sounds easy, it’s not big enough.
Next Steps: The Grand Vision
Now that you know where we came from and where we currently stand, see below for the next steps in order to accomplish Deaf 316’s grand vision.
Step 2: Translate existing content
One of the biggest problems facing the unreached deaf community is the lack of biblical resources available to them in their heart language. As a hearing person, there are so many resources at our disposal that we take for granted to grow in our walk with Christ. There are books, audiobooks, podcasts, blogs, commentaries, sermons and the list goes on and on.
Sure, deaf people can read, but ASL is not structured in the same format as written English. Their language has no verbal or written components, it is purely visual. There are a lot of nuances in the written English language that do not translate in a visually clear way into ASL.
There are a few organizations currently working hard to translate the bible into a signed format so then it can also be translated into other sign languages around the globe. This is amazing and I am so happy those organizations are doing that much needed work.
However, there is a lot of content that is being pushed aside as well when it comes to really diving deep in allowing for understanding and clear comprehension to take place among deaf seekers of the truth. As a hearing person, if we don’t understand something we read in the bible, we have a limitless supply of resources to turn to. The deaf do not.
Books can be a tremendous resource to both the new and seasoned Christian. However, because of the language barrier, few deaf individuals routinely read books, let alone Christian ones. We aim to remedy that by translating books into sign language videos, much like how the hearing community utilizes audio books.
Have you ever had a question about what you just read in the bible? Well, no problem. You can just turn to your trusty bible commentary on the shelf or perhaps online. The deaf do not have that option. Much like the general Christian books we plan to translate, we desire to do the same with bible commentaries.
While being involved in a local church is great and recommended, we recognize the benefit of utilizing the sermons of other biblically sound pastors as well. Unfortunately, that is another resource the hearing world takes for granted. We plan to translate the expository sermons of both local and nationally known pastors that have proven their commitment to preaching the Word of God.
Given the technological advances of our time, great biblical resources exist in a variety of forms outside of traditional media, such as online blog posts/articles and podcasts. Our goal is to translate any and all of these biblical resources, regardless of its original medium for the utilization of the deaf community.
As you can see, Deaf 316 desires to provide a myriad of content to deaf users in ASL in the form of visual books, commentaries and other rich resources, so as they are learning the gospel, these other tools can be used to assist and equip them to understand scripture in the most profound way.
Step 3: Provide ASL courses – Limited supply, too much demand
I hear it time and time again… “Oh wow, I would love to learn sign language! But I don’t have the opportunity to take a class.” Or “I’m on a 600 person wait list.” This reality saddens me greatly. If only there were resources that fully engaged those hearing individuals feeling the tug to learn ASL, but face limitations in being able to actively do so.
Deaf 316 feels passionately about placing knowledge in the hands of hearing people who feel called to learn the language in order to communicate with a family member, fulfill the desire to learn another language, or even better, fulfill a calling to engage deaf with the gospel. There are a few online resources that are fairly in-depth when it comes to learning ASL, but the need is great and we want to help fulfill that need too.
More specifically, we want to equip other believers with the tools they need in order to engage the deaf community.
So how would we accomplish this?
At the time of this writing, the idea is that we would use a combination of written material and video classes, as well as the utilization of virtual live instructors. We would also provide in person classes at churches who wish to participate. The course material would go further than just teaching language skills, but would also go into the specifics of deaf culture and deaf ministry in order to engage the deaf successfully for Christ.
Step 4: Translate into other sign languages
Wait, what? Other sign languages? Isn’t there just one?
Nope. Contrary to popular assumption, sign language is not universal. American Sign Language is most prevalently used in, you guessed it, America. Nearly each country worldwide has their own sign language created to fit their unique language needs and cultural intricacies.
Because Deaf 316 cares deeply about the need for biblical resources to be available worldwide to all deaf peoples, we hope to provide separate versions of the ministry website that contain translated content in other sign languages. In other words, we hope to someday have different versions of the website such as Deaf 316 China, Deaf 316 Uganda, Deaf 316 Russia, etc. You get the idea.
Step 5: Boots on the ground – Our own backyard
Right now, Deaf 316’s focus is connecting users online to the gospel through devotional content and other soon to come biblical resources. However, we feel led to take it a step further by helping to start local in-person church sponsored ministries. In this scenario, Deaf 316 would act in a consulting role to help churches who desire to reach the deaf start successful ministries.
What would this look like?
For starters, we would try to change the perception that all a church has to do in order to have a “deaf ministry” is to simply provide a single interpreter and boom!, now they have a deaf ministry. Unfortunately, that is not enough.
Many deaf people who attend church, which is not many, come away from a Sunday sermon with limited understanding. This is caused by a variety of factors. For one, interpreters cannot possibly catch and interpret everything that is said. While very skilled certified interpreters can catch more than others, it is never 100%. This is because an idea or concept that only takes a single sentence (or word) in English to convey, might take several in sign language, which takes more time. Now the interpreter has to somehow catch up, possibly missing some information. To mitigate this problem, they might not take as much time expounding upon the info in order to keep up, thus leaving the deaf with less understanding.
Compounding this issue further is the reality that most interpreter services end there. This leaves them with no access to Sunday school programs, weekly bible studies, discipleship and potentially pastoral care.
Deaf 316 aims to help churches realize that in order to bring deaf people in, keep them there, and disciple them so that they actually begin to grow in Christ, it can’t end with service interpretation. It only starts there.
Step 6: Boots on the ground – Overseas
If I’m honest, a major issue in my heart brings me back to the place where God led me to the realization that deaf people were lost…overseas.
What if Deaf 316 could have a global impact with real face to face people outreaching to the deaf all over the world? This vision includes boots on the ground missions and evangelism connections. There are not many engaged in carrying the good news to the ends of the earth for the deaf and we want to change that. Our hope is to train those with that desire and equip them for field missionary work in order to have an even greater impact among lost deaf peoples.
Step 7: Overcoming access to technology
These resources are truly going to be great, specifically for those that have internet access. After all, the core of this ministry is a website. But what about those who do not have access to the web or even a computer? We know in every community, locally and internationally, whether in a bustling city or a rural village without electricity, deaf people are everywhere. Many of them live in places where internet and electricity are not common luxuries.
What can be done?
These resources that are created will have little impact on them if they don’t have any way to view or use them.
While ideas may change and evolve over time, one idea is to download all ministry content onto a weatherproofed tablet computer paired with a solar charging device in order to have access to these resources in the language they know. They would also need the ability to contact us for any tech issues they may have. Ideally we would have a missionary in the home country that could be a point of contact for tech and content updates.
Now there may be deaf in some of these isolated communities worldwide that have minimal language skills or even no language. This could consist of simple home signs they invent with those living life around them or very little to no language at all. I have met a few deaf individuals who match this label in the United States and I am confident if they exist in the U.S., they most certainly exist in the most remote cities, villages or even bustling cities worldwide.
The goal in these situations would be to have local missionaries in their area live and work with those who have suppressed language and give them language. When language exists, knowledge of the gospel can thrive.
Why so big?
I know all of this may sound grand, and quite frankly, impossible, but we serve a big God. If the goals for this ministry seemed easily attainable, then that would be an insult to God. The goals and vision for this ministry are purposefully so ambitious, that they would be unattainable without God’s help.
That is what Deaf 316 Ministries is, God’s ministry.
Deaf 316 Ministries is at ground zero with a basic website and one employee. This is a very exciting time for the ministry and we are asking the Lord to provide the necessary resources to get this ministry off the ground and running so the deaf can start experiencing God’s love and be reached for the gospel.
We need your help!
Now that you know a little more about how this ministry started, where we stand and where we want to go, please consider talking to God about the possibility of partnering with us.
What we need:
We are in need of funding to not only run the website, but to also hire and train staff to fulfill Deaf 316’s mission. We can only grow as big as funding allows, and as you now know, we have BIG goals!
Experienced people like you.
We are also in need of people who have experience doing this kind of work. That would include sign language interpreters as well as people who have experience in the ministry and nonprofit sector. This could be in a consultant role or payed position (funding permitting).
Awareness of other great biblical resources.
We are always on the lookout for great biblical tools to translate. If you know of a book, sermon, podcast, blog post or some other resource that you think would be beneficial and should be translated, please let us know and direct us to that material.
Please pray for us, this ministry and the deaf that need to hear, or rather “see” the gospel in their own language, sign language.
Answering the call
Are you willing to partner with us and receive the joy and blessing of bringing the gospel to the deaf? If so, please CONTACT US.
Maybe you know someone who may be interested in helping, or perhaps you are a business owner or church that is interested in corporate sponsorship. Please reach out to us.
If you have read this far, at the very least please pray for the ministry, the deaf who are dying lost, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ would advance in the deaf community.
For information on how to become a financial partner, check out our SUPPORT PAGE.
For a general overview of the need and how Deaf 316 Ministries aims to meet those needs, please check out our ABOUT PAGE.